Posts Tagged ‘its my life’

Nearing the end of my virtual journey, with just 46 miles/74 kms to go…this postcard and story about the route, popped up on 26 January….

Summer fruit orchards and wineries seem to be the economic backbone of Kurow, a small town that in the 1920s was the base for the construction of the Waitaki Dam.

Kurow sits within the Waitaki Valley, a rich limestone region with a cool maritime climate. With warm summers and long, dry autumns this region is a wonderful environment to grow grapes for wines such as pinots noir and pinot gris. The first vines were only planted in 2001, making this valley a very young winery region. I can imagine it took passionate and dedicated viticulturists to have the courage to explore new grounds and experiment with different plantings. Small scale, family-run vineyards are now dotted through the valley creating bespoke, boutique wines.

Stage 7
Stage 7

Just outside of Kurow is a family-run orchard growing summer fruits such as peaches, apricots and cherries. Conscious about fruit that is rejected by supermarkets due to imperfections, the family built a commercial kitchen and went about turning rejected fruit into a range of products such as jams, sorbets and baked goods. With a half dozen box of summerfruit tarts under my arms, I was ready to leave Kurow.

Joining the trail alongside the Waitaki River, I marvelled at its characteristics. This 68mi (110km) braided river begins at the confluence of Pukaki, Tekapo and Ohau Rivers with Lake Benmore atop it. The river acts like a link between the lower lakes by running through and connecting Lake Benmore to Lake Aviemore to Lake Waitaki before it freely and swiftly flows the rest of the way into the Pacific Ocean.

Between Kurow and Duntroon, I had to ford three rivers and I was grateful they were not flooded permitting me to travel beside Waitaki River and admire the mountain range behind it, instead of using a trail next to the highway. I’m also glad I read the instructions to not touch the fences along the way as many are electrically charged and not necessarily marked for information. Might’ve added an element of excitement I wasn’t really looking for.

Just before reaching Duntroon, I stopped at the Takiroa Rock Art Shelter to see the Maori art on the limestone rock that dates back to between 1400 and 1900AD. After the rock art site, I carried on through Duntroon’s Wetlands into Duntroon straight to the local pub for a feed and more Waitaki Valley wine sampling.

Seeing those grapes reminded me of when I was in Portugal on the Portuguese Camino coastal route to Santiago. The path invariably goes inland at some stages, and one day it took me through a vineyard. I shouted “Ola!! Buenas dias” to an elderly couple amongst the vines cutting down bunches of purple grapes. The lady and I got to chatting (her English was way superior to my Portuguese), and it turned out her daughter was at that time, living and working in London 😃😃😃 How cool is that. So after a long conversation, she gave me a big fat bunch of the MOST delicious, juicy, aromatic grapes you could imagine…the flavour was like heaven.

I strolled along eating the grapes with relish, and shortly afterwards met the one and only snake in my entire Camino. 🐍😱😱 It was lying there, on the path, looking for all the world like a skinny stick, and as I was hesitating, thinking “is it, or isn’t it ” – the bastard moved. 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣😱😱😱😱

It still cracks me up when I think about that…3 things happened simultaneously : I discovered that I could indeed run if I needed to, I lost most of the grapes, and peed my myself 😜😜😜😜 of course the bloody snake slithered off into the grass with an evil grin ‘gotcha’. 😬😬 not funny.

Of course, encountering that snake, thereafter put a slightly different perspective on my walk, and I never looked at a stick in quite the same way again, or crept off into the bushes without trepidation 🧐🧐🧐

Meanwhile, I’m nearing the end of my Alps to Ocean virtual challenge across New Zealand. And I’m now seriously considering actually doing this route when I visit the island. It might mean postponing my trip down south to Ozzie land for a year to save more funds, but it would be totally awesome. And of course, if I did, and since I’m going that way, I’ve pinned my ‘intention’ to my metaphorical board of walking the Kumano Kodo in Japan. I mean seriously, how awesome would that be!!

Like the Camino de Santiago, the Kumano Kodo is designated a UNESCO heritage site and would slot in nicely with my Project 101 https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4952.html

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I reached this stage on 19 January, so not too far behind the last stage…either I was walking a lot more, or the distance to this stage was shorter. Of course all I have to do is check the details on the postcard!! In real life, from 1st January to the 19th I’d walked 128km which is just over 80 miles. Not too bad.

And doesn’t that water look amazing. Reminds me of the sea along the Thanet coastline when the water gets cloudy from the chalk after a storm…

Defined as “a populated area less than a town”, Otematata is more of a holiday town nowadays when it’s small population of around 180 explodes to 5,000 during the summer season. With easy access to both Lake Benmore, downstream Lake Aviemore and nearby hiking trails (known as tramping in NZ), holiday makers swarm to the area for camping, water skiing, boating, fishing, swimming and cycling among other activities.

Stage 6
Stage 6

Otematata sprung up in 1958 as a base for construction workers of the Benmore and Aviemore Dams. Within a year the population grew to 450 and at its peak it was as high as 4,000 residents. Built by the Ministry of Works the town had all the necessary facilities and services such as schools, clubs, pub, cinema and mall. The 1,500 strong workforce of engineers, builders, electricians, concreters and truckies spent seven years building the dam. Once the dam was finished, as it often happens with these kind of projects, the town was slowly dismantled. The houses that were trucked into town were years later trucked out and moved to Twizel for the next project. Benmore Dam is the largest earth-filled dam in NZ and the largest of eight in the Waitaki hydro scheme. As the second largest hydro station in the country, Benmore generates sufficient electricity to cover nearly 300,000 NZ homes.

Leaving Otematata, I travelled north on a sealed pathway alongside the Waitaki River until I reached the massive Benmore Dam and stood atop it with a bird’s eye view of the lake to the north and the river to the south. When the lake is over capacity, the floodgates open to release the water down a spillway and to prevent erosion a lip was inserted at the end to deflect the water. The spillway can handle ten times the normal river flow thereby allowing it to cope with severe flooding.

I skirted around the shore on a narrow sealed road to Deep Stream Track on Lake Aviemore for a walk along a flooded canyon. The deep green water was quite inviting for a swim but I settled for a picnic under a shaded tree enjoying the tranquility of this location and the reflection of the hills on the water.

A little further I crossed the Aviemore Dam back onto the State Highway and was relieved to be travelling on an off-road path beside the main road all the way to Waitaki Dam. Aviemore Dam was built in 1968 and the construction was on uneven ground because the Waitangi Fault runs beneath it. Although at the time of construction the fault was considered inactive, in the 2000s the fault was upgraded to dormant and as such the dam was reinforced against earthquakes and potential landslides. Because of the fault the dam is a mixed structure being part solid rock topped with concrete on the north side and earth-fill where the fault line runs beneath on the south side.

The Waitaki Dam is steeped in NZ history. As the smallest in the Waitaki hydro scheme, it is also the oldest having been built in 1935. Being the first dam to be built on the South Island, it was also the last to use pick and shovel. These archaic tools were retained because politicians wanted to reduce the unemployment rate during the Depression Era.

The building of the Waitaki Dam inadvertently played a major role in the birth of the social welfare system. In 1928, the Waitaki Hydro Medical Association together with the Waitaki Hospital Board developed a scheme to deduct monthly fees from wages in order to provide medical and ambulance services to the workers. When two politicians, one a doctor and the other a reverend, took office in 1935, they based the social welfare scheme on the one developed by the dam project.

From here it was a 5mi (8km) journey into Kurow. I heard the Waitaki Valley, which begins in Omarama, is a young winery region with a flair for developing good pinot noir and pinot gris. I’ll be sure to sample some after a hearty meal. I’m thinking fish and chips at the nearest pub.

I could live with fish and chips!! And do my journey continues. Seriously though, reading these emails makes me really really want to walk this route for real….

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This challenge is 289.7 kms, takes considerably longer to complete if you’re walking short distances each day weather depending, and can sometimes be a bit wearying as you plod along every day building up the miles/kms. But it’s all worthwhile when the next postcard pops up. How awesome it must have been to glide over the NZ landscape for 15 hours. The views must be stunning from that height.

The days have been mostly grey, overcast and lots of rain, but I managed to get out nearly every day between 10th and 17th, explored a few public footpaths (big mistake – they’re mud baths in the current weather), and created some interesting configurations 😄😄

I try to vary my route each day and create more shapes

Meanwhile, on my virtual journey I covered 47kms, and am just on 18 kms over halfway through my challenge/virtual journey. I plan to finish by 3rd February. 🤔🤔🤞🤞🤞

Here we go Stage 5, which I reached on 17th January, done and dusted…

Having left the alps and peaks behind, the town of Omarama marked the halfway point of my journey. Although a small rural town, mainly a service centre for locals and nearby residents, Omarama had a few surprises up its sleeve.

Disney’s 2020 movie release of Mulan was entirely shot in New Zealand with scenes filmed at the Clay Cliffs just outside of Omarama.

Stage 5

In 2009, NZ pilot Terry Delore set a new world record in his 87ft (26.5m) wingspan glider. Taking off from Omarama, Terry travelled 1,491mi (2,400km) up and down NZ for 15 hours reaching speeds of up to 93mph (160kph) before landing back in town. Omarama has strong gliding conditions making it a popular destination for gliding pilots. Omarama hosted the 1995 and 2007 World Gliding Championships of which Kiwis took first place in the 1995 open category and third place in 2007.

For the weary soul like myself a Hot Tub soak the night before to rejuvenate my muscles and unwind was just what I needed. The Hot Tub was located outside in a private setting within a tussock and rock landscape. The tub was filled with fresh mountain water without any chemicals added. The business reuses the water for irrigation. A submersible firebox allowed me to adjust the water’s temperature. As I settled in, I watched the Milky Way appear and spill across the night sky with its millions of stars.

Eastward bound, I left Omarama refreshed and ready to tackle the next half of the journey. The trip was relatively easy and short when compared to previous days. The first half of the trail was off-road running parallel to the State Highway on the right. Crossing at Chain Hills to the left of the highway I began my descent alongside Lake Benmore, the largest artificial lake in NZ.
Lake Benmore was created in the 1960s as part of the Benmore Dam construction. The lake is split into two arms. The largest is fed by three rivers, Tekapo, Pukaki and Twizel plus the Ohau canal with Waitaki River flowing right through the lake, whereas the smaller arm is fed by Ahuriri River.

It is this smaller arm that I travelled along to Pumpkin Point, a grassy beach area, for a break and a splash in the lake, then onto Sailors Cutting where the off-road trail terminates and I join the highway for the rest of today’s trip. Not the most relaxing part of the journey as I braved the high-speed highway with an upward climb to Otematata Saddle. The views of Lake Aviemore and the valley beyond was a lovely compensation until I continued on the busy highway downhill all the way into Otematata.

Not the most relaxing part of the journey.…reminds me of when I walked the Portuguese Camino…there were quite a few occasions I had to brave a high-speed highway 🤪🤪

I did a quick Google search tonight and discovered that the Alps to Ocean route is actually a dedicated cycling route 🤣🤣🤣🚴‍♀️🚴‍♀️🚴‍♀️🚴‍♀️ so no walking then 🤨🤨 damn. I’ll have to do more research. I’d really love to walk the route, it looks awesome

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Now that I’m at my next booking my time has been limited. But I try to get out every day and explore the area.

After a week of daily walking, I reached the 4th stage on 10th January…

The roads here are very long and it takes me a good 10 minutes to reach an intersection, which means I can’t go too far afield as it will take too long to get back. But I’ve made a point of trying out different routes, in as much as my options are minimal, but I’ve discovered some lovely country lanes.

Meanwhile, on my virtual journey…

Here I am at Lake Ohau, the third and smallest parallel glacial lake in the Mackenzie Basin that serves as a water storage for the Hydro scheme. It is connected to Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo (the other two parallel lakes) via an artificial canal. Lake Ohau is stunningly located between The Barrier mountain range to the west, Ben Ohau range to the east and Naumann range to the north which lies between Hopkins and Dobson rivers that feed into the lake.

Stage 4

This turquoise blue lake is a perfect environment for both powered and non-powered activities. Although at the height of summer the temperature reaches a mere 60°F (15°C) any swimming enthusiast wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity for a crisp splash in the lake. Luckily for me the weather was in my favour and I went for a brisk swim before starting my onward journey. However, I did hear that any sailor or windsurfer on the lake must be mindful of the northerly winds as the water gets choppy very quickly.

It might be debatable what’s considered a national dish in NZ, perhaps fish and chips or perhaps a gourmet meat pie. No matter, my choice was the traditional piping hot meat pie encased in a crispy pastry. This humble meat pie has been part of NZ’s cuisine since 1863 when the early British settlers brought it to NZ’s shores. It’s the perfect size to be eaten with one hand whilst chugging their popular Lemon & Paeroa soft drink with the other. The soft drink’s history goes way back to 1907 when it was originally manufactured in the town of Paeroa by combining lemon juice and carbonated mineral water.

After my finger-licking good pie and L&P hydration, I set off for what was to be the hardest part of the journey. The first 3.5mi (6km) was an easy section as I traversed the lower slopes of the Ohau range across several creeks before I found myself on a narrow track and a sustained climb of about 2.5mi (4km) to the highest point of the trail at 2,952ft (900m). Not that I particularly trusted that I was at the highest point for a while since all along there were several “false summits” where the trail appeared to reach the highest point to then discover that there was more upwards winding to go. During the winter months part of this upward climb proves to be even more hazardous as it becomes part of an avalanche path.

Reaching the top was quite the accomplishment but given its exposure and strong winds I spent little time admiring the view and started my descent. If I thought the climb was a challenge the steep descent with its tight steep bends was even more ghastly for the next half-mile or so.

The rest was a rolling descent crossing several streams. Clean drinking water could be collected at these streams enabling me to top up my bottles. The track joined with Quailburn Road and for the remainder of my journey I travelled beside Quail Burn River first to the west of me and once I crossed it to the east of me, almost like a constant companion, until we parted way with the river flowing into Ahuriri River and me rolling into Omarama for the night.

Like the Mt. Fuji virtual challenge which I finished in December, I’m really enjoying learning more about New Zealand and its history. The powers that be could/should consider teaching history and geography in this way, the subjects would be so much more interesting.

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Except for a very early morning walk, I didn’t do any serious walking on New Year’s day, or the 2nd January, and rather spent those days with my lovely family and some Granny time with my beloved grandson. But I got going again on the 3rd January and once again managed to get in a really decent amount of kms. Its brilliant walking early in the morning along the coast, I hardly ever see anyone about, and as a bonus, if the weather is fine, I get to watch the sunrise. 😊😊

Sunrise – 3rd January 2021 Isle of Thanet

So here we go…stage 3 of the Alps to Ocean route…

I enjoyed some exploring in Twizel. It’s the largest town in the region which unsurprisingly triples in population during the summer period.

Alps to Ocean – Twizel 😃 what a name

The town is relatively young having been founded in 1968 to house construction workers on the hydro scheme. Clever town planning placed all the services and schools in the centre with housing surrounding the central hub. Pedestrian paths straight into the centre made it more direct for residents to walk instead of driving the looped roads to get to the same destination. When the scheme wound up 15 years later the local residents successfully fought to save their town.

To the south of town is Lake Ruataniwha, an artificial lake formed in the late 1970s as part of the Hydro scheme. The lake is fed by Ohau River to the west and the overflow discharged from Lake Ohau further west. At 3mi (4.5km) long the lake is open to water enthusiasts with activities such as sailing, water skiing and rowing. I chose to stand-up paddle board but those mountainous views and blue lake were spellbinding. I should’ve just sat on a boat and soaked up the landscape.

Since I was already dressed for water activities I ducked across the State Highway to a waterhole I wanted to swim in. As blue as Lake Pukaki was, this ‘no name’ waterhole was emerald green greatly emphasised by the reflection of the willow trees on the waterhole’s edge. There was a time when the swimming hole was part of the Ohau River before the nearby dam and artificial lake disrupted the river’s flow and greatly reduced its size in the east separating the swimming hole from what is left of the river. If you have a satellite view of the waterhole it looks like a big emerald green bath.

Back in the late 1800s when Ohau River had its natural flow, crossing it was done by wire rope and a cage. In 1890 they built, what is now referred to as, the Old Iron Bridge. It served travellers for the next 80 years until the Hydro scheme came into the area, built Lake Ruataniwha, realigned the State Highway and bypassed the iron bridge. The bridge is now listed on NZ Historic Places Trust. A small monument can be found near the lake in memory of a mother and child who drowned in 1879 whilst fording, illustrating the difficulties and dangers of crossing the Ohau River at the time.

There’s another swimming hole called, Loch Cameron, northwest of Twizel, worthy of a visit but if I hoped to get to my next destination sometime today, I had to get cracking with my journey.

Making my way out of Twizel via the southern edge of Lake Ruataniwha, I followed the trail along the west side of Ohau River to Ohau weir. The weir is a low head dam that was constructed with a siphon to maintain a minimum flow into the Ohau River but conversely may overflow restricting access to travellers. Not needing to concern myself with flooding, I enjoyed my travel along the shore of Lake Ohau reaching the village for some lakeside dining and background view of Ben Ohau range.

Just for fun, and because I’m totally interested in finding out more, I did a Google maps search of Twizel and Lake Pukaki, then looked for images. OMG…its is breathtakingly beautiful!!! That water and the landscape… wowww. I’d probably end up wanting to stay 🤭🤭🤭

After this my wings were clipped, so to speak, and I started a new booking on the 4th January so my real time walking has been limited to 2 hours a day, weather permitting, which of course impacts my distances. Too sad.

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Since I was still at home, and had a few days yet before starting work, I was lucky enough to be able to put in some really good distances to get started on this challenge.

My lodging on Lake Pukaki was under the star-studded sky of the southern hemisphere. Here the Southern Cross, Milky Way and the inverted view of the Orion constellation are just part of the night sky spectacle. Lake Pukaki sits in the Mackenzie region, one of very few regions around the world classified as an International Dark Sky Reserve. Due to its limited light pollution, the night sky with millions of stars are visible as far as the eyes can see.

Stage 2

Lake Pukaki is the largest of three parallel alpine lakes in the Mackenzie Basin with Lake Tekapo and Lake Ohau being the other two. It’s milky blue colour is a result of finely ground rock particles from glaciers. The lake is part of the Waitaki hydroelectric scheme providing hydroelectricity, irrigation and municipal water supply. The lake originally had an outflow at the southern end but it has since been dammed. To increase storage capacity the lake has been raised twice eventually submerging Te Kohai Island which appeared on NZ’s five pound note pre-decimal currency era. Looking at some of the old images of Lake Pukaki there was a time in the mid-19th century when ferries were used to cross the river outlet south of the lake with a hotel on the bank. A bridge was added in the late 1800s. Both the bridge and hotel have now perished with the raising of the lake.

Firing up for today’s longer journey, I indulged in a sizeable breakfast, a quick swim in the lake to get the blood circulating and I was ready to tackle the next stage. I continued the trail on the eastern side of the lake on a nice quiet country road. Travelling along the shoreline of the lake I was greeted with incredible northward views of the Southern Alps and Mount Cook and kept imagining them as the mythical Aoraki and his three brothers. Directly across the length of the lake was the Ben Ohau range known for its ski touring route across the top of it.

Carrying on the trail I crossed the Pukaki Dam towards the Salmon Shop at Lake Pukaki Visitor Centre. It all went rather well until I reached the southern section of the lake and found myself exposed to the gusty winds from the north-west. It was quite the balancing act aiming to move forwards without taking a tumble down the cliffs and drop-offs near the trail.

With a stop at the Salmon Shop for some locally farmed freshwater salmon, I took this opportunity to gather my rattled nerves, have a rest and absorb the last of this vista. I left the lake behind and moved on south across the Pukaki Flats, a substantial expanse of tussock grasslands and a very flat route. These dry grassy plains are distinctive to the South Island and are largely used for grazing livestock. Without any shading available, plenty of water was necessary and a good head covering.

Having made it into the region’s largest town with time to spare, I’m off to see the highlights before I turn in for the night. I’ll tell you all about it in my next letter.

Wow, amazing. I really love the amount of information the Conqueror organisers provide along with the postcards. Plenty of hints and tips amongst the history, which is just enough to be really interesting – its certainly piqued my interest. Note to self ‘take swim costume’ 🏊‍♀️🏊‍♀️🏊‍♀️

Damn, I want to go now 😂😂😂😂 anyone know a millionaire with a few thousand pounds lying around that they don’t need….😁😁 I really REALLY want to see those stars 🌌🌌🌌

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Leaving on a jet plane and I don’t know when I’ll be back again……as it turns out…I never did return – not permanently anyway.

relocating to the uk, travel over 40, arriving in the uk, solo travel for women

taken on the day I landed after my Spitfire flight on 26 April this year – seems apt for my journey

Today marks the 17th anniversary of my arrival in the Northern Hemisphere and the UK then Ireland for the first time.

All three happened on the same day in the space of a few hours.

I left South Africa on the 8th October 2001 bouncing with excitement and joy. At age 46, although I had travelled extensively throughout RSA and lived in any number of places, I had never left the borders of South Africa except for a brief weekend sojourn to Swaziland in my misspent youth.

I flew from South Africa on the evening of the 8th October landing in Zurich on the 9th. After an hour or so at Zurich airport where I had my first European pastry and hot chocolate and searched for the ‘red’ post box which turned out to be green LOL (a learning curve for sure), from there it was an emotional flight across Europe and the skies in which WW2 was fought. I am fascinated by the history of the 2nd WW and it gave me both the chills and a thrill that I was flying through the same airspace that our pilots flew all those decades ago…as a result I spent nearly the whole flight just crying….I couldn’t believe I was actually in the same airspace.

Soon, as we came in to land at London Airport I had my first view of the city I was to come to love so much; suddenly I was on UK soil. I could hardly believe it.

relocating to the uk, solo travel,

Lovely London – my soul city

A short nerve-wracking bus-ride later I took my first ever tube ride – first on the Jubilee line and then the Piccadilly line to Heathrow. I remember how terrified I was of getting lost, of not finding my way to the airport, and a total wreck with all the stories I had heard of how big Heathrow airport was….wasn’t. It was easy to navigate.

I remember as if it happened yesterday; as we exited the underground near Hounslow I looked out the window and fell in love…..with the chimney pots on the houses around the green. I am a huge fan of the film Mary Poppins and it looked to me just like a scene from the film….the trees and the green surrounded by 3-storey brick houses, their roofs adorned with chimney pots.

“I could live here!” I thought…..

And now I am….I first spent 6 months in Ireland with my darling sister and her husband (her 30th birthday was the reason for my visit),

and then after my visa expired 6 months later I came over to the UK to collate the paperwork I would need in order to apply for and obtain my ancestral visa (my grandfather had the good sense to be born in London (Battersea). After securing letters from agencies to say they could employ me, I flew back to South Africa in March 2002 and by 22nd April 2002 I was back in Ireland; ancestral visa in hand. After a few months of gallivanting in Ireland, I once again flew back to the UK and started working and living first as a resident and then a citizen of the country.

I have never looked back, never had even one second of home-sickness and never longed for the country or yearned to ‘go back’ with all that that signifies. If I have missed anything it would be certain foods like OUMA rusks, or peppermint crisp chocloate LOL

I have grown to love the UK so much, albeit not the politics (or some of the parties), and I have had so many amazing adventures, learned so much, written a couple of books and immersed myself into the very fabric of this country. The history is phenomenal and it’s like peeling back an onion…one layer reveals another.

I used my ancestral visa/SA passport to good effect and and travelled to a number of European countries and a few states in the USA over the next 15 years (and back to Ireland 9 times).

visit ireland, trinity college dublin

Sphere Within Sphere is a bronze sculpture by Italian sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro, located at Trinity College, Dublin

I also travelled far and wide throughout the UK and have probably visited more places than many British-born people….certainly I’m sure more Domesday Book places.

I then applied for and obtained my British Citizenship.

relocating to the uk, travel over 40, arriving in the uk, solo travel for women

it’s my 17th anniversary!!! this is from the day I got my new passport as a UK citizen 2 years ago

My daughter followed me in 2003 and she too is now a British citizen and married to an amazing man with a baby on the way…..the first baby in our family to be born in the UK since my Grandfather was born in Battersea in 1890. Our little Peanut aka my first grandchild. I’m so in love with this baby already…my heart swells when I see this. 🙂

peanut is on the way, first grandchild, 3d scan of baby in the womb, granny in waiting

my beautiful grandchild. a 3D scan taken yesterday…

It seems perfectly apt, albeit coincidentally, that we got this scan photo on the same date 08/10, as what I left SA 17 years ago. Never did I think on that day back in 2001 that I would be a granny-in-waiting at this time 17 years later.

The UK has always felt like ‘home’ to me and I have felt more at ‘home’ here than I ever did anywhere in RSA….except possibly Cape Town which I’ve always said was my heart city. Well London is my soul city, and my heart has followed me to the UK.

I’ve had an extraordinary journey since arriving here in 2001 and although it hasn’t always been easy, that’s mostly been due to my own bad decisions on various life aspects. But I have never regretted my decision to return and to stay…..

So today is my 17th anniversary and I am still ‘home’.

And Ireland is still my 2nd favourite country in the world.

If you are interested here is a link to some of the place I have visited since my arrival. My goal is to still travel even more extensively and visit as many places as I possibly can – Project 101

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We had such a laugh today with my current client. We were reminiscing about washing machines (yeah, I know)… LOL She was relating something about her life and suddenly a memory popped into my head…..so I related something about mine….like how for a few years we didn’t have a washing machine. My Mother used to put the weeks’ washing into the bathtub on a Friday morning, fill it with soap-powder and hot water and leave it to soak.

When my sister and I got home in the afternoon after school, right after lunch the first thing we had to do was ‘stamp’the washing!! Shoes and socks off, into shorts and tops and into the bath! We would then, amidst gales of laughter and a good deal of splashing about, stamp the washing. That was my Mother’s answer to a washing machine. hahaha

We would move the washing about from one end to the other, stamp, stamp, stamp, up and down, trying our best to push the other over as we passed on our way from one end to the other….then rotate the loads over and over…and stamp, stamp, stamp.

Then the water would be drained and cold water run in, again and again as we went stamp, stamp, stamp until my Mother was satisfied all the soap power and dirt had been rinsed out.

Finally after about an hour or so we were able to climb out the bath dry our feet and then the worst part started….squeezing the water out the washing! OhMyGosh. If you have ever had to wring out a sheet, you’ll know how tedious a job this is. But we had great arm muscles.

We also had the cleanest feet in the neighbourhood.

science museum london

our first washing machine – we got one almost exactly the same as this…hooray for the rollers

Then it was out and onto the wash-line. I’ll always remember the sight of our sparkling white sheets, gleaming and whipping in the wind. Luckily for us, unlike here in the UK, we could depend on the weather…..summer was a breeze…no pun! The laundry dried in no time at all and then it was time to fold and pack it all away.

stash slash project

sheets blowing in the wind

One of the things I remember too is that my Mother didn’t believe in ironing sheets! Most sensible in my opinion…especially as I don’t iron ANYTHING if I can possibly avoid it. She always said that if we ironed the sheets, we would be ironing the sunshine out!!! Perfect!

My client feels we were hard done by!

I saw the washing machine in the above image at the Science Museum in London in their The Secret Life of the Home Exhibition. A must visit…they have some of the most astounding items! Visit The Secret Life of the Home to see how the design of household gadgets has changed over time.


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Last night I went to the wedding of a dear friend of mine. I met Lucy via twitter back in 2012 when I sponsored her for her Faberge Big Egg Hunt challenge – to visit all the 209 eggs in London in 24 hours. She almost made it…unfortunately some of the eggs had been moved, but the challenge gained me a friend.

lucy and toms wedding

Lucy & Tom’s Wedding

Then we had the BT ArtBox sculptures and Lucy and I and a few other friends spent the day rushing about to find as many as possible. That’s how we roll in London LOL

Over the years our friendship has grown and although we don’t meet often we keep in touch via Facebook (and now instagram 😉 ) And then I met Tom…..we decided to meet up one year at The Great Xmas Pudding Race at Covent Garden, and I was introduced to Tom. After freezing our proverbial butts off watching people dressed in crazy outfits dashing about an obstacle course with Xmas Puddings balanced in their hands, we retired for hot chocolate and I got to speak to this man who was to become her husband!

I went to the house-warming when they bought their first home together. Lucy was one of my sponsors for my British Citizenship.

And last night I had the pleasure of sharing in their special day. Lucy looked absolutely stunning; very Audrey Hepburn. A classic neckline that framed her face beautifully, swept back and down in a V to a very tiny waist. The skirt flared out in a bell shape from a beaded belt, with covered buttons running down the seam.

lucy and toms wedding

Lucy and Tom’s wedding

Her hair looked so elegant swept to the side, held in place with a diamante clip and tiny sparkly studs amongst the curls. Huge congratulations to Lucy and Tom on your nuptials. May you have a long and happy life together.

lucy and toms wedding

the bride look stunning

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The last time I visited South Africa was in 2011. After I left I said that that would be my last visit….uhmmm, nope!!

In February of this year I finally got my British Citizenship and realised that I needed to sort out my South African ‘stuff’ – my worldly possessions, most of which had been in storage for the past 15 years. I hadn’t wanted to make a decision to move everything to the UK in the event I didn’t get my citizenship and have to move it all back to SA.

So now that I had it (my citizenship), I planned a trip.

Just a couple of days after our Paris trip I boarded a plane to France (go figure) en-route to SA. We flew via Charles de Gaulle.  By the time we left it was dark and by my absolute luck I had a seat with a view of Paris and the Eiffel Tower…it looked magical. Soon after taking off we were asked to close our portholes so after that I didn’t get to see much else.

Paris by night - the Eiffel Tower

Paris by night – the Eiffel Tower

The plane was really empty and I had a row of 3 seats to myself and managed, by dint of wriggling and strategically places cushions and blankets, to get a good night’s sleep….well as good as what you can get on a noisy plane.  I had a seat on the left hand side of the plane as I was hoping to see the sunrise in the morning…..hah!!! I hadn’t bargained on the extraordinary brightness of the sun at that height…I opened my porthole a sliver and promptly shut it again…nearly blinded! Of course the sun had risen while I was sleeping, so I had missed the best of it.

Flying in over north of South Africa I was dismayed to see just how dry and brown the landscape was – I have become so spoiled by England’s green fields.  I was also surprised to see how empty the Johannesburg International airport (aka Oliver Tambo Airport) was…the last time I visited it was packed to the brim.

south african in winter

…how dry it all looks

I spent the first few days in Honeydew, staying with a friend who has a caravan parked within a caravan park….quiet and peaceful, the serenity belied the reality.  Beyond the iron gates and electrified fence are the sprawling mass of a township; a place of unrest and discontent, with frequent riots and tyre burning…..the burn marks clearly visible on the tar of what is a national highway between Johannesburg and Pretoria…two major cities.

Waking up in this park that borders on a nature reserve was a treat. As someone who treasures quiet mornings, I would make myself a cup of tea and wander down to the fence to watch the animals and birds at the waterholes.  The sunsets in the evenings are stunning; colours in the Highveld are like no other…it’s an African thing – something I suspect has to do with the air.

I had planned to see one of my younger sisters whilst there; Joanne, my Mother’s 3rd daughter, 10 years younger than me. She is currently being cared for by a charity in Soweto. After a dangerous descent into the underworld of drugs, she was, 3 years back, made a ward of the state and sent to an institution for detox and care. After they said she had to be moved on my sisters looked around and finally found this charity where she is currently staying and where I visited. Essentially although to all appearances she looks well, her brain has been irreparably damaged and she is unable to care for herself.t broke my heart to see the situation she has put herself in……I refuse to accept blame and will not allow anyone to say my sisters or I should care for her….she deliberately took the drugs to spite us against all pleading and arguments to not go down that road….and much as it breaks my heart to see where she has ended up, it is better than in an alleyway somewhere, and she is actually very happy and well cared for. The lady who runs the charity takes very good care of her albeit with very strict rules and if she breaks any of them she is denied her small freedoms…like being allowed to go to the store on her own. We simply don’t command the same respect and my sister, although very friendly to people, can be and has been very, very abusive towards her sisters, and my Mother when she was alive.  Anyway, that’s another story altogether, so moving on.

It was lovely to see her and I’m glad I made the journey despite my misgivings. I was most grateful to my lovely niece Tracey who has kept in touch with Joanne and visits on a regular basis, also being my go-between for birthdays and Christmas…being Postie for cards and presents. It was so lovely to see them too, the kids are growing up so quickly!!

Then it was off to Cape Town….flying over the country from north to south I was dismayed to see how dry and brown it all is. Many droughts have plagued the country and when you have idiots in Government who say that the previous Government failed because they built the dams too big, which means they take longer to fill up….you can only wonder. Although of course droughts are a common issue in Africa, still it was saddening to see how much it has deteriorated in the last decades.  Made me long for the green fields of England.

I was absolutely delighted to have a fantastic view of Table Mountain coming into land and if there is one thing I do miss about SA, that would be it…..the sight of Table Mountain….it really is quite extraordinary…as well as which the difference from before and after the mountain ranges is quite remarkable.

Table Mountain - Cape Town

Table Mountain – Cape Town

The Cape is green…on the whole, very green in comparison to further north. I was also astounded at how the ‘squatter’ camps in Cape Town had grown and how many houses had replaced the shacks, as well as which in a very innovative move which I think is just excellent, were that each house has a solar panel for generating hot water!! Makes absolute sense. Oh and satellite dishes galore!!

How wonderful it was to see my sisters at the airport…..I had only been expecting to see my friend Cheryll with whom I was to stay for the weekend and my younger sister Caroline and her hubby, but suddenly out of nowhere two of my other sisters Valerie and Sue appeared!!! We had a great time catching up. Of course Sue is now also working as a Carer in the UK but due to our work schedules we seldom see each other. You can imagine the noise at that table LOL…all of us talking 19 to the dozen….

Then it was time to go and my sister and her hubby kindly drove me through to Cheryll’s place where I spent the next two days…..sunshine every day! I had forgotten what it’s like to wake up to sunshine every day! Mind you, just the week before I arrived the Cape had experienced some terrible storms that took trees down and lifted roofs off! I had packed my bags accordingly and as it turned out I had no need at all for the warmer clothes I packed!IMAG3550

From there it was over to Somerset West to a place I had booked via AirBnB…a first for me and I was hopeful it would be okay…..after all I had already paid for it all. The place turned out to be lovely and very well appointed, but unfortunately I had a falling out with the host due to her nosiness and sly comments about my being vegetarian.  But it was comfortable and safe and at least the hire car was safe and not too far from the storage unit in Strand which is where I had my possessions – the reason I was in SA in the first place…..time to sort out my boxes and keep, sell or pack…for shipment to the UK.

I had always said that as soon as I got my British Citizenship I would head over to SA and sort it all out. It had been in storage for 15 years already and costing me a small fortune.

Thankfully my sister and brother-in-law were with me when we first opened the storage room….I took one look at all the boxes piled high and would have just shut the door and left again LOL…… But disaster was averted, and we decided to start sorting stuff out right there and then…first thing down was my mattress….now bearing in mind it had been in storage for 15 years….there was not a mark, or moth or mouse poop anywhere to be seen…..well done to my sister for all the safeguards she had thrown willy nilly over it all hahahaha. It worked! In fact it worked so well I decided right there and then to send the mattress to the UK!!! It’s one of the best I have ever had.


my marvellous mattress…can’t wait to sleep on it again

And so began the next step of my journey…..what to keep, what to throw away and what to sell/donate. Oh lordy……it was really hard. I had over 40 boxes to sort through and although I hadn’t seen or needed or used any of it for the last 15 years….it was very hard to make the decision to get rid of things like my precious books. But the reality is that we don’t have anywhere to put them here in the UK and I am damned if I am putting anything into storage here!!! Besides which, storage in the UK is more than double the cost than in SA.

I had a fair idea of what i wanted to keep and what not…clothes in particular, although there was a fair number of favoured items that I wanted to bring over…. Kitchen implements and the dinner service et al were easy….time to go. Over the years we have accumulated more than enough and frankly I didn’t want to end up with loads of things again.

My sister had had the brainwave of hiring an extra unit across from mine so I could have space to move and sort. It really made the job so much easier….whatever I wanted to keep I just took across to the other side where I had boxes taped up and numbered, ready to absorb the things I wanted to ship to the UK.

Finally, after 7 long days, lots of bending, sorting into keep, throw, sell, donate with packing and unpacking, as well as walking back and forth between units – utter exhaustion, braving heat and an unexpected south-westerly wind that ensured I took more SA beach sand back to the UK than I had ever intended…I narrowed it down from 43 boxes to 26!!! Hahahaha. But I can tell you, it was really difficult to part with some of the stuff….as the last day wore on, more and more little bits got ‘squeezed’ into various boxes…stuff I suddenly felt unable to part with.  I’ll probably end up donating it to charity once I get it here!!

But after all that, the most difficult items to part with were my books. It nearly broke me to force myself to leave behind all the Encyclopaedias and nature books I had collected over the years. The novels were easy…I had read them all anyway and could easily buy them from charity shops in the UK if I so desired to read them again….but my encyclopaedias…..really hard. My sister promised to donate them to a library which assuaged my emotions…but then promptly started giving them away to people she knew.

I put a lot of the household items up for sale, the many unwanted toys my daughter had accumulated, clothes, ornaments and such like, but after all I ended up donating 70% of my unwanted items to a charity in the Strand area. I felt really happy with that as the woman who runs the charity is taking in unwanted and abandoned children from the surrounding area and was desperate for all sorts of necessities. The delight on the children’s faces when they got the toys was amazing. So the stuff all went to a good home.

Then it was time to say goodbye. The final bits and pieces had been loaded and taken away, and to my utter joy my sister took the fabulous rosewood dressing-table that I had acquired some years ago (29 to be exact! – where do the years go?). It was in a right sorry state and desperately needed a good clean, some fixing up and a lick or three or four of polish….a lot of tlc. I would dearly have loved to bring it over to the UK, but I have absolutely nowhere to put it and it certainly won’t fit into my motorhome!! LOL

Next step was the removal company to collect all the boxes and ship them over to the UK. (fyi I had a really good experience using Biddulphs). In all it feels really weird….essentially I have now, except for family ties, cut my ties to South Africa…the land of my birth. And even more weirdly, I can no longer stay there in excess of 90 days without permission….that was the most odd of all the discoveries I made.  Cést la vie.

Now it wasn’t all work and no play….I spent the following Sunday and Monday with my younger sister Valerie in Fish Hoek and finally got to meet my little nephew Luca…who is just the cutest little boy. Initially he was very shy but within a few minutes we were best friends and the three of us had a fantastic day on the beach, splashing in the waves….well Val and Luca did…I watched from the sidelines and filmed the fun!

Then we met up with my youngest sister Deidre (Luca’s mummy), and her hubby and my niece Maya….what a charming and delightful little girl she is. I had not yet met either of the kiddies and my heart melted. They are just adorable. We spent the next day with them too and had a most enjoyable time.

The following weekend, and after we had shut the doors of the storage unit I spent the weekend with another of my sisters; Caroline and her hubby Ewart at their home in Wynberg. What a pleasure to wake up to the amazing view of Table Mountain each day. We went up Lions Head in the evening to watch the sunset which it seems is a ‘National Occupation’ judging by the number of people.

Friday was mostly a wasted day with fiddle-faddling in their garage sorting boxes etc, but a highlight of the weekend was a ride on my brother-in-law’s motorbike….I rode pillion of course but oh my word, I hadn’t been on a bike in over 30 years!! Superb! When i got off the bike I said forget the motorhome….I’m buying a motorbike!!! LOL

Saturday was also a bit adhoc with none of the plans adhered to, but we did meet up with a friend of theirs and went to see a show which was just astounding and very very emotional for me. The story really captured my imagination and suddenly I found my South African identity again and it threw me completely.  I had over the last 15 years lost any joy in the country and any affiliation with or towards the country, so this sudden emotional connection left me feeling quite bereft…I cried on my sister’s shoulder afterwards.

We went for drinks afterwards and I had the most enormous Bailey’s Milkshake you could imagine…..I felt much better after that!!! LOL

Sunday we took an early ride up Table Mountain in the cable car. Oh my gosh the views….I had completely forgotten how stunning Cape Town is from that vantage.

We spent a couple of hours walking around the top of the mountain before heading back down and meeting my two younger sisters and the kiddies at Kirstenbosch Gardens for a picnic.  So much fun. It was lovely to relax in the sun and chat and play…and eat 😉

So there we were…..4 sisters together. If my other two sisters Sue and Joanne had been there it would have been the first time in decades we had all been together. We all came from different parental relationships which has been really difficult and quite tricky over the years, with all of us together happening probably never. In fact I simply cannot recall any occasion where we were all together without exception.  How sad is that! My brother too lives in another country with his family. Maybe one day it would be amazing to get everyone together….sisters and brother along with nephews, nieces, great-nephews and great-niece….all in one place. How marvellous.

Meanwhile my time in South Africa was drawing to a close. After our picnic in Kirstenbosch Gardens we decamped briefly to Deidre’s house for a couple of hours and then suddenly it was time to go. I felt so sad saying goodbye. It’s unlikely I will see them again for some years…it’s quite expensive travelling to SA and it’s also now become really expensive in the country. In years gone by you could get good value for your Rand, but not anymore.

Next morning is was up early and off to the airport. I said goodbye to my little sister with pain in my heart and my brother-in-law kindly drove me to the airport.

a trip to South Africa

leaving the Cape – looking towards Gordon’s Bay

Back to Johannesburg, overnight at my friend in Honeydew and then goodbye South Africa. As we flew out of Cape Town I had one last glimpse of the mountain and flying over the cape plains I felt an unexpected tug at my heart….unexpectedly I was sorry to be leaving….I guess that means this trip is not my last after all!

south african sunset

a final South African sunset from Johannesburg Airport

A very long night later, with little sleep on the flight we landed at Charles de Gualle and in no time at all I was in-flight to the UK. I had asked for a window seat, but unfortunately none were available.  Just before we started making our descent into London I took a walk along the passage and noticed that 6 rows at the back were empty!!! I asked the Attendant if I could sit there and oh my gosh the pilot could not have given me a better view of London as we came in to land even if I had asked 🙂


beautiful London from the air

After what turned out to be an amazing trip to South Africa I was home.



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