The Last Furlong

Comments on the race of life.


Under the hosepipe

It’s been so hot here in the UK. People ask us if we miss the heat. No, we bloody dont!

I have told the story here about how my respected author and lecturer mother used to don her antique bathing costume and sit in the shade of her orange tree under the hosepipe to get cool on a hot African day.

Did I warn you that dogs ‘catching’ water from the hose as they play about on a hot day can drown? People don’t know that.  Vets do.

But I don’t think I told you the story of how we once had a real traditional English Christmas under a hosepipe.

English people, then, did English things in Africa. Like wearing serge gym tunics with neck ties for girls and shirts, ties and long trousers for boys at school, in the heat. I once taught at a very posh school where the headmistress tannoyed the girls that they would be allowed to unbutton the top shirt button and loosten their ties because the day was hot.

Christmas was very British for us. Roast turkey, and roast potatoes, all the sauces and trimmings, and, of course Brussel sprouts and a glazed Ham. The final flourish was a blazing pudding.

All this in the middle of an African summer.

One particularly hot summer, when we lived in the only single story house we ever had, we trained hosepipes over the roof and the front walls on Christmas day.

We celebrated Christmas under hosepipes until we could afford airconditioning.


Hot? Hell yes!

The Furlongs have tried closing windows early, and opening them late. We are hot.

Today we closed blinds AND windows early. It’s a test. Yesterday we left everything open and we cooked!

So we are in a darkened house with the fan blowing over ice. On the telly, we have the sound of pouring rain. I feel cooler already.

Today will be better than yesterday

I hope….


We never walked alone

Today is our Wedding anniversary.

Mr Furlong and I have been married forty five years.

Mr Furlong has made a most excellent companion.

He took on a women already having three children and treated them as his own.

He stood by me as I struggled with alcoholism.

He nursed me through a post partum stroke that handicapped me. He brushed my hair, put on my earrings, helped me dress, walk, bath, eat.

He stuck to me loyally as five children grew up and we dealt with all the problems of having little money, and large expenses.

We never once played away, or suspected each other of it.

We fought. We sulked. We got hurt. We annoyed each other. We stuck it out.

Mr Furlong is my best friend, and I am his.

Thank you Mr Furlong, we never had to walk it alone.


Mrs Furlong

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Umona phansi

I have not been in Africa for twenty something years. So what do I know about what is happening now? But half of our family live there. Something horrible is happening to them in Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa.

There is shop looting and rioting all around them in commercial areas. It has continued unabated for days, co-ordinated to a ‘plan’. There are a few overwhelmed police hopelessly standing around who have run out of ammo – rubber or otherwise. Eventually after a very long delay a small army presence has pitched up. But the looting waves are still destroying all in their path like locust swarms, too huge to control.

Shops and shopping centres, warehouses and city and town centres have been plundered. There is nothing left in them. I am too fearful to even look at the news today which has come in a sunami over our WhatsApp media of choice.

I can completely understand how some people, with basic education can be manipulated to loot. Commerce looks rich. Simply take the goods it sells. It is faceless, entitled, wealthy. How could it own so much in the face of poverty? The shops are full of food, furniture, clothes, cars, white goods, electronics. The owners must be rich. They have desireable things that should be shared. Ubuntu.

I can understand how some can be incited to looting. It is a different generation now than the time when I taught ‘my men.’ But a question I was often asked was why should people pay for water when the rivers were free, or why should they pay for electricity when a fire made it. These things were free at home in the countryside where their wives and kraals were. ‘My men’ had many wives and very many children. ‘My men’ are the fathers of middle aged children now, and many many grandchildren. They are the ordinary people living in the townships probably, or if they have been lucky, they still live in the countryside where basic needs are free.

So I believe the violence is being incited from high up. It is a political manoevre. Ordinary people, lacking understanding of how the wheels of commerce turn, are being fomented by a few to crumble their own infrastructures. They are taking from the rich who steal from them. They are destroying their own economy. And the government is allowing it.

Today, I think the looters must be tired. I hope they are. Plundering is hard work. Everyone is exhausted.

And the defenders of property, those who own it, of all races, have miraculously formed themselves into quasi military units in a civilian attempt to protect lives and property. Those men haven’t slept for days. They also need a break!

I will now see what the news is of today…

I only know one thing for sure, last night Ramaphosa slept better than the people in Kwa Zulu Natal did.

Tomorrow HE will have food.


Handicapped or disabled?

Goodness knows why us handicapped people now have to call ourselves ‘disabled’ instead of handicapped.

What was wrong with the word handicapped, I ask you?

Disabled implies I am less able than abled people. It’s really discriminatory. We can mostly do everything abled people can do, but maybe, we do it differently, like walk slower, use a wheelchair, speak funnily, have one leg or hand, eye or foot. I refuse to be disabled!

We are handicapped. Doing stuff for us, is harder than for people who are more common human beings. Our lives are just like a horse race where some horses are weighted to control the race. The handicapped horse is no worse nor better than any other horse, his performance has been capped by the weight he carries.

Sometimes, things are very difficult for me to do. I might have to ask for help. At those times I never think I’m ‘disabled’. I think of myself as being like a horse in the race of life. I just have been given a life-weight that makes it more difficult for me than the other horses around me. They have different problems.

My achievements are therefore more amazing than if I had lived my life without my handicap. I seldom moan. I do not feel a victim. I do not expect everyone else to grovel to my patheticness, nor offer me special favours. I have accepted my life-weight. My inner ‘ME’ has not been soured. Shit happens to everyone, in lesser or greater dollops.

I have collected up many brownie points for my next life, and facilitated others, all those who have helped me, especially Mr Furlong, to do the same!

Disabled? POOH!



The Furlong’s are not a sporty family. Being genetically very fair, with a red-head gene, running anywhere for more than two seconds results in flushed red faces and bulging eyes. It is such an ugly sight that, as children, one decides not to go the sport route ever. My school life consisted in avoiding all sport, period.

Last night’s football game was awesome to watch. How can any human being run for so long and remain upright? Or in control of their minds? Or even aware of other players around them? I am glad England won. I hope they win the whole jolly lot. They are modern warriors.

Last night Mr Furlong and I remembered our African roots. Chaka’s warriors were legendary. They were reported to be able to run all day without stopping, their speed being one reason for their blitzkrieg. The other was their fighting tactic of encircling the enemy and constricting them to their death. The Mfekane was a terrible thing. It rearranged the whole of Southern Africa.

Ex president Zuma of South Africa (a Zulu) has fomented a few old Zulu warriors to arise. They have collected at his homestead in Nkandla. Of course they look nothing like their forebears as most of them have beer bellies and look very unfit. They also could not run for a whole soccer match without collapsing in a puddle of grease and cow hides. But they look scary just the same and could cause trouble. Its nothing to be sneered at. The pride of tribe runs in every vein, even The Furlongs!


Sleeping with the dog

The dog does not sleep on beds at night. Mr Furlong and I sleep alone. Our arthritis is the reason. In that respect we are tweedledum and tweedledee. And the dog was obviously trained not to sleep on his human’s bed when we got him as a rescue dog three years ago. So he never has.

No, thats a lie!

Once, about two years ago, there was a really frightening thunderstorm with rain hammering at the windows, wind moaning through the chimney and the letterbox hammering open and shut. Bass, the dog, leapt on my bed for comfort.

Recently, I have woken at four in the morning. The dog and I have attended to our ablutions, and then got back into bed – MY bed. He curls up behind my knees on top of the bedding. Trouble is, he has the ability to treble his weight and stick to the duvet which I need to cover my ears.

Bass is a quick learner. I pull on the duvet so he is forced to move, which he does like an immobile rock. He waits motionless until I have got comfortable. Then he snuggles in again. Trouble is, that pulls the duvet off my ears, and the rolling of the stone starts again.

I’m a quick learner too. I have now learned that if I am going to sleep with the dog, I must wear a hoodie, or a Hijab to do so.

It sorts everything out. No pulling, tugging or manoevering is needed. My ears are covered and we sleep the last few hours together in perfect harmony.

I like it!

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New fashion sheet

Mr Furlong has not been well. He had a tooth out. It has bled at night and ‘lost the clot’ since last week. We have now discovered why. Mr Furlong is on anti coagulants. He takes a pill in the evening and sure as anything, within an hour or so, the clot which he is carefully trying to preserve has gone! He bleeds instead. We know his anti coagulants work. They do not ‘allow’ clots.

So on one of the bad nights for Mr Furlong , I woke up terribly hot. I was cooking as they say. I knew a sheet would be nicer than my summer duvet. But the linen is stored in Mr Furlong’s room. I did not want to disturb him.

I lay and thought of possible alternatives. What was large enough, thin enough, and light enough to use as a sheet that was stored in a place I could get to without waking Mr Furlong (or the dog).

Ah! The English Flag! It was stored in a drawer in the lounge (‘living room’ as they strangely say here in the UK). But when I examined it, it felt polyestery and hot. God knows where we got an English Flag the size of a bed sheet, but we have one.

And then the solution came to me. We downsized from a large house with a large dining room table in the dining room. We owned table cloths stored in a chest of drawers next to the kitchen.

I found the perfect twenty year old many times laundered pink cotton damask table cloth in the drawer there where it has lain since we moved here.

I slept well under it and dreamed of many very happy times.


They toil not, neither do they spin

My sister and I were brought up to know about literature. The Bible was literature as well as Dickens and other stuff. Sometimes little phrases pop into my head.

We went to a famous garden at eyewatering expense the other day. I wore my new red shoes which was a mistake. I am still recovering. And we wandered around from the formal gardens to the wild gardens.

The formal sections included the Topiary. There we found gardeners of all kinds watering, snipping, checking every detail, working hard. The gardens between the topiaries had the beds neatly planted out with seedlings lined up like little soldiers all in a row.

Control, control, control. Man’s authority over nature seemed somehow sad to me. The ancient topiaries, artistic and beautiful as they are, have been constructed over hundreds of years.

My red shoes complained as we wandered through. There were benches there but my sister, who is older and frailer than me, never once suggested we sit down. She had her walker thingy to assist her.

But the wild gardens were the most wonderful of all. They were, well – wild! There were no gardeners there, only butterflies and bees; and wild plants and flowers. And exuberant joy.

It was worth the exorbitant gate price just to see those.

I forgot about my new red shoes. And something popped into my head.

Consider the lilies of the field how they grow,they toil not,neither do they spin, yet I say unto you even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Again, there were benches. But we never sat. I could have sat there for hours contemplating, absorbing, breathing beauty. Instead, I shuffled around behind my sister in my new red shoes feeling the pain. I bet Solomon made sure he was wearing comfy shoes at all times. He was a wise man, not vain, not silly like me.

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An embarrassing situation has arisen in the Furlong home.

The lady over the road takes our dog Bass out daily for a walk. We can see her house from the bay window in our lounge. So can Bass.

Every time she pops out to water her front garden, someone notices. Every time she stands chatting outside her house to her neighbour, someone notices. Every time she gets in her car, someone notices.

Someone in our house has become a curtain twitcher.

The curtain twitcher is especially vigilant at walk time. He can see her coming out about ten o clock in the morning with the girls he walks with. They start to cross the road and someone in this house goes ape shit with excitement.

Curtain twitcher has different types of barks. Ape shit is just wild abandonment. We can forgive ape shit.

But then there’s the “look at me” bark. That’s the embarrassing one. The curtain twitcher often sits at the window and calls “look at me”, ” look at me “. Once, the dog walker came over and took him for an extra walk because she felt sorry for him!

So now we are trying to stop this embarrassing event ever happening again. When the curtain twitcher is yelling “look at me”, we yell


and he stops.