by Sheldene Chant
things considered I should have ignored the year of the Rabbit - or
1999 to those who don't know any better.
It was one of those periods when the next 12 months could only get better. Sometimes it was doubtful whether I would actually reach December without succumbing to a screaming fit.
In the long term this would have proved both expensive and inconvenient, so my offspring began to drop hints, as well as give lectures, on positive thinking.
Among many other ridiculous statements it was even suggested I should practise what I had been preaching for years.
There was seemingly no end to their efforts to help. One of my daughters ordered the immediate closure of all toilet seats and bathroom doors, 'to preserve good chi'. Obviously I had to start worrying about her. Could the whole family be flipping, simultaneously?
Then, with relief, I heard other people talking about Feng Shui. Renewed interest in this powerful and ancient art, which is based on harmony within one's environment, was apparently gaining momentum.
I quickly became intrigued, bought books, and reached the conclusion that happy Chinese mandarins had been hogging these secrets for centuries. In brief, it is all a matter of balance, common-sense - and closing bathroom doors.
It would, however, be misleading to suggest that reading a couple of books can produce an instant Feng Shui fundi. The more you learn the more there is left to discover.
Genuine Feng Shui practitioners will literally help you put your house in order, (but they might also advise you to move out completely). However most of us only dabble, clearing up clutter (which has to be helpful), while waiting for our situation to improve.
It is easy to become fascinated with lucky numbers, favourable compass points, and how to divert 'poison arrows' (the kiss of death for good chi). I began to feel particularly well-informed - until there was another telephone call.
'Mummy dearest', she purred. 'What you really need is a three- legged toad."
Badly shaken, because my youngest daughter might be going mad, I yelped, "What do you expect me to do now? Grab a frog and rip its leg off?"
Coolly, she explained that beneficial, Chinese, three- legged toads were ornaments, of great significance, and bought over a counter. How had I missed this symbol of good cheer in my studies?
Now the hunt was on for a benevolent toad. I had to have one, immediately, and nothing less would do.
Fortuitously, perhaps, my eldest daughter 'phoned because she too was having a bad day, week, month...so I glibly informed her that all she needed was a three-legged amphibian.
"Have you lost your mind?" she snarled. "Now you're suggesting I mutilate frogs". (You know that adage about the apple never falling far from the tree.)
There is no doubt one can have everything one desires, providing one wishes without worrying. I soon found a marvellous source of Feng Shui 'artefacts at Durban's Musgrave Road flea market.
There were heaps of handicapped toads . I knew they must be raised off the floor, and placed near the front door, while facing inward, to remove every likelihood of the "gold" being directed out of the house.
The frog/toad I chose looked slightly metallic and had the obligatory Chinese coin in its mouth. I also knew it would be shown off to perfection in a gleaming corner cabinet.
This toad was sold with a sheet of instructions, which I had no intention of reading before reaching home. I visualised my good- fortune symbol reclining on that walnut shelf, attracting all things wealthy and wonderful, to me.
Finally, when I did get around to reading the directions, I was bitterly disappointed to learn the frog must be placed 'under a table, inside a cupboard or hidden away under chairs or other furniture'. In other words, out of sight.
But there was worse to come ...' Frog symbols', I now learned, 'should be placed neither in the kitchen nor in bathrooms or toilets. In these inauspicious places the frog turns malevolent and, instead of bringing good fortune, tends to attract bad luck chi and wreak havoc with the energy of the home.'
Both my brain and my blood froze.
When some vestige of wit and feeling returned, I galloped to the bathroom to snatch up the malicious, pink, pottery frog with gaping maw which, plainly, had been haunting, cursing and otherwise blighting my life for years.
I had dragged this flaming frog from Harare, Zimbabwe, to Amanzimtoti, in South Africa, then back to Amanzimtoti via Botha's Hill.
Wherever we were the flesh- coloured frog perched on the edge of the bath, its wide mouth stuffed with soap, nail clippers and so forth.
Never again will it see the light of day.
It lives, now, inside a cupboard, with the three- legged toad. Its mouth is filled with small coins (which I don't borrow even when I'm broke) because I want to propitiate the spiteful beast.
No wonder life has been a bit traumatic for the last 10 years. Things have been much better since the pink frog was banished.
Of course there is a moral to this story. Take your Feng Shui-ing very seriously. The first step is to oust all your clutter . Toss out everything which serves no useful purpose - unless it gives you some inexplicable pleasure.
Hurl it out regardless, and do not be put off because it was a gift from one of your nearest and dearest.
I always considered that pottery frog absolutely hideous, but continued to give it a home merely to be polite.
Talk about harming the hand that housed you!
Copyright 2000 Sheldene Chant
Sheldene is the editor of the humorous Ezine POIGNANT PEARLS & POTBELLIED PIGS. To subscribe please send a blank email to:firstname.lastname@example.org