One never realises how rather fond one is of their home town until it is criticised or spoken ill off. The other day I struggled to contain my fiery side when an ex resident ruthlessly ran down our precious little town – and this after making a rather decent living whilst residing here. It riles me up as much as the ex-pats dissing their country of birth at every opportunity.
I know we don’t possess the cosmopolitan vibe of Cape Town, the spicy aroma of Durban or the corporate kick of Jozi but a traffic jam is a foreign concept here and “see you in ten” does actually mean that one is not much more than ten minutes away from coffee with a mate.
We don’t have acres of vineyards to kick back in and imbibe the grape but a Sunday cruise through the citrus orchards of the Gamtoos Valley topped off with a wonderful meal at Padlangs Country Restaurant in Patensie is a worthy substitute. We don’t have a mountain shaped like a table but we do have one shaped like a slipper whose summit is easily accessible after an hour’s hike and whose panoramic views all the way to Jeffrey’s Bay and the Cockscombe are more than worth the heavy breathing.
We don’t have a huge aquarium where we can ogle the ragged tooth shark or spot the cob but then we don’t need one as our waters are warm enough to encourage more personal encounters with the creatures of the deep without huge risk of being their breakfast. If the ocean is your playground and a surfboard your ride of choice then a brief drive down the coast and you are in wave central – Jeffrey’s Bay.
We are not home to the most famous amateur bicycle race on the planet whose route incorporates the instantly recognisable names of Chapmans Peak and Suikerbossie but the somewhat less groomed trail of the Freedom Challenge comes through our backyard via the GrootRivier Poort and any cyclist worth his saddlebags knows this is the king of hardcore racing.
We don’t have a speedy, aerodynamic train to get us to the airport and back in the shortest time possible but then we hardly need one as the Port Elizabeth International Airport is pretty much in the middle of it all. A call to family or friends upon landing and in 20 minutes tops your ride arrives.
We may not be a mere few hours drive from our most famous game reserve the mighty Kruger National Park but half an hour from our front door is the Addo Elephant National park – a true jewel in our local wildlife crown. If half an hour is to far to drive then why not consider a ten minute spin to Kragga Kamma Game park almost within our outer suburbs. We may even possess the most splendid of them all – the mighty Baviaanskloof. A slow meander throught this mega reserve will leave you humbled and in awe of all that is Mother Nature.
We all have a place we call home and I am proud to call this little town at the bottom of Africa mine…… come to think of it Ironman South Africa feels the same way!
Vive la Port Elizabeth.
(PS : follow this link to read more about our wonderful Addo Elephant Park and others – http://africathisiswhyilivehere.com/trip-report-spekboom-camp-addo/ )
Posted in lifestyle, Uncategorized
Tagged africa, baviaanskloof, cape town, durban, gamtoos valley, home, johannesburg, port elizabeth, south africa, travel, wildlife
I have a certain, violet haired friend, admired before in a blog or two of mine, that lives in the beautiful, cosmopolitan metropolis of Cape Town, has a successful career and leads the single life. Her social media uploads portray a glam and glitzy life played out on wine farms and fabulous eateries whilst sipping on exotically named cocktails or award winning wines. She and her little band of equally fab friends promised me a day to remember when I came calling a few weekends ago.
Please bear in mind that I am very much a small town girl, born and raised in South…… oops those are the Journey lyrics… but you get the picture! Merely finding the home of my bewitching bestie amidst big city traffic caused heart arrhythmia and sweaty palms and I don’t scare easily. I would rather bounce off a mountain side on my bike than endure that again. I finally arrived and after allowing my heart to settle back into a regular rhythm we set off for some flashy beach club. Driving myself should have been the least of my worries as we were now in the youthful hands of my friend’s daughter’s boyfriend. Boy this boy drove. He crossed five lanes of back to back traffic with barely a sideways glance. He played dodgem cars with a real car and me the country bumpkin in the back. I accepted that heart arrhythmia was here to stay for the weekend.
Destination achieved I stepped into another world. Security was not a chap in jeans and a white tee with a torch and a walkie talkie. This guy was in SWAT gear I tell you. There were guns, bullet proof vests, camo pants, steel capped boots and berets. I am convinced I saw a rocket launcher lying against the wall. Security inspection passed and establishment entered my eyes were treated to a visual feast. There was a raised swimming pool with clear sides front and center of the club. White couches stood under the African sun with hot tubs and roped off areas for the fancy folks. The outside tables were placed on beach sand. The prices on the menu would have actually allowed me to buy my own white couch if I so desired. Immediately it was clear that the people enjoying these facilities were encouraged to be very young and very beautiful. I could not think of a better way to cause indigestion and heart burn that to have to witness a gravity challenged body in a bikini or speedo swimming in the see through pool while one was trying to enjoy a little fine dining. The practical, small time thinker in me started stressing about all the coconut oiled bodies destroying the white couches that they lounged on. The slightly obsessive cleaner in me worried about how to bleach and disinfect the sand after all the fine dining was done and dusted. Needless to say it was a magical experience and once over I was whisked off again at break neck speed to a wine farm for an afternoon of the grape, with some cheese and biscuits thrown in to keep us all sober.
I met some fantastic people who each have their own unique little quirks. Wine glasses went home in someone’s handbag and the cheese and biscuits did little to keep others sober. I learned about Tinder on line dating and even got to witness a successful match up. Words like Merlot, Cabernet, Pinot and Chardonnay were bandied about with as much abandon as I do Oros and Energade. I got to share in a slice of their fab pie, if only for five minutes, and it was magnificent. I felt sad to leave but I will be back. I may never grace the perspex pool in a white crochet bikini, but next time I think I shall at least sink my middle aged toes into the white sand.
Home is of course where the heart is and it was a massive relief to negotiate two sets of traffic lights and one lane of traffic on my return. My tiled swimming pool with it’s firmly bricked sides welcomed the sight of my mature self and the only heavily armed guards I saw where those in charge of the cash-in-transit truck!
Just a small town girl………..
Cosmo magazine just released their 50th edition and feature all six of the K. Kar Klan women on its cover. This has caused some outrage behind the white picket fences of America . Being on the cover is not so outrageous as the Klan do hog headlines and prime time television on an ongoing basis. Their error was perhaps in calling them “America’s First Family”. Not only could this make the Obamas, the legitimately real First Family feel a tad peeved but it somehow implies a touch of royalty. Royalty makes me think of that other K princess… the real one.. Princess Kate aka The Duchess of Cambridge.
Here the comparisons have to surely end or do they? The Kar Klan have their very own Queen wannabe… who can ever forget the horrific attempt by Kanye to ensure Freddy Mercury remains in his grave due to his rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody. It was so dreadful that he tried to get the audience to sing it for him. Kim is definitely on the right track to emulating the Duchess of Cambridge with her elegant and covered up pregnancy wear and her charitable good works. Please remember that she wanted to adopt a little Thai girl named Pink whilst on holiday there one year. Of course Pink has probably turned Blue from holding her breath waiting for Kim to collect her. They have Scott Disick, the Lord – although of late he has been banished to the outer corners of the kingdom. He can only be praised for his continued attempts to copy Prince Harry with his playboy like behaviour – of course Harry does not have a spouse and 3 children waiting at home in a mansion for him and his day job often involves military combat not party hosting. If Kim is the princess then poor ole Khloe must be comparable to Pippa, the sexy but forgettable sister. Gorgeous in her own right but just not the real deal. Kris can only be the Queen Mom with a rule of iron so terrifying that she managed to rob wee Bruce of his manhood. Rob reminds one a little of Prince Andrew, pudgy and rather forgotten. Could Kourtney perhaps not resemble Princess Anne with her cool, unreadable persona?
Come on America, cut poor old Kosmo some slack as they were just stating the inevitable. After all Queen Kanye has already declared that he wants to run for president affording Kimmy the chance to occupy an office that is shaped like her butt and Mama Kris the rights to produce the first White House reality series.
Hey as long as they don’t mess with Africa I say live and let live…… 😉
Tenacity and firm belief are two qualities that my youngest grandson possesses in spades and shovels. At two years old he knows that he is Bob the Builder with a little Tim the Toolman thrown in for good measure. Gift purchasing for him is a walk in the park as one merely needs to procure a toddler toolbox , a plastic lawnmower or a hard hat to have secured his adoration forever.
Through our growing up years I am sure we all wanted to be someone else or get a chance to experience the life of our chosen superhero. I will admit that Bob the Builder is not a particularly glamorous hero to want to emulate but at the end of the day when Spiderman’s web fails to stick, Superman sniffs too much Kryptonite or Batman crashes the batmobile good ole Bob is there to save the day. He could be any damsel in distresses knight in shining armour with his ability to mow the lawn, hang pictures or change light bulbs. Yes I think little Jake is on the right superhero track.
The tenacity I speak of is his unwavering ability to get into character and stay that way for endless stretches of time. Once he dons the hard hat and collects his tools there is no going back to civilian Jake anytime soon. The tiles and wooden flooring get a good mowing and trimming, the walls get a solid hammering and the bunk bed is in danger of being sawn down to a single storey with the plastic saw. He struts around the house with his toolbelt firmly strapped around his waist and his construction helmet on his head looking for any jobs that require his unique superpowers. Please do remember that my house is in year two of a ten year renovation plan so little Jake is in SuperBuilder heaven. Even when summonsed for bath time he refuses to return to his Just Jake persona so rubber duckies and boats are tossed aside for pliers and mallets. The hard hat remains firmly in place while he inspects the bathtub for any signs of disrepair.
I can only respect his unwavering commitment to his chosen heroes and pray my house survives his well meaning renovations. In the words of the famous Bob ” Can we fix it?”
YES Jake can!
A blog or two ago I wrote about spending a few months in the pain cave due to some nerve issues in my leg and foot. As I slowly inched my way out of the cave into a slightly lighter space where the pain was considerably less and I could manage to get through the day without massacring a kid or beating a pet ( jokes, jokes) I started to dream of riding my bike again.
While I was in serious pain, the kind where eating is unthinkable and mobility impossible, I never gave him a thought at all but slowly, slowly he has crept back into my head. He is skulking and sulking around the house like a disgruntled lover. He tried hard to tempt me with his glistening sheen and pumped up wheels but for a while I never glanced in his direction. Last week as I walked past him I reached out and stroked the saddle. I put my hands on the handlebars and a rush of familiarity and comfort flooded through me. I was thrown into a world of whooshing tyres, muddy chains and sweaty workouts. The longing was great.
I suddenly realised why I have been feeling rather morose and sad. Exercise is an addiction and I had gone cold turkey. I was used to cycling most days of the week and putting in the odd long ones on the weekend. I had spent the last two months doing absolutely nothing other than the odd dog walk when the pain allowed and my body was screaming in protest. I felt miserable and tired, unhappy and lethargic. I needed my fix of fresh air, spinning legs and burning thighs.
This past weekend I saddled up and along with some patient friends set off at sunrise for a gentle pedal. Hard to put into words the magnificence of watching the sun slowly rise up over the ocean, the banter of good mates, the biting early morning air rushing through your bones, the hypnotic turn of your legs and wheels and the hot cuppa shared together afterwards. I sucked it all in like an oxygen deprived diver bursting out of the deep blue. There was still pain and it wasn’t the most comfortable cycle I have ever had but it was certainly one of the most appreciated.
I am an addict but I don’t mind saying… ” I am Jacky and I am a cyclist”.
I wrestled with putting this down in a blog as it is not my usual happy ramblings about the grandsons, but then life is not always rainbows and roses, daisies and dances. Sometimes we get roughed up a little, sometimes it doesn’t all go as it should and sometimes our gut wrenches as we watch a precious child in pain.
If you follow my blogs you would have known that my daughter was pregnant with my third grandchild. Of course we hoped for a little mini her but if not then another sunny haired, bright-eyed little he- rogue was just as eagerly anticipated. Initially I was a little taken aback. It gets hair-raising enough trying to handle two tiny terrorists so a third seemed excessive but as she slowly edged along into her second trimester I started to imagine holding a brand new little being in my arms again. I looked forward to kissing the soft folds of a baby powder neck. I could imagine miniature rosebud lips and big beautiful eyes like her mama’s. I started to think like somebody who has three grandchildren and promised myself to give little Jakey, the newly crowned middle child, extra attention in case he got a little left out in the bedlam of a new birth. I made sure that Jordy, the eldest was onboard with helping mom out. He was so onboard that he declared baby could share his bed so she wouldn’t feel lonely and cry at night.
The pregnancy had moved along into the fourth month when she woke one morning feeling something was wrong and they quickly headed off to the Doctor. It was confirmed that they had lost their baby. This really was a bolt from the blue. My daughter is young, strong and healthy with two perfect pregnancies under her belt. We had no reason to think this one would not be just as perfect. Believe me when I tell you that it is heart breaking to hold your baby as she mourns the loss of her baby. She may not have held this baby in her arms but she held her in her womb and the grief is no less real.
I am thankful for the two beautiful grandchildren I already have but it doesn’t mean I don’t feel a haunting sadness that I never got to meet this one, to rock her in my arms, to tickle her tummy rolls and sing her to sleep. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel a little lump in my throat when I walk into the kids bedroom and see the cot standing in the corner waiting for a tiny imprint on the sheet.
So if you take a good look at my face you may well see the tracks of my tears for a little someone I never got to know. A little someone who would have been greatly loved and adored. A little someone whose story will remain untold. A little someone who will be remembered because even the tiniest of feet leave an indelible print behind.
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I have established that when those beholders happen to be your grandsons your beauty puts Angelina Jolie in the shade.
Allow me to illustrate how for one brief moment in time I felt like the most gorgeous creature alive. Way way back in time when the day came to dealing out the hair gene I must have been bunking as I did not get the silky, gently curling, gleaming tresses I thought I was owed. I got something much more untamed and African… an often unplayable tangle of curls that regularly endures some serious punishment to shape it into a mane that does not render the general population speechless. A whole blog could be written, and should be, on the taming of the mane but that will be for another day.
On this day in question I had washed my hair and piled it into a top knot and gone about my daily duties without giving it another thought until late afternoon when I suddenly realised we had a dinner date with old friends. I knew drastic action was going to be needed to neutralize the manic mop atop my head. With fear and trepidation , and after warning my household an abnormal and terrifying sight was probably about to be witnessed, I undid the topknot.
I would give anything to report that my hair just tumbled down across my shoulders in a sleek and gently wavy manner while liberating the aroma of an apple orchard as it fell. I would love to say it rolled down my back like the swell on a smooth sea. Sadly it lethargically meandered its stubborn way down past my shoulders and settled onto my back with a complete lack of enthusiasm. My grandsons were jumping on the bed, as little creatures do, and were witness to the loosening of the tresses. I braced myself for the horror and the screams as they witnessed their nana in her natural state but what happened instead was my “Hollywood” moment. As my hair hit my shoulders in all it’s impossible, crazy freakishness the youngest proclaimed in a hushed and hallowed voice “Nana you look beautiful” and the eldest followed it up by proclaiming my tresses to be stunning! Now of course one really should not base how gorgeous one’s hair is on the opinions of two tiny boys but after years of intense guerilla warfare with the locks I was prepared to accept their magnificent utterings.
This my friends is reason enough to make sure you have grandchildren. They love and adore every little bit of you. Where we see freaky they see fabulous, where we see dull they see dazzling and where we see awful they see amazing.
It’s a beautiful thing.
I bet when you read the blog title you all thought old Gran had taken up caving to replace mountain biking as her new midlife crisis adventure sport. No my dear friends this caving requires no headlamps, ropes or helmets….. this caving requires the love of friends and family and a fortitude of steel. This is pain caving.
The past few weeks have seen me sink deep into the pain cave… it felt like the Cango Caves of pain caves ( our most famous South African caves for my overseas blogging mates ) rather than a small, manageable little space. The caves were linked by little tunnels of relief until you got spat out into another bigger cave of pain. No need to bore you all with long winded medical details but suffice to say nerves were trapped and reduced me to crawling mobility and an hour of sleep a night. No pain pill, anti inflammatory or sleeping tablet made an impact and they only served to set me off on a path of nausea and loss of appetite. Ah…. the upside to pain caving…. the weight loss comes free and unasked for.
I am slowly starting to see an improvement and sleep is returning. Nerve damage has now occurred in my foot but I am hoping with good therapy and care surgery can be avoided. Anyway this blog is not about garnering your sympathy for my pathetic state but rather an explanation as to where I have been and also to share the lessons that I have learned.
I have learned how easy it is to scoff at others who suffer chronic pain conditions until it grabs you for itself. People are not very understanding or caring when you have an injury that cannot be seen. People tend to think you are being a bit of a drama queen or looking for attention. I was one of those people who was a little uncaring and unsympathetic of others in pain. I always thought I was a bit of a tough cookie until I was knocked to the floor with a Federeresque backhand.
I have learned how we take our health and the ability to exercise totally for granted and a lot of us don’t give our bodies anywhere near the attention they so deserve. Oh how easy it is to be careless when health is blooming.
I have learned that the family and friends that care can be counted on a hand. People are concerned for a short while but it gets boring and they forget about you eventually. I have no beef with this as I have done the same to others at times. When you are strong and can cycle up mountains it is easy to forget the person who is weak and wandering the caves. There have been some wonderful friends who have keep my drug supply topped up, lifted my sinking spirits and who have regularly sent messages checking up on me. My man and my mom have been magnificent in keeping the household clean and fed.
Mostly I have learned that pain is a lonely place, especially in the witching hours while the world sleeps. It has humbled me. It has taught me respect and empathy for the real pain sufferers… the people with dreaded diseases and unseen illnesses. It has opened my eyes to some ugly truths in my own life and shown me an appreciation for what I do have.
Pain brings change.
Living in deepest, darkest Africa one is always in need of some good canine protection and as our old dog, Diva, is turning grey and grumpy we agreed it was time to introduce a puppy into the fold.
Am I mad? I have two grandsons under four and a half. I should know how the kid years go. It has been ten years since I last had a puppy so in true middle aged fashion I had forgotten how demanding, clamorous and insistent a sub-3 month old hound can be. In one short moment of handing over the cash and an exchange of a pet passport I was the proud owner of a lion flushing, all African, Rhodesian Ridgeback. How cute and adorable she was lying on my lap on the ride home. Ahhhhh look at her romp on the lawn. Isn’t that little bark and growl at the tennis ball too precious! She is a mini version of our 10 year old Ridgeback who walks to heel, sits and lies on command. and who, when hearing the word “Wait”, will halt regardless of what she is doing and where she is. I guess I mistakenly believed I was receiving an exact, if not smaller, replica of this.
I am a person of order. I like tidy and clutter free. I don’t do spontaneous very well at all so the spontaneous manner in which this little angel is using the one and only carpet in the entire house as her ablution facility is causing me untold panic and stress. How does a teensy weensy little puppy manage to somersault an entire well ordered household? The grande dame of the house is furious and frightened all at the same time. For a decade she has been the only canine within the family and now this whipper snapper has the audacity to eat from her bowl, growl and bark at her, pull her tail and attempt to hijack her bed. Our one-eyed, ailing Siamese cat is horrified and has tried to go on a hunger strike in protest – only cooked meals eaten behind the privacy of a closed door will tempt her appetite. My already grumpy son is miffed as it is his precious cat that the puppy is tormenting. The grandsons are undecided because although she is cute she also has razor sharp teeth and a way of tackling them that causes trips and falls.
I feel like I have a newborn in the house. I long for and eagerly anticipate her little nap times. While she is napping I race to shower quickly and get ready for the day ahead. Attempting to shower while she is awake is unwise. Close the door and she howls and scratches. Leave the door open and she showers too. I then spend a good part of my day armed with mop and paper towel on toilet patrol. Why oh why is there no doggy day care where they potty train them?? If not on toilet patrol then I spend the other part of my day as a mediator between the pets…. encouraging the cat not to take her own life in a hunger strike and constantly apologising to the old lady for inflicting this torture on her. Yesterday I had the grandkids, the animals, the grumpy son and five builders working on the renovations in the house. Yesterday evening I shed tears in the bath! Yesterday I longed for a simple life in a house for one with just enough space for my bike. 🙂
Tonight as I am typing she is lying on my lap. She is warm and round. She has soft puppy breath and makes strange little noises in her sleep. She truly is adorable. When I consider that a week ago she woke up in the morning with a mom and 1o siblings but spent that night in an unfamiliar house with unfriendly animals and strange humans I feel ashamed for getting annoyed and upset when she makes a mess or chews on a child. She really is precious beyond measure and I look forward to many years of happy walks and wagging tails.
But dang when I command “wait” she had better wait……
( NO CHILDREN WERE HARMED IN THE MAKING OF THIS BLOG )
I shouted at a four-year old yesterday. Not just any four-year old but my sensitive, easily offended and much-loved grandson.
Please don’t think I have gone through my life never having shouted at a child. My step son did not give me the nick name “Dragon” because I am a constantly kind, softly spoken person. My own children could attest to a few low down and dirty shouting sessions but I have never shouted at this particular child. Some kids are made to be yelled at like my two-year old grandson. This kid is like the wall of a squash court – whatever you throw at him he bounces straight back to you, usually a lot faster and harder than he received it. He is the antithesis of his gentle brother.
Allow me to set the stage and show you how the screaming began. It was my turn to host stokvel ( google it my internationals friends) which meant cooking a meal for ten people and ensuring my home was in ship-shape condition. I am the domestic help in my home so there was no little Handy Andy fairy flitting around cleaning, dusting, mopping, polishing and sanitizing. I was the Handy Andy fairy, some may say dragon, doing the hard yards. Into this fray add a home office and two small children who demand that you draw with them, play cricket with them, read books to them and generally devote every second of the day to them. As we live in a country whose crime stats are flourishing we have a security gate ( the expander type ) that separates the bedroom area from the living areas which we shut off at night. The boys had been hanging around the gate playing and yes I was tempted to lock them on a different side of the gate to myself but I refrained. I was trying to type out an invoice while keeping an eye on my dinner for ten and warned them to mind fingers as they could get trapped in the gate if they pushed it fully closed. A blood curdling scream filled the house and I knew that five tiny fingers had been chopped off and were lying on the opposite side of the gate to their owner. Was a mad dash to the ER with five severed fingers in a box of ice about to ensue?
I nullified Usain Bolt’s speed records with my sprint to the passage only to find all twenty fingers still attached to four hands and that a simple little brotherly tiff had caused the Freddy Krueger victim-like scream. My anguished and over wrought nerves finally came to that fork in the road where one either chooses the red mist or mature sanity. I opted for the mist and went full dragon. The younger just gave a hearty bellow and screamed far more loudly than I could ever hope too while the sensitive soul looked at me with eyes as big as swimming pools and rapidly filling with as much water. He was genuinely devastated that his Nana had shouted at him and when my mom came to give me a break and take them off my hands he slowly and painstakingly made his way to her car with a demeanour more injured than a wifi-less Kardashian. I did attempt to unpack my parenting skills and explain to him that I was wrong to have shouted but I fear it fell on unsympathetic ears. A four-year old with crushed feelings is a sadder sight than a Kanye concert.
Since the incident I have been haunted with the feeling that it was steeped in a sense of deja vu and it all seemed so familiar until I realised that twenty odd years ago a pair of big brown eyes also easily welled with tears and another kid also shuffled around in a state of horrified injustice when shouted at.
Those eyes and injured feelings belonged to his mother, my daughter ……. it really is the circle of life!
PS : Attached pic is of us in happier days – 😉