Review – Skoorsteenberg

Disclaimer: I wasn’t compensated in any way whatsoever for writing this or asked to write about it, let’s just call this post Paying it Forward.

During the school holidays we decided to take the kids where there was no signal, no tv and no devices (ok, mostly no devices) and ended up at Skoorsteenberg in the Tankwa Karoo.

To get there you have to travel about 80 odd kilometres (the road between Ceres and Calvinia, at 270 km the longest gravel road in the country) on gravel and we passed 2 cars that had flat tyres as the gravel there tends to cut tyres, so bear that in mind if you do go. The landscape is flat, lots of little bossies and very few trees as far as they eye can see. Just what we wanted: peace, quiet and a little desolation. And breathtaking sunsets.

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The kids had an absolute ball, they climbed “the mountain” (a koppie) about a gazillion times a day to go and sit on rocks or walk the mandala that the owner, Nana’s, daughter had packed out in stones.

We played Uno and Jenga, we built puzzle. We read and talked and walked. Mostly we played a silly Moshi Monsters card game that Daniel got in a magazine. As a side-note, he cheats shamelessly, the sussies couldn’t understand why he kept on winning until we intervened and they kept calling him out on it after that.

We were really lucky with the weather, no wind at night and lovely warm winter’s days, so we could sit outside after the sun went down and the kids were asleep.

The cottage itself is really well equipped, it has the 3 things I usually miss at places we stay: proper wine glasses, big coffee mugs and sharp knives. A big win in my books. It also has a gas heater and warm water bottles for every person. There is no fireplace inside, purely because the house is really well-insulated and the small matter of no trees = no wood to speak of. But don’t let this deter you.

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The other thing I really liked is that they recycle EVERYTHING. They separate plastic, glass and paper and pretty much everything else goes to either the compost heap or the pigs. I was a little horrified at how quickly the plastic bin filled up, I’m definitely more conscious of how much plastic we use. Scary.

Go. Just go. It’s so good for the soul. It took my ears about 24 hours to get used to the silence, it is deafening. (when the kids weren’t running around screaming)

Lastly: on the way to the farm you must stop at the Tankwa Padstal, but don’t get stuck at the bar, be warned, you still have about 40 km gravel road to travel.

On buying a car

I recently bought a car.

Not because I wanted to, it was more out of necessity than anything else (tax, blahblah), so budget was a concern. Cars are, in my opinion, just something that get you from Point A to Point B.

In saying that, we needed a Cross Over vehicle, something that we could comfortably take on the gravel roads we seem to frequent when going away for the weekend.

Also: I like to sit high. It’s a thing, don’t ask.

We did NOT want a balloon payment and it HAD to have a proper maintenance plan. Not asking for much, huh?

Herewith some thoughts on the dealerships in our area, I was blown away at how they differ. They fit into very definite personality types.

It’s also like entering into a long-term relationship: you need to be sure before you commit.

Ford: Stalkers

The Ford guy I dealt with when enquiring about the Kuga stalked me relentlessly via email and phone, promising to “make me a deal”, when I knew I could not afford what he had to offer and I was not going to compromise on budget or balloon payments.

Renault: Disorganised

I spoke to a salesman and made an appointment to test-drive the Duster. He had no idea who I was when I arrived. It also took them several working days to get back to me with a trade-in value on my car. They really just were not that into me.

Nissan: Failure to commit

I test-drove the Qashqai, the salesman was going to see about trade-in value and whether he could find me a demo model (which he assured me wasn’t a problem) and I never heard from him again. I was quite tempted to buy the Qashqai, good thing I wasn’t waiting by the phone.. (besides, I have a mental block about the spelling of “Qashqai”, it could have been very awkward)

Toyota: Arrogant

Actually, beyond Arrogant. I called to enquire about a Rav and the sales-man’s response was  between a snigger and a huff. His words were: “You’ll be lucky if you get one, they’re very popular you know.” Well, clearly you don’t need my business dude. I’m buying a car, not joining a cult.

Hyundai: Efficient

You guessed it, I ended up with the Hyundai. The sales people at their Brackenfell showroom were professional, efficient, accommodating and friendly. They kept me in the loop without making me feel stalked. They didn’t cringe at the sight of my 9 year old Renault, they let me test-drive as many cars as I wanted and brought Etienne back to drive. They just put up with my quirks and made me feel like they valued my business in a completely not-creepy way.

So, there you have it folks, some useless info on buying a car. I appreciate that there are some other cars in my price class (ish) I could look at, but I ended up suffering from car-buying fatigue. Besides, the other selling point of the Huyndai was that their dealership and garage is close to work, so it’s not a monumental PITA when the car has to go for a service.

I’m just ever so grateful this whole car-buying thing is done, it was very hard work.

Can I have a nap now please?

On driving in Gauteng

Yes, I know, I haven’t blogged in more than a month. I was far too busy enjoying my children, my husband, Christmas, a 6 day camping trip, renovation woes and general start-of-the-year-madness. If you’re curious about what I’ve been up to you’ll have to satisfy yourself with my Instagram feed, you can find me here.

Part of the start-of-year-madness was a 4 day trip to Gauteng for work this week. It’s the 4th trip in 6 months and I’ve had to put my big girl panties on and drive whilst there. I’m talking lots of Jozi CBD, Centurion and Pretoria CBD trips. I’m not a nervous driver at all, but driving in Gauteng has always scared me a little.

Guess what? It’s not so bad. Just some observations:

1. The general disregard taxis have for road rules and the lack of common courtesy is astounding, it is a lot worse than in Cape Town.
2. Ditto trucks.
3. Not all the drivers are assholes, lots of people are friendly in the roads. But there are some choice assholes in big 4x4s that feel nothing for other people (or people on bikes!!) on the road
4. Potholes. Enough said.
5. Stop streets. I’m used to stopping at a stop street with both a sign and STOP painted on the road. In Gauteng there are only Stop signs, nothing painted on the road. It’s quite jarring and very confusing to someone like me that needs as many clues as possible about when to go and when to wait.
6. When it rains or there’s an accident on a highway everyone slows down and immediately puts their hazards on, this is really cool. Capetonians, take note.
7. There are a LOT of accidents. A LOT. I almost missed my flight today because a car and a truck had an argument which I can only assume the car lost as it was overturned in the side of the road.
8. Those etoll tags beep. Every. Single. Time. Drives me insane.
9. Many people take the back roads to avoid etolling. Ergo, less traffic on the highways. This pleases me greatly.
10. Related: the back roads are awesome. There are truly beautiful houses and neighbourhoods. I love the history and beauty of Gauteng.

As much as I love Cape Town, I am envious of the special beauty of the Highveld. The energy of inner-city Johannesburg. Thunderstorms. That very special smell of the earth when the rain has come and gone in the afternoon and the dust has literally settled.

I feel like I’m cheating on Cape Town, but I think it’s a harmless little infatuation, so I’m sure I’ll be forgiven.

Goodbye Madiba – A letter to our children

Dropping off flowers for Madiba this past Sunday in the Waterfront.
Dropping off flowers for Madiba this past Sunday in the Waterfront.

Dear Children,

It’s been a week since Nelson Mandela died and I’m finally ready to put my feelings and memories down in words.

I was in Matric in 1990 when FW de Klerk gave his monumental speech that finally changed the direction of this country, legalizing all formerly banned political parties. I remember our history class all huddled together to watch the speech and our teacher telling us how this was going to change everything we knew until then. We knew we were hovering at the edge of something momentous and I’m grateful to this day for that amazing teacher that explained it to us in such a way that it made sense and filled us with hope.

Fast forward to the release of Mandela and we saw events unfold from there. I was here for the first election in April 1994, but in London during the 1995 Rugby World Cup, dating an Australian (as you do when you’re in London). I missed most of what happened as I was working in the hospitality industry, but I do remember running to and from the lounge and reception areas in the hope of glimpsing some of the final. It was magical, even so far away from home.

Fast forward once again to 1999 when I was working at The Table Bay Hotel and Nelson Mandela came to visit. I remember him walking into the entrance of the hotel and all the staff, myself included, found a reason to linger in the hope of catching a glimpse of him. He walked in, larger than life, said ‘Hello’ in his big booming voice and waved to everyone. His voice was SO loud and clear, it surprised me so much to hear him speak in real life. Right then I understood why he had touched so many peoples lives and many, many more since then.

When all is said and done and we are over getting our knickers in a wad over presidents taking selfies and fake sign language interpreters I hope we remember the good that came from having him.

I hope you tell your own children one day about the legacy of love and forgiveness that this wonderful man has left us, much like you Dad and I are doing.

I hope that you live your lives free of judgement and filled with love.

I hope we are raising people better than ourselves.

I hope that one day, when are you old enough to read this, you will know what Nelson Mandela did for this country and understand the impact of what his example means for each one of us in our own lives and how we interact with others.

We love you very much, stay as awesome as you are.

ps, just for in case you forget, have a look at this:

My take on Russell Brand’s politics

Far be it from me to comment on politics as (1) it’s not something I like to talk about for fear of looking stupid and (2) my Mom and Tannie Emsie told me it was bad manners to discuss politics in good company.

I’ve seen this clip of Russell Brand floating around the web the last few days and only now got around to watch it, but I’m pretty glad I did.

 

Here’s my take: yes, he’s a little loopy, but he makes some very valid points. He is also a very clever man, which could be why he is so loopy. I think I love him a little.

Firstly: I choose to vote. My opinion is that you cannot complain about the wrong party if you don’t vote for another party even tough you may not agree 100% with what they stand for. I’ve clung to the Starfish story for very long and plan to explain to my children that way. But I hear what he’s saying.

Secondly: All politicians are pathological liars. I have firsthand knowledge of this as the erstwhile (spectacularly publicly and humiliatingly) dumpee of a wannabe politician. They are manipulators of the worst kind.

Thirdly: I like what he says about tacit complicity. We all complain about the state of the earth, the state of education in this country. Crime. Inequality. Gender and Race bias. But what difference are we each making in our own way? I’m not saying we should all join Greenpeace and burn our bras, but what are we teaching our children about taking care of the earth? What is the use of teaching our children about questioning everything and being different if we teach them about being complicit in voting (or not voting) for who holds the future of their own children in their hands?

Lastly: the biggest problem I see with his proposed revolution is this: critical mass. We are programmed to hate politicians and whine about the state of our countries, with the only possible exception of the Scandinavian countries who seem to have the best governments in the world (but even that is probably biased)

No, I didn’t start drinking early today, I’m just thinking about what he said and that a lot of it resonates with me.

And that he can say “fuck” on public television and get away with it.

What do you think?

The day we bought a bed

bedFor a while now it’s been hard to fit the 5 of us into our trusty old Queen bed without all having to spoon in the same direction, so we started talking about about buying a King.

One day I was messing around on Gumtree, ogling cats my husband won’t let me have, and came across an advert with the picture you see here. I fell in love on the spot and sent it on to Etienne, who also fell in love.  So, off I went to have a look at it, all the way to Hout Bay. I met a lovely American couple that retired early (by SA standards) from the US Navy and decided to make Cape Town home. They have just renovated their house and had no space for this beauty. The bed is called a Thomasville Ernest Hemingway Kilimanjaro King Size bed. Yes, it’s a long-ass name for a bed!

You know when you see something you love so much you can’t stop touching it? (and I don’t just mean my husband) That is how I felt about this bed.

I measured and measured and was told it is a King Size bed, and at home Etienne and I measured and measured and checked our bank accounts and declared the bed is destined to be ours. As if we were going to let anyone else have it anyway.

I paid the lovely lady, arranged for someone to collect our precious bed and waited for days and days for the rain to clear up. I also shopped around for mattress prices and ended up buying a King mattress from Tafelberg after I haggled and haggled about the price, all on-line without having to darken the doorstep of a single furniture store.

We also bought King bedding, everything from fitted sheets, mattress protectors, duvet inners and a duvet cover. By this time I was starting to flinch a little.

On the day our bed and mattress arrived I was at work and Etienne was home with the kids as it was school holidays. He set about dismantling our old bed and assembling our new bed in preparation for the mattress to arrive.

Which it did, with great fanfare.  Only, as it turns out, we bought an American Super King Size bed and the mattress was 20cm too narrow and 25cm too short. And yes, I can see you trying to measure how much 20cm is with your hands, more than you thought isn’t it?

To give you an idea: a King size mattress in SA is 183cm wide and 188cm long, a Super King 183cm wide and 2m long.  The mattress we had to get had to be 2m x 2m to comfortably fit into our bed.

So, I did what any self-respecting consumer would do: I called Tafelberg with my hat in my hand and asked if they could supply me with a 2m x 2m mattress pretty please. I then had to drink several glasses of wine to recover from the shock of the difference in price as the mattress has to be made specially.

But, in for a penny, in for a whole lot of pounds and off we went.

As a side note: at this point we had a bed, but no mattress except for our old Queen and no-where to put the old mattress except for in the lounge, which we promptly did, to the absolute delight of our children.

The next thing I had to worry about was the bedding and I promptly started searching for fitted sheets and a mattress cover. Nothing. No-one pre-makes and sells fitted sheets/mattress covers in this size in SA that I can find. I ended up having some sheets made by Ginger Cat Linen in Johannesburg (thank you twitter!) and they were great. They even sent their lady to personally drop off the sheets with me when I was in Gauteng.

By this stage, more than a week later, we were still sleeping in the lounge as Tafelberg hadn’t managed to get our mattress yet, but thankfully it arrived while I was away, which meant that I could sleep on a brand new mattress and our beautiful bed when I arrived home from 4 lovely days in Gauteng. (more about that some other time)

So, if you happened to see my questions on twitter and Facebook about beds and mattresses and bedding, that’s what it was all about.

Lesson learnt:  you can never measure something too many times!

Also:  no, I can’t show you a pic of what the bed looks like in our bedroom because I can’t get far away enough to take a photo of it. We are about to start our next set of renovations and part of the plan is to (hopefully!!) make our bedroom bigger, in which case I may be able to show you a proper pic in about 2 months’ time. Ironically, the extra money we ended up spending on the bed may actually hamper our ability to make our bedroom bigger.

Lastly: I wasn’t very happy with the service we received from Tafelberg this time around. In a nutshell: if you end up looking for a bed or mattress, do not under ANY circumstances speak to Robert at the Bellville branch, but Nico is very helpful and will actually take the time to let you know what is potting. Robert operates under the illusion that providing basic customer service and doing someone a favour is one and the same thing. And no, I haven’t written them a letter of complaint, I don’t have the energy after finally writing this post.

Hello Durban

Hello from a slightly windy and wet Durban, herewith some of the highlights and some observations so far:

On the way to the airport Etienne was telling the kids how high we were going to fly (above the clouds) and Mignon asked if we would fly high enough so we could see Jesus. From the subsequent FB comments I gather that this happens more often than you would think.

As we landed in Durban the girls looked out the window and were highly disgusted when they saw the airport. It took some fancy footwork to explain to them that we were now in Durban and that we didn’t spend almost 2 hours flying above Cape Town.

The Spar in Hibberdene. Daniel commented to Etienne that there were so few people from South Africa there as we were standing in the queues along with the hundreds of month end and pension payout people. Of course not delivered in the appropriate inside voice.

We lived in Amanzimtoti in the 80’s and the South Coast still smells like my childhood. (If you have read my ramblings for a long time you may remember that I strongly associate memories with smell)

The South Coast of KZN is as I remember it, albeit with more potholes. There are even still a few rather faded Afrikaans signposts around.

Speaking of signposts: not really a thing around here. In Cape Town you have signposts to warn you that signposts are coming up. Here, not so much. You see a signpost you best take that turnoff and keep going and hope for the best.

Avocados. Pineapples. Sugarcane plantations. Fields of banana trees. Macadamias. Papayas.

Vaalies*. On the beach. In the howling wind on an overcast day. In bikinis. Swimming in the sea.

To get to the beach we walked on a walkway under a train bridge and I said to Etienne I’m sure this is the bridge under which my Dad took me fishing many years ago. There was much sniggering as we crossed about 10 similar bridges with similar walkways in the next 20 kilometers.

There are a lot of rivers that flow into the sea on the South Coast.

The 3G signal here is very bad. Or I am very spoilt. Or both. Also: wi-fi is nothing to be sniffed at.

We went to Pure Venom today and neither their gift shop nor restaurant credit card machines worked. One because the landline has apparently been out of order for ages and the other because the 3G signal is so bad. Businesses are losing money because people cannot pay with plastic. The kids had a ball though, as usual they were the loudest lot there.

We were woken up at 6am this morning by the 15 peahens that sleep in the tree next to our bedroom having a serious disagreement.

And lastly: what would a holiday be without a sick child? (Mignon)

Stay tuned, more to follow. I’m battling to post pics due to the bad signal, will update later, promise.

*Vaalies is a term of endearment for people that are from Gauteng. Gauteng used to be called old Transvaal in the Apartheids years, hence the term.

Keeping it real

real_logoI know you’re not meant to care what other people think of you, but I do sometimes wonder. Over the last 2 days we’ve had people over to the house that have never been there before.

Both days these people arrived at the time that is typically that one hour that supper is being cooked and the kids are lolling around the kitchen, playing computer games or are comatose on the couch.  We aren’t big on television (I didn’t even have it on for myself at night when Etienne was away last week), but it occurred to me that people might wonder if our kids watch a lot of television or spend their lives behind computers. The thought mortifies me.

I wonder about that snapshot of what people see of our lives at that specific time of day and the impression it leaves.

Yes, I know it doesn’t really matter; it’s just a random thought.

For example:

There is a Mom that drops off her son at about the same time as Etienne drops off the girls in the morning and apparently she shouts at her boy every morning.  That is the snapshot that people see of her, but I wonder if maybe that child doesn’t keep her up at night and she’s just gatvol by 8am in the morning.  Maybe I’m just the eternal optimist.

That Mom that raises her voice in the shops?  Maybe she is a single parent and has no support structure. Or she is like me and has had it with stroppy kids.

The person that appears so cherished and loved online?  Maybe her husband is a right asshole and gambles away all their money on a regular basis.

The person that is always complaining about her weight?  Maybe she also has an idiot husband that doesn’t treat her like the princess she’s meant to be treated and he tells her she’s fat, even though she is absolutely perfect.

The friend that avoids talking about having children?  Maybe she knows her husband is cheating on her and she’s not ready to decide if she wants to ignore it or leave him.

I wonder about the image we try to portray, what we think we put out there for people to see, what we think people see and what people really see.

I wonder about how people’s own hang-ups make them jump to conclusions about other people.

Do you think what you put out there is “the real you”?

Does it have to be?

The answer for me is YES, purely because I would forget what I said, duplicity is just too much like hard work for me, but I have become a lot more careful about what I say and how I say it over the last few years.  I think being online has helped with that, you are forced to think about what you say and take the knee out of jerk.

If you know what I mean.

What do you think? If you had to meet everyone you engage with online do you think that they would see what you portray or do you have a different persona?

I’m not saying there’s a right or wrong, I’m just curious.

About Mommy Bloggers

I’m going to go out on a limb here about blogging in general and Mommy blogging in particular.  I haven’t until now because, to be honest, deep down I was scared people wouldn’t like me if I ventured out against the stream. Fitting in isn’t something I’m particularly good at to start off with, so hey, here goes.

I have spent a long time thinking about why I blog and how this blog fits into the blogging community, and how much I hate being labelled a Mommy blogger.  This blog started out as a diary for my kids, much as many Mommy (shudder) blogs start out, and has evolved over the 4.5 years it has been going into something bigger.

So what is it now?  Just a blog.  Call it what you want.

I’ve tried shrugging the label off as unimportant because the blog isn’t monetized and will stay that way. I also refuse to take pledges about how I’m meant to and not meant to be blogging.  Life is simple: either read what I write and leave a welcome comment, or don’t read.  The choice is completely yours; I’m not holding a gun to your head.

The whole topic of ‘mommy blogging’ has been blogged about ad nauseam, mostly by mommy bloggers themselves.  Do I find it insulting that people talk about Mommy Blogs?  You bet.  No-one talks about Daddy Blogs, do they? Because that would be insulting and belittling dads.  So why should women bloggers be labelled as such?

If there is, however, one thing that makes me roll my eyes heavenward it is the Smug Self-proclaimed Media Type Mommy Blogger.  I keep telling myself that they are probably hiding behind terrible insecurities and then I want to rush out and write a post about how things will get better and you will, someday, have uninterrupted sleep again and not be such a complete moron and stop thinking you are better than the rest of us mere illiterate-non-media-type-mortals that write substandard drivel and have never heard of a full stop.  Yes, I did that on purpose.

But mostly I want to slap them with a wet eel.

When did blogging become such a mutually exclusive little club?

I’m really lucky that I’m not one of those Media Types. You know the type.  They huddle together in sycophantic circles on Twitter.

“I love you!”

“NO, I love YOU”

“NO!  I love you MORE!” *sprinkles fairy dust*

They’re arch enemies one day and BFFs the next, only to gloss over their differences in an equally sycophantic post.

Get. A. Grip.

You aren’t better than the rest of us mere mortals. You don’t belong to some exclusive club.  We are all parents, we all have shit (sometimes even actual brown stuff) to deal with.  We all worry about money and schools and crime. We all want to raise the best people we can raise without fucking them up, and to be better than we are.

Life’s too short for falseness and on-line politics.  You either like someone and engage with them or you don’t.

Simple.

ps: I had this sitting in my drafts and wasn’t sure if I was going to be brave enough to post it, but then I saw this post today on “How not to be an asshole blogger” and decided to go ahead and post.

pps: It’s ok, I’ve been called a bitch before, I just choose not to react. So go right ahead.

My thoughts on abuse pics on Social Media

Let’s be honest. We’ve all had our fingers hover over that ‘share’ button when we see a ‘Save the Rhino’ campaign or a ‘Don’t litter in the sea, birds 1000’s of miles away are dying’ video or a pic of bleeding and/or dying and/or starving and/or abused children and/or animals on Facebook.

Some of us don’t hesitate to share, some don’t care and others, like me, are vociferous in our opinion that it achieves nothing. Absolutely. Nothing.

You either care about animals and children or you don’t. You are either other one of those people polluting the sea, shooting rhinos or harming animals and children or not. Chances are that the people in your FB stream lean whichever way you do, which means that, by posting those horrible pics, you are just wasting bandwidth and precious emotional energy. Or you enjoy harming animals and children. In which case we probably aren’t friends.

Yes. I know I’m the first one to name and shame and post pics of people that don’t strap their kids in when they drive as this is very close to my heart. You know what? I secretly hope that someone knows someone that I posted a pic of that will klap that person upside the head and call them a douche. And hopefully next time that person will think twice before they they let their child bounce around their car.

I enjoy FB because it gives me a chance to watch funny cat videos and giggle at other funny stuff my friends post. I escape there (and on twitter) and shoot the breeze with friends, occasionally use it to air an opinion and to tell people when a child has broken an arm. (Mignon, Friday night, post to follow).

Does this make me shallow? Possibly.

The difference between twitter and Facebook is that when you post a pic on FB it is RIGHT THERE in your face, not a thumbnail you have to click on. This means that if you come across something that’s not necessarily PG or suitable for your kids and they happen to be leaning over your shoulder in bed on a Saturday morning, watching funny cat videos on FB with you, they are exposed. They ask questions. They are confused as to why that doggy doesn’t have paws and who would want to hurt that doggy Mommy? They see that pic of the emaciated child in Ethiopia you so desperately would love to rescue if you could.

You could argue that you need to see the horrible things people are doing so it will galvanize people into action, but really, will it? And why should I unwillingly and my children unwittingly be exposed to it? Why would we not rather reinforce positive behaviour than repeatedly underline the negative?

Many of my friends have teenagers. Their teenagers all have FB accounts and are inevitably friends with their parents and friends of their parents. They are thus also exposed to gratuitous energy sucking negativity or pics that their parents were tagged in. I’m not sure which is worse.

My point is this: I’m responsible for what I and my kids see on Facebook and I choose to let it be funny and positive for the biggest part. There’s enough collective angst in the world. Yes, I definitely want to know if you aren’t well or someone you care about died or if you are having a bad day. It’s within my realm of control to care about you.

I have absolutely no control over children and animals being harmed except if I actually see it happen.

I choose to show our children the beautiful things in life so that they can draw from images of beauty, not pain. They’ll have plenty of that to deal with soon enough.

I choose to fill their emotional wells with love and music and beauty and the occasional shouty bits in between.

I choose to teach our children respect for each other and our animals and the earth.

Surely that’s a better way than to be bombarded with terrible images that were only put out there for shock value?

What do you think?

Ps. This post isn’t aimed at a single person. It is a culmination of my feelings over a long period of time and I simply felt it was time to share my thoughts.