‘Off the Cuff’ with Author, Deborah Kirsten

Off the Cuff with Debbie Kirsten

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA — Author, Deborah Kirsten’s autobiography, Chai tea & Ginger beer was penned from her unique experience as the wife of international cricketer and coach, Gary Kirsten. A sought after motivational speaker, Deborah lives in Cape Town with her husband and three children. She reveals some candid gems with JN.

My secret pleasure is … A big slice of lemon meringue pie, a good ‘chic flick’ (romantic comedy) and my journal.

My first job was … I guess that would be teaching Sunday school at the age of about thirteen (but of course, that was unpaid). My first paid job was waitressing in a restaurant.

Author, DEBORAH KIRSTEN with husband, GaryMy most annoying habits are … My husband would have a field day with this question. He would definitely say never hanging the car keys on the key hook. (It completely mystifies him why I bought a special hook for keys and then never hang the keys there). Other annoying habits are my tendency to accumulate clutter and my inability to pass up a good bargain!

A clear childhood memory is … Crossing a flooding mountain river stream with my family. We all linked arms to support one another. I learnt a lot about life that day and the strength of a family when they stick together and support one another.

What makes me nervous is … Driving on a cliff edge or through a mountainous pass. Having had a few bad car accidents, cars generally make me nervous. Also, watching my sons play rugby.

The best advice my parents gave me was … In everything put God first and He will direct your steps.

If I weren’t an author, I’d be … My trained profession is a primary school teacher – I love teaching. But if truth be told I’ve always dreamt about being an actress or a singer.

I’m most thankful for … My relationship with Jesus, my husband, my children, my extended family and my girlfriends.

My favourite meal is … Without a doubt, lamb chops and crispy fresh vegetables… and maybe cheesecake to finish it off.

I know it’s good for me, but I hate … I have tried and tried to substitute green tea for ordinary tea or coffee – but I just can’t. It really is quite revolting.

Debbie Kirsten's three favourite books

Books I love … Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Traveling Light by Max Lucado and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller

Songs that resonate … Lifesong by Casting Crowns

and Better Together by Jack Johnson

My ‘happy place’ is … Our little cottage on the banks of the Breede River. It is far from the city with only the sound of the birds. When we go there, life is lived simply – there is no TV and no cell phone reception. The kids play in the mud and the water. We all fish and have good wholesome family fun time together.

My most embarrassing memory is … Thinking how ‘super cool’ I used to try and act as a teenager when attempting to impress boys.

My hidden skill is … Fishing and playing marbles (my sons always boast to their friends that I used to beat all the boys at marbles when I was a kid – it’s quite true!) I also fancy myself as a bit of a ‘handyman’.

If I were a dog, I’d be a … A golden retriever … definitely not a poodle or a yappy little thing. I’d also be sure to demand a bath once a week.

It’s a bit corny, but I love … The part in the movie when the guy kisses the girl. I always get goose-bumps and all teary. The boys in my house think it’s hysterical … but secretly I know they love that part too!

I’m most at peace when … I’m in a space where I can feel the tangible presence and love of my Father God. This is often in nature and away from the noise of the city. I am also incredibly peaceful when I’m with my beloved husband and my three children – anywhere on planet earth.

The country I’d love to visit … I would love to visit Thailand.

Favourite quote … “I am but the pen in God’s hand, He is the Author of my story” – Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa1 (1)

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It’s the season for ticks

 Tarna in her paralyzed state, days after being bitten by an Australian paralysis tickWildlife of Greater Brisbane manual, removal should be with ‘fine forceps’. The idea is to grip hold of the head and ‘ease it out’. Squeezing should be avoided as ‘this causes the tick to inject a large dose of saliva into the host body in its attempt to detach’.

My dog had been wearing a tick collar ever since moving to our acreage property.  It was, the vet assured, merely one of several deterrents including a two-weekly application of costly tick and flea repellent.

I watched anxiously as grumpy Leo became a helpless invalid. Paralysis sets in after several days of the tick feeding on the poor unsuspecting mutt. Our own dog seemed to have survived a tick one week prior—a dose of anti venom tick serum seemed to pull her through.

Then the next week, she failed to rise from her bed. Usually keenly interested in catching our chickens, or barking at the noisy early morning magpies that steal her food, she couldn’t even muster the energy to lift her head. Even breathing seemed difficult.

We headed off to the vet once more and our fears were realised—another tick, this time found large and engorged at the base of her back. I berated myself for not finding it but her thick coat had made my mission near impossible.

Paralysis Tick - Courtesy www.dog-world.com.au/images/Paraly8.jpgTicks can be totally elusive. A previous neighour’s dog became increasingly ill, and the vet couldn’t find the obvious cause—there were symptoms of paralysis but no tick could be found. Blood tests and expensive treatment was administered, all to no avail. The pooch was close to death. Finally, the vet searched one last time for a tick and found the offensive parasite in the gravely ill maltese poodle’s nose. Little Max miraculously survived but he was pretty close to death when the tick was discovered.

So noxious is the poison injected by the tick’s saliva, that it attacks every muscle in the body including the heart, bladder and bowel. On our first trip to the vet, a farm cattle dog—normally a robust breed—was lying immobile, unable to move a muscle.  The vet didn’t hold out much chance at all.

Our own dog continues to slowly recover—it took five days for her to empty her bladder on her own – prior to that she had to be carried and literally manually assisted. We anxiously await her first bowel movement. And there was great excitement when she gave an attempt at a hoarse bark early this morning.

Mostly, she lies inside sleeping on her bed, with the comforting lull of ABC Radio for company.

Dogs of her size are said to take six weeks to become active once more.

I take heart, however, that when I returned to the vet a week after the cattle dog’s admission, it had returned home.

“He survived—I really didn’t think he’d pull through,” admitted the vet, adding, “he surprised us all”.

Promising news—I hold out hope for our beloved pooch.

Just don’t warn the magpies.

Leading a Blonde Astray

I took my dog for a walk this morning.

I snuck out the back way, through the bush and along the fire track. I was rather hoping to avoid Slater. Slater is the neighbourhood vagabond.

We live in a picturesque little enclave where most properties ramble into each other without the concern of fences. This is not sensible suburbia, neatly fenced and gated where the neighbourhood dogs are restricted to their allotted area.

In spite of the general lack of confines, however, most local dogs stay on their own turf and have no interest in roaming further than the postbox at the end of a rather long driveway. Slater has changed all that.

He has marked the entire neighbourhood as his own. Slater lifts his leg on everything within a ten mile radius of home. He has lifted his leg on my washing, on the barbeque and on my pot plants – even my husband’s undies on a drying rack out the back have been territorially marked.

He has chewed three pairs of children’s shoes and one of my own. He has been banished several times – his owners have tied him up and severely admonished him, replaced chewed shoes and tied him up for good measure. Slater, I’m afraid simply chomps through the rope and with an ‘up yours’ attitude continues his pursuits unabated.

This dog has no shame. He returns to the scene of past misdemeanours without a smidgen of guilt.

Slater, were he human, would hang his head in shame at the abuse that is hurled at him from far and wide. He would not dare show his face lest he be chased, ordered home again and told in no uncertain terms he was unwelcome.

But Slater is a loveable rogue. He appears to have decided that if looks alone are not going to get him places in life, character surely will.


Part wolf-hound, part bull terrier—he was blessed with the unfortunate albino genes of the bull-terrier rather than the more handsome characteristics of the wolfhound.

There is vague evidence of wolfhound in his lanky physique and the pronounced whiskers on his snout, but it ends there. His face has a permanent grin and he has one pink-rimmed eye on the albino side of his face.

There is one redeeming feature – a motley brown patch over one eye that while appealing in an Nguni cow sort of way, simply adds to the general feeling he’s up to no good.

He has no manners at all. When he drinks from my dog’s water bowl he puts his entire snout in, rather like a pig, splashing water all over my freshly mopped veranda.

While I know there is no good in him at all, I can’t help liking him. There’s something appealing—enviable even, in the way he gallops through life. He doesn’t just embrace it, he chews on it.

All this would be good and well if he stayed home. But, I fear he is leading my lady golden retriever Tarna astray.
In the early days, before Slater’s arrival, Tarna was beyond reproach.

Our property isn’t fenced but Tarna kept watch at the front door, occasionally wandering into the bush or up the drive way to bark, in a lady-like fashion, at the postman, plumber or whoever turned up in our cul-de-sac. I prided myself on the fact that my beloved pooch knew her place—home was where her heart was. She was so well behaved and mature.

We went for scenic little walks—just the two of us—me like a smug mother of one who scorns other wayward children.
And then along came Slater and with him, a whiff of scandal.

‘I saw your dog with Slater at the dam the other day,’ commented my neighbour one fine day.

I was aghast, surely not, must have been another dog.

‘No, it was definitely her—having a right old time, they were,’ she said.

Now the dam is not exactly around the corner, it is, quite literally, over the hill and far away. Far too far away for comfort.

I made excuses, as dog owners in denial sometimes do. I’d been away, the children were at school, she certainly wouldn’t do it again. It was so out of character.

And this is where the story took a dark turn. Other comments from other neighbours confirmed my worst fears. Tarna had been led astray by a mutt less than half her age. It was a disgrace and she seemed to be enjoying every deceitful moment.

She became like a puppy again – all panting and playful when he was around. And worse, she appeared to be chasing him!

Sometimes, she wasn’t even at home when I returned. She wasn’t faithfully waiting at the front door like the lady she once was. She was with him!

We have tried counselling. Just this week my daughter sat her down and had a frank discussion. ‘Tarna,’ she said, ‘this is not going to end well, ‘he really is far too young – no more cavorting near the dam with dogs less than half your age, Ok?’

It’s hard to know if she listened—she simply fixed her liquid brown eyes on my daughter’s face and lifted her paw. Was that ‘let’s shake on it’ or ‘I’m sorry, I just can’t give him up?’

I’m afraid I’m at my wit’s end. Where is it all heading? There is one small glimmer of hope: That Slater will grow tired of his blonde, adoring neighbour and seek greener pastures.

I’m hoping those greener pastures will lead to Rosie. Rosie is a friend’s fox terrier who is soon moving up the hill. Like all dogs of his ilk, perhaps Slater will charm some other sweet young thing. Until then, I have to attempt avoidance. I am a dismal failure at it.

I sneak through the long grass and Slater stalks after us. He endures my half-hearted attempt at throwing stones at him, ordering him home, all the while skulking closer until he knows all my resolve has gone and I’ve given up completely. Tarna doesn’t help; she’s all panting flirtatiousness—without an ounce of coyness, her blonde mane blowing in the breeze.

This morning, He came with us on our walk—again. Or should I say, we went with him. He led the way as though he’d lived on this earth all his life. He lifted his leg on every dirt bin, telephone pole and gate post he came across. He chased a brush turkey and sized up a horse, standing far too close to its back leg to have a good old sniff.

‘He’s not my dog,’ I explained to a disdainful passer-by.

She gave a tight little smile that said, ‘yeah right’ as the offender sidled up to me like a doting, well loved pet.

I fear our reputation is in tatters. Come soon, Rosie, come soon!

RosieCopyright © Lois Nicholls