Foxtrot Oscar..

11 Aug

No, not the slang for a rather rude form of go away, but the full name of my new companion.

As a regular reader, you’ll know (and if not you soon will) that I’ve been hankering after a cat. Not just any old cat you understand, but a ship’s cat. One that cruises with me and Hobo, and one that is good for a cuddle.

So here he is…

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What a cutie!

Better known as Foxy, he is all of the above. Well he’s shaping up that way, jumping from the bow of my boat to the stern of my neighbour’s. He is fearless. He runs along Hobo’s gunnels, jumps on the roof and, as yet, has avoided a dunking.

But don’t be fooled by his furry loveliness. He is also responsible for decimating the local vermin population, his oh so sharp claws making short work of it. And that’s a good thing, I just wish he wouldn’t bring me the evidence by way of little gifts.

But Boatbird deals with this, as she does with the cat’s hairs everywhere, the constant ‘need’ for food, stamping on my keyboard, wrecking my furniture and the irresistible urge to destroy my sleep patterns.

He seems to come to life at silly o’clock and wants to play. He will headbutt my chin, rub his wet little nose on my face and mew relentlessly for attention. Not to mention messing up my duvet with muddy footprints…

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But he makes me smile, and comes a time when you have to weigh up what is important and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all worth it for the comfort, companionship and affection he gives. Who wants to live in a show home anyway? Not that that’s an option when you live aboard on the riverbank.

Naturally, being a cat, he is curious and dives inside whenever I open the fridge or a cupboard door…

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He can also be pretty chilled…

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Usually finding a spot where my feet or my bum want to be. We fight for my chair, he getting cosy the minute I stand up and complaining bitterly when I sit on him.

I’ve modified the vent in the door by way of a cat-flap…

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Works well. I like that he can come and go. And by that I mean go in the great outdoors, so I don’t have to provide a litter tray. There’s precious little space on board for such, and besides, I hate them.

He is shortly going to be tested, me about to throw him a curved ball. Boatbird is planning a little jaunt downriver to see how he copes with cruising. A little acclimatisation exercise. I fear he’ll wander off and get lost or be totally freaked by the moving boat and fall in – or worse.

In truth, I think he’ll love it and turn out to be a natural, probably tying the ropes, manning the tiller and working the locks before too long.

How cool would that be?

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Hmmm. Not looking likely.

Talking Toilets..

4 Mar

By that I don’t mean  a chatty carzy that natters to you while you do the business. Mind you, in this day and age,  there’s probably a smart loo available, amassing statistics and analysing your waste. Perhaps even an Alexis-type voice advising you to take it steady on the beans/brussels etc. What a dreadful thought..!

No, today I will be blogging about bogs, so if you are at all squeamish/appalled by the thought, look away now.

When I bought Hobo, some thirteen years ago, she came complete with a Thetford Porta Pottie, which I vowed to replace with a pump-out as soon as possible. A wise old boater told me to live with it a while and let things evolve. So I did and, until a couple of weeks ago, I was still using the same method, albeit a more up to date version – the Qube.

It’s largely been satisfactory and, all this time I’ve lived aboard, I’ve heaved the full tank off the boat, lugged it to a suitable tipping out place, learned how to hold my breath for as long as it takes to empty, rinsed out and cleaned. And repeat. On average, it would probably take about 5 days to refill (less when I’ve had company) so multiply that up and I’ve probably performed this task the best part of a thousand times. Scary.

The emptying process is even more of a schlep when the yard here is muddy – like right now – and frankly I’d been struggling with it. (Three months living in a house in South Africa with the flush fairy probably spoiled me somewhat.) Then one day, my neighbour  invited me onto her boat to see her latest purchase… a composting loo made in the USA by C-head.

She’s often seen me trudge, grim-faced and with toilet in tow, in all weathers and when conditions underfoot guarantee a sense of humour failure – not that there’s ever a good time to undertake this dreaded task. She thought perhaps something similar would be a good idea for me too. I was given a no-holds-barred guided tour of her facility, with explicit explanations on its workings, cost and told how easy it was to empty. (I think she’s on commission.)

To non-boaters, this may seem a little strange but, trust me, it is quite the norm for boatie folk. And, as boaters will know only too well, when two or more of us get together, it is where the conversation ends up. Always. We do talk a lot of shite.

It’s something I’d been considering for a while, but more or less dismissing it, thinking it complicated and/or messy. Not so. Boatbird isn’t easily impressed but on this occasion I was. Very. I saw with my own eyes how simple yet stylish it was…

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Image courtesy of c-head website

and how it fitted into the confines of a boat bathroom. And there was no smell at all. This would be perfect for me: no more heavy lifting, costly chemicals or worrying, when out cruising, where the next usable Elsan disposal point is.

I was so sold on the idea, that when I got back to Hobo, I was straight on the wonderweb at http://www.c-head.com placing my order. OK, it’s not cheap and, given recent expense, I should have restrained myself but it was such a no-brainer. No more dates with gross and grotty tip-outs, resulting in a happier and more eco-friendly boatbird. Anyway, that’s what credit cards are for. And I am so worth it.

The actual cost was: 599.00 + 150.00 p&p = 749.00 USD. At the current exchange rate this equated to 594.31 GBP. What I hadn’t accounted for was the import duty of £161.62, which brought the total up to £755.93 and was only made aware of this when Parcelforce notified me they would be holding on to my new loo until I paid this to them. Bugger.

It did piss me off a bit. I still don’t think that going green should cost me but that’s greedy, grabbing governments for you.

Fast forward to now and I’ve been (very happily) living with the c-head composter for a couple of weeks. It is every bit as good as I’d hoped – and more. Its footprint is actually smaller than that of the old portaloo but a little taller, which is a good thing. It looks good, dead easy to clean, there’s no smell and it’s a doddle to empty. It does come complete with a venting kit which, as my neighbour said, is really not necessary.

It is also easy to move, which is vital for my set up as it sits in front of my washing machine…

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so needs shifting on wash days. A kit is supplied to fix to the floor/wall but this is not for me. Seems sturdy enough without anyway.

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It works so well because liquids and solids are directed to separate containers…

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because, apparently, it is when the two mix that the stink happens. Wee is funnelled to a plastic five litre bottle (easily disposed of under a hedge) or, if diluted 5 parts water to 1 part urine, can be used on the garden. It’s a high nitrogen fertiliser so very good for plants. I find this needs emptying every two or three days but will need to be more often for two or more users. Obviously.

Poo goes to a plastic bucket, into a measured amount of composting medium and then, with lid back down, churned by the handle supplied…

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Clever. I’m using sawdust (free and readily available) but many other types will work: animal bedding, cat litter etc.

Extra medium can be added if necessary – when diarrhoea strikes or wee is misaimed. It is recommended that men be seated to avoid the latter. You can put toilet paper into the compost but this will fill it far sooner, so it is suggested this be placed in a separate bin for later disposal. (Mine gets burned promptly on the wood stove so really not a problem.)

When this is used up (you know when because cranking becomes harder) it’s fine to double bag and dispose of with the rubbish. Or, line up a suitable place outdoors and start a heap – should be fully composted in a few months and ready to spread on the garden.

I’ve emptied it once now – simple enough – and pleasantly surprised by the scent of forest floor. Doesn’t look like what it is and not at all noxious. It really is clever.

Another neighbour, into all things organic, wants to use it to grow mushrooms in. I’m thinking this could be marketed – extract of Annie – so the mushrooms are bound to be magic!

Tell you what was magic; that last time I tipped out the old camping loo, knowing it would be the last time – EVER!

So good, I did a little dance. Right there and then.

 

 

 

 

So long South Africa..

1 Feb

For now.

My three month stay is now a distant – yet not dim – memory…

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Glorious sunsets over the estuary

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Just as well because I need all the help I can get to blot out my return to the UK. I will elaborate in due course.

In case you were thinking it was all beer and skittles, and that I was having a wonderful time…

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The wild fires came way too close.

The aftermath…

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And I was bitten…

IMG-20181223-WA0000.jpgAgain. I always react badly.

The Mighty Uno showered me with rust…

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As we bumped up a mountain pass. It was in my hair too but the photographer saw fit to exclude this. I was not amused.

I should have known that something was amiss when I attempted to clear security at Cape Town airport. That moment we all dread when they take just a little too long in their scrutiny of your passport, escort you to a side room and then make you wait. And wait.

Turns out, in their estimation, I had overstayed by one day. This would result in a punishment of not being allowed to return for a year. And, upsettingly, declared an ‘undesirable person’. I may just frame the paperwork that indicates this…

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Form filling followed and I was sent on my way – reeling a little.

To me, the period between 17th October and 16th January represents three months. But, if you take a month as 31 days and times by three it makes 93 days. Count on your fingers from 17/10 to 16/01, it is 94 days, so technically one day over what is permitted. Seems harsh to me.

They gave me ten days to appeal, which I did – humbly and apologetically. Now I wait for the verdict.

Then there’s the weather. It’s bloody cold…

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In case you hadn’t noticed. Bad timing on my part but unavoidable.

Then there’s the hairbrush I lost on the plane – the one I bought to replace the one that I lost on the flight out. I’m really not suited to travel economy (who the hell is?) and find it impossible to keep myself and my belongings together.

My friend and neighbour, who kindly collected me from the airport, had to physically put me into his van. My ankles were swollen and my legs were constantly cramping, finally seizing up altogether.

He had lit the stove on Hobo though, so at least the boat was warm, allowing me some degree of comfort. Or, more accurately, I could collapse into the chair by the fire and begin my recovery, not needing to move further than the kettle, the loo, the drinks cupboard and eventually bed.

It takes a day or two for the boat to properly warm up, but an absolute eternity when the trusty Squirrel stove is, for some reason, not performing. It wasn’t. Struggling to draw, smoky and sluggish. Can only mean one thing: chimney needs sweeping, which means I have to let the fire go out.

Fortunately, this was before the current cold snap. Could have been so much worse.

I imposed on the good nature of another lovely neighbour to scrape the flue. Much easier for him to jump on the roof and wield the heavy metal tool designed to do this job, given that I was still in a state somewhere between semi-paralysis and total collapso.

Shame I forgot to close the door of the stove though, resulting in every surface inside my home being coated with filthy black soot.  Now I have to clean. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the fire box still wasn’t performing. We wrestle with the baffle plate, which did seem to improve things. A bit.

Several not-quite-warm-enough days later, I discover that the blanking plate had dropped off the back of the stove…

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The real culprit.

There was now a hole in the stove, possibly releasing potentially fatal carbon monoxide fumes!  I had no choice but to let it go out again, in the hope I wouldn’t wake up dead the following morning (even cooling embers will emit CO gas).

Again, my neighbours rallied and helped me out with an interim heat source…

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Clearly I survived, and was soon off in search of help in the form of an effective temporary fix, which was successful and still holding. Thank goodness. I will of course order a new one.

While all this was going on, my car spectacularly failed the MOT and some ******* had clouted one of the door mirrors and left it dangling.

Choose your favourite expletive here. I used several.

Need some cute animal pics..?

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Thought so.

Fast forward to now and all is well once more. Back to tropical temperature, warm and cosy. Car back on the road and I am returned to what passes as normal for me body-wise. Unpacking done, laundry sorted (not done) and order – more or less – restored.

Spot the driver…

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Spooky.

I’ll end the SA saga here for now, except for the occasional pics that pitch up periodically from our own correspondent.

My posts will be returning to more boatie things for a while and the next one will be on our favourite topic: toilets.

I have ordered a new one…

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It’s a composter!

No delivery date as yet but hope it’s soon. Can’t wait to tell you all about it.

One more thing… I want a boat cat. Anyone know of one that needs a lovely warm, cosy home/loving owner?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Funny, Sunny Christmas…

24 Dec

 

Christmas here is somewhat queer

Down in the southern hemisphere

The days are long instead of short

And where a suntan can be caught

No cosy nights around the fire

No carol singing outdoor choir

No scarves and gloves and fleecy tops

Just skimpy shorts and flippy- flops

But don’t you think there’ll be no drink

‘Cause many a glass we shall sink

Of beer and wine and spirits too

As on the beach they barbeque

They’ll sing and dance in celebration

People of the rainbow nation

Santa hats and festive fun

Their smiling greeting second to none

I for one won’t miss the chill

But bask in sunshine just until

It’s time for me to homeward go

To my beloved boat – Hobo

But till I do there’ll be no moans

Of missing Slade’s non- dulcet tones

The thought alone fills me with dread

That I should hear them in my head**

My best to you and festive cheer

Here’s hoping for a great new year.

 

**Which of course I now do…

 

ear

 

Bugger. Self-inflicted brain damage.

 

 

 

Game on…

19 Dec

When in the land of the big five, one has to go see what all the fuss is about. So last Thursday saw us here…

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Where we saw these…

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And lots of these…

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The most photogenic animal on the planet.

We’d heard tales that the buffalo…

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Could be a little grumpy, so I didn’t linger. The rules say that you shouldn’t park next to the animals, but the car in front had and was blocking my escape route, so I prepared to do some high speed reversing if I had to.

I’m driving us round in Terry’s little car, so apologies if the photography is a bit iffy. Nothing at all whatsoever anything to do with being scared witless by the close proximity of Big Scary Wild Animals.

Entering the cheetah enclosure, with proper game fencing and double gates that you enter like an airlock, is somewhat fear-provoking but, naturally, they saw us coming and hid. We speculated that they were all safely tucked away behind the greenery having a laugh at our expense. Bit like the Kit-Kat advert with the pandas.

But that’s not to say we didn’t see cheetahs…

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We did.

They call these ones tame – though I have my doubts about any wild animals ever being properly tame – and this is feeding time. Conveniently below the café area, where it was our feeding time too.

First class coffee and souvenirs on sale…

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BB can never resist a fridge magnet, and this one is so South African. Except there’s too few passengers – there would normally be at least another couple of dozen crammed in.

I have, on a previous visit to SA, stroked so-called tame cheetahs. They were behind a wire fence and we were instructed to present a fist, rather than an open hand, through this in order to pet them. They didn’t seem too bothered and apparently used to human contact as they were used in the film industry. Anyway, I still have both hands, thumbs and all my fingers.

We saw a Mongoose, Cape Hare, Warthog, Springbok, Bontebok, Impala, Water Buck and a Bushpig with babies. No Rhino, Porcupine or Ostrich though. They’ve recently introduced Lions, which we didn’t see either.

But it’s your luck on the day and we had a lovely time there.

There were other diversions, like this walkway through the treetops…

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But my companion wimped out. Being 92 years young is no excuse Terry.

The drive there and back wasn’t a long one, but interesting. We passed through some very affluent areas. Such disparity here – huge wealth and abject poverty existing side by side. I suppose that isn’t peculiar to Africa though, but rife the world over.

On a recent shopping trip, I am once again transported back to the 60’s…

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Popular brands I remember my mum using.

And if you didn’t fancy these…

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Then I guess these are OK…

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It says so on the tin so it must be true.

But the prize for best product names this week goes to…

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No mistaking what these are for!

But the clear winner (see what I did there?) in the ingenuity stakes, without a doubt, goes to…

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Glad wrap – aka cling film.

Not only does it have a roll almost empty marker, it is perforated. How useful is that? Never seen this in the UK – or anywhere else for that matter. I need this in my life.

Meanwhile, in the garden…

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Frangipani putting on a lovely show.

And…

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A Sunflower – many more in bud – seed scattered by the John.

You’ve heard of Dances with Wolves…

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Well this is Swims with Dogs.

The dog lady at the dam up behind John’s place.

Could have done with some of this myself today: 30c in the shade, little or no wind.

Scorchio.

Not gloating…

 

Ducks in a row…

10 Dec

Always good to get one’s ducks in a row and these guys certainly seemed to have nailed it.

On the other hand…

That’s just showing off!

More than I can say for the power company here – Eskom.

They are calling it load shedding, a term I’ve not heard since the 60’s. Back then, it made the tele picture go wobbly, but here the power goes off completely, twice a day…

But Terry is, as ever, prepared. Except when his marvellous tip-you-up chair gets stuck in the fully reclined position! But he remains cheerful as we discuss the headline: Old man trapped in electric chair..

The cuts usually last a couple of hours each and this is happening all over South Africa. Word is, years of little or no maintenance is to blame and has led to such drastic measures.

There’s also some shocking allegations being bandied about. I’ve read that over a 14 year period, production has remained flat, employment increased by 50% and the average annual salary quadrupled.

Interesting way to run a business.

All the more reason to get out and about…

Schoenmakerskop.

I think that translates to shoemaker’s town, so Northampton on sea..?

Hardly. It’s one row of houses and a café. There’s plenty of parking, strategic seating at viewpoints and good steps down to the beach. I gave them the swerve though, bearing in mind the company I am keeping.

So, I’ve been to the beach, sort of, but not felt the sand between my toes. Yet.

Another drive out…

To a wild flower reserve – sadly largely charred after the wild fires. There’s every chance this will regenerate though – see here for how – just not the best time to visit.

Great views though…

Van Stadens bridge.

We took the pass, which winds you right down to the bottom of the gorge, so you look up at this bridge (the main freeway) before climbing out the other side. Breath-taking stuff.

Closer to home…

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The sparrows are nesting.

And, as I type, it’s raining fairly hard – that’s always welcome here – thunder and lightning too. I love a good storm.

Be interesting to look at the rain gauge tomorrow and see just how much we got. Sounds significant to me.

Never seen these in flower before…

And the obligatory sunset…

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Over the estuary.

From planet John…

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Lotus bud.

And…

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Loving this.

Both from a visit to a garden somewhere near Stellenbosch.

In John’s own garden…

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A Moonflower.

If you don’t like creepy-crawlies, look away now…

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Scorpion. Found under his grandson’s cot! They do live in the desert mind at Touws River – or Toast River as I like to call it.

Puff Adder…

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Shedding its skin.

Oh so cute…

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Little stripy mice.

Cape Chameleon…

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Found at the nearby dam…

 

At a local steampunk museum…

 

I so want to go there.

Remember Zola…

mange

I promised an after shot but not quite there yet, so this is during…

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Much more like it. Now that’s attitude.

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Good work Helene.

A lovely African image…

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Louis, happy in his work. Nice half lap joint, using machete only.

This post wouldn’t be complete without…

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Pilchards. But not as we know them.

I must now get my own ducks in a row and pay some attention to that little project of mine. 

Tick-tock.

 

Moving on…

30 Nov

And we are off. Port Elizabeth, here we come..!

Pretty much a whole day’s driving at 411 miles – or 662 klicks as they say in South Africa – a good 7/8 hours on the road. But actually quite pleasant when there’s two of you to share the driving.

The scenery is stunning…

harvest-time

Along the garden route. Freeway all the way.

But it’s even more interesting when this is one’s mode of transport…

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Yep, it’s a FIAT. And we all know what that stands for.

OK – Fix It Again Tomorrow, for those of you on another planet.

John bought this from a friend, who didn’t want to sell it to him – because he was a friend. That should tell you something. Undeterred, John resurrected it from the dead and has been carefully nurturing it ever since, diligently checking over and replacing parts as and when.

He calls it the Mighty UNO. It’s way old and one has to really know how to drive to make it go, unlike the cars of today that practically drive themselves. (Some of course actually do.) It has a manual choke and a gearbox of the stick-in-a-bucket variety. Fortunately, I was brought up on this type of vehicle, back in the day, and actually enjoyed driving it. Just like old times..!

Anyway, John will offload me at his dad’s house in PE…

johns-dads-placeWhere I shall be staying until the new year. John, on the other hand, beetles back to continue working on his own place after a couple of days respite.

To the front is the Swartkops river estuary…

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estuary stitch

Glorious by day and night.

Lots of wildlife…

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A Goliath heron.

A postcard depicting the bay here…

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Bluewater Bay. The sailboat belonged to Terry – might well have been him sailing it.

Some local fishermen trespassing on the private jetty/parking…

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Not knowing they are on candid camera…

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Annoying the hell out of Terry.

Sorry, I missed a trick there. Top left shows a tray for birdseed, which attracts loads of our feathered friends and great to watch from the comfort of your armchair. Trust me to snap the tele when the tray is empty – of seed and birds!

And there’s a huge nature reserve at the back. I’ve never been here to see the aloes in bloom but am told they are quite a sight. Oh, and a beach just around the corner that I still haven’t been to – Indian ocean so the sea should be warm. Soon, soon.

So why am I here? Well it’s one of those win-win situations:

John’s father, Terry, is a spritely 92 year old who lives here alone. He is razor sharp in the brain department but, since hip replacement surgery following a fall that also mangled his shoulder, and recent trauma to his leg, he needs a little help with a few things: socks and shoes, monitoring blood pressure and medication, help with phone calls – he’s very deaf (a trait the John has inherited, though I think his is more selective). All pretty minor stuff really.

He can still get up and down the 39 steps that lead to the street…

With support – mostly moral. Can’t see them all here, but you get the picture.

There’s tortoises hiding in there too…

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Which dement the dog.

Terry makes his own bread (delicious) and here he is…

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Boxing up meals, cooked earlier, ready for the freezer. I should really take a leaf out of his book.

He has a maid/carer – Evelyn – who comes in three times a week, which is great ’cause on her days I also get served breakfast, elevensies and lunch; my bed made and washing done. I could get used to this.

There’s also a garden boy – Peter – who pitches up on Sundays to keep everything neat and tidy…

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This pic shows a fully equipped workshop and above, Terry’s late wife’s art studio that is accessed through the white gate seen in the other pics…up yet more steps.

She was a very talented lady who produced some lovely work…

Beautifully African and atmospheric. I like.

And there’s a driver – Carl – a phone call away.

Plus plenty of friends; some already having paid us a visit – curious to meet ‘the barge lady’. Hope I didn’t disappoint.

He no longer drives, because of the shoulder, so some chauffeuring is required. For instance, we went to the Armistice service at a local chapel…

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Looking smart complete with medals.

We go to his weekly Pilates session with the lovely Maria…

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Which he has been doing for the last twelve years – he started at age 80. I think it’s what keeps him so fit and enabled him to recover so well from surgery.

I am also having sessions now in the hope it will do similar for me…some hope! But Terry is quite tickled that I’m joining in.

We took the dog to be groomed…

Tiger – before and after.

And to the vet. But that’s a whole other story!

There’s also shopping and general day to day stuff. But I see my role more as that of companion, someone to chat to/watch tele/share jokes/stories with.

He has some jolly good stories too, being RAF and widely travelled. He’s lived in some exotic locations, including Malaysia (where John was born) and Libya (where John did some schooling). And he’s done some amazing road trips. I am finding it all fascinating. And, despite moving out here in the 60’s, he stills sounds like the Londoner he is. No trace of a SA accent.

Turns out, we rub along quite nicely and both enjoy a gin and tonic/glass of wine as well.

So, apart from a drinking partner, what do I get out of this little arrangement?

For starters, there’s free lodgings, which are very comfortable, and where  I have been allocated the master bedroom. This comes complete with en-suite (resplendent in 1960/70s avocado), adjacent office and private lounge with views to die for…

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I also get the run of the rest of the house and garden and the use of a car…

The Conquest: probably even more ancient than the Uno but meticulously maintained and still going strong – well, it is a Toyota!  Even if it does only have four gears.

Quite a popular model here…

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Though the later models are called Tazz.

And for my old buddies from Daewoo days…

There’s a fair smattering of these about – old and new.

It is of course summer here with temperatures in the mid to high twenties at the mo…

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In the shade

Probably going higher in December and January. And if I can miss much of the British winter, that alone is pretty much back of the net for me.

But there’s another thing. I have the opportunity to spend time turning an idea for a novel into the first draft of a book. So I have work to do. That’s the plan anyway. Starts with a vengeance this week. Really.

Crikey…it’s Thursday already! And I’ve been here a whole month.

To date, I have become a little embroiled in the daily life and ways of South Africa, which is largely the same…only different.

This is a yield sign…

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A stop street

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And they call these robots

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Their cell phone towers get disguised…

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This one masquerading as a lighthouse. I’ve seen ones up country done up like fir trees. Gets my vote.

The ‘lighthouse’, and sea beyond, is the view from the local shopping centre where you find these…

They are called trolley porters (says so on the back of his overall, but BB not quite getting that in shot) and are most helpful. When they’ve loaded you up, they take away the trolley too. No coins in the slot malarkey here..!

I’ve not yet managed to master this method of transporting goods…

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A fine example of head carrying.

This is still called a bridge…

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I just like it.

And it seems their policeman also take naps in the road…

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And I’ve already said about the brand names…

A couple more I spotted.

Oh, and the laid back cat at the hardware store…

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I could go on (and on and on…) but won’t. Expect I’ll be back before too long with loads more to tell you though.

But I must get busy with that book…

BFN xx

Best laid plans..

13 Nov

No matter how well prepared we like to think we are, the best laid plans can – and often do – all too soon turn to rat shit. And my meticulous travel plans did just that.

Nothing life-threatening you understand. It wasn’t the eleven and a half hour flight that was a problem, no that went according to plan, even though the only available seat was in the middle of the middle section of the plane, despite going online in advance to choose my preferred position: left hand window, from where the view on approach to Cape Town is stunning.

I’d been allocated 32E and ‘Would I like to change this?’ Well of course I would. But the only option was 32E, everything else had been taken. The plane was absolutely full . So 32E it was.

But it wasn’t that.

I think my problem started with my choice of hand luggage…

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Amelia. Well-loved but totally impractical…doesn’t do up or stand up – and apt to tip over when propped under the seat in front.

As well as the usual paraphernalia required in-flight, I also packed into Amelia a small toiletry bag with items essential for my survival during, and immediately after, said 11.5 hour flight. I put a lot of thought into the contents of this and they served me well and kept me comfy while on board.

Long story short… I didn’t have it when I got to John’s place, my first stop on this trip to SA. Bugger. Must have been tipped out as we landed, but the airport said it wasn’t in lost and found when I rang later. Double bugger.

It’s not as if I couldn’t buy replacements (not exact matches but similar) but some were slightly treasured items – like old friends – and, call me stupid, it just rattled me.

Still, mustn’t dwell.

Two mountain passes and about an hour’s drive gets us to John’s place…

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He’s now living in the old house, which is at least 200 years old and being refurbished now that the tenants have finally pushed off.

It comes complete with hot and cold running water, a bath and a flush toilet.

Most important is the fencing, which will provide a measure of security…

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As well as improving the look of the place – in my humble opinion.

Gates too…

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With a little help from John’s slave. Justin.

Land cleared and earmarked for campsite…

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Water is connected…

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Remember the bus..?

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If not, go here. And here.

Also due an update and destined to become available for rent. Currently home to John’s slave.

John has rented some land to Helene the ‘dog lady’…

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Who has built a house there for herself and her dogs of which, I am told, this is just a small selection. She rescues, cares for and re-homes dogs in need.

Her latest challenge…

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Poor bloody thing. She’s promised me an ‘after’ shot.

The plan is to do more of this – quick-build houses and letting out – to provide the John with an income/retirement fund. I believe it’s a sound plan and am most impressed with the work so far. It really has come a long way since I was last here.

John’s carpentry skills coming in handy indoors too…

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And an eye for the right piece of wood…

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On which to hang the coats.

Happy family…

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Ginger you’ve met before. Here. Nushka has the mange, poor thing, and is being fostered and cared for by John, under Helene’s supervision. In the short time I was here, I saw a great improvement. Weekly dipping and daily foot spraying, as well as a good dose of TLC, certainly doing the trick.

When I first arrived, the mornings and evenings were chilly so we needed a little fire…

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Fortunately we bought one of these…

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So, when it warmed up, we didn’t have to light the fire to boil the kettle or cook.

And it did soon warm up – 30C + – though the thick walls of the old house kept it nice and cool indoors.

There’s always the solar cooker…

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Which really does work. I’ve seen it.

We did a little foray to the village shop for provisions. I just love the names…

But this really caught my eye…

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Remember when cigarette companies could still display their own distinctive branding on the packet? Well they still do here.

And, at R43, my old brand selling for less than £3 a packet (more like £11 in the UK) makes me almost want to start smoking again! Almost.

As much as I love it here in Bot River, almost like a second home, my visit to South Africa this time is about something a little different. I have work to do and will be staying in Port Elizabeth with John’s dad for most of my time here. But more about that next time.

I’ll leave you with a few random shots from hereabouts before I move on.

Avocado grown from a stone…

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He’s grown a lot of stuff from seed and, I have to say, the garden is looking lovely.

A dung beetle doing its thing…

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You can take the girl out of the boat… But she still ends up talking shit.

Some bamboo that he planted is now coming in handy to make all sorts of stuff. Like a bird feeder…

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Which was well frequented. Of course my pictures of all the pretty and unusual birds are all rubbish. I’ll keep trying.

A receptacle for my rings…

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And somewhere for my pens…

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There is also a rather splendid, if a little phallic, salt pot he crafted but the pic has disappeared. Oddly.

A tiny snake…

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Found on top of the septic tank.

John also caught two Puff Adders while I was there, which he is keeping – securely. There is a video that I don’t have so will spare you that. They are very attractive creatures as well as being highly venomous. I keep my distance!

A full moon rising as the sun goes down…

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Interestingly, the sun and moon track right to left here as opposed to left to right in the northern hemisphere. I suppose that makes sense but it came as a bit of a revelation to me.

A sunset seems like a fitting end to this post so ‘totsiens vir nou’ as they say in these parts.

Coming soon…

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Not long, I promise, I have rediscovered my writing rhythm.

Wind in the Willows..

22 Sep

You, as precious and perceptive readers of this blog, will have noticed how windy it’s been of late. You know only too well. That is, of course, if you are in the UK.

It has played havoc with my hairdo…

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Not that you’d notice.

Had a go at ripping my car door off its hinges and swung my TV aerial round a full 180 degrees. Considering this was held by three wire stays and numerous magnets, was no mean feat.

What you may not know is that four trees have fallen into my little river over the last few days, at least two of which have blocked the navigation. Fortunately, none has done damage to boats/people, not that I know of anyway.

Unlike this poor couple..

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What a nightmare. One that I have, yet again, escaped by the skin of my teeth.

In case you didn’t know, I moor beneath a very old, fragile looking willow. One that looks like it would fall over if I exhaled sharply in its vicinity. One that disintegrates when pushed against as Hobo leaves her mooring, and one that creaks in the wind at the best of times.

It’s more wobbly than whomping…

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But, against all the odds, it remains upright.

When I say upright…

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As upright as its ever been in all my years of living underneath it. We (that’s the royal variety) do what we can to keep it from being top-heavy, as you can see here.

One the whole, I don’t like the wind. Not if I’m outdoors. But if I’m all cosy inside, I love to watch its effects on the water, the plant life, wildlife and the clouds. I like that it rocks the boat, making windchimes out of my hanging utensils and the crystals in the window sway and sparkle. It reminds me of how safe I feel  (despite the threat of my feeble tree) and gently rocks me to sleep.

This year’s wonderful summer has come to an end and we’ve slipped into autumn, even though my diary tells me it doesn’t become official until the 23rd.

The autumn equinox…

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Nights are drawing in already, leaves are beginning to fall and it’s all downhill from here. There’s definitely a whiff of wood smoke in the air – there is around my boat anyway. I’m not one to tough it out till it’s ‘acceptable’ to light one’s fire. The first hint of a chill in the air and the old Morso gets fried up.

And yes…

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It’s blazing away now.

I’m mostly only burning those 99p a pop faux logs at the mo, usually more than enough to take the pain out of a chilly morning/evening. Last night though, I did add a proper chunky real log – one foraged by the John last year – and regretted it a couple of hours down the line, having to open doors/hatches to avoid overheating/paint blistering!

We’re not yet at that burning 24/7 stage and, hopefully, I’ll miss most of that.

Did I tell you I was going to overwinter in South Africa..?

Sure I did.

 

 

I do love a list..

12 Sep

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No, not that sort of list.

A list of what to do – must do, could do, should do. A list of what to take – must take, might take. And a list of what to get – most items here followed by a question mark at this stage. All growing by the minute…

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As a wannabe spontaneous person, I guess that’s a huge fail. But, in my defence, I am planning a three month excursion to the southern hemisphere and have to be prepared…

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Third world. Don’t you just love it?

I’d already started the process of renewing my passport, it expiring in September, not realising I’d need it so soon but knowing I couldn’t not have a current one. Turns out this was a good move as, whilst the online renewal process is agreeably simple and speedy, the courier designated to deliver the finished product wasn’t.

Living on a boat/being of no fixed abode has its challenges and getting one’s mail is one of them. No friendly postie for me. I collect my mail from the Post Office, which works wonderfully well. Usually. When it comes to ‘signed for’ items, life can get a little complicated and, depending on the individual tasked to unite you with your precious/ID sensitive package, can be fraught with frustration. And it was. Very.

After several abortive attempts to meet with this (non) delivery person, I did what I had to do and arranged to collect from the local DX depot. Simple. Well it was, if you don’t count the numerous phone calls to the passport office (@ 35p per minute on the mobile) and those to the courier.

Still, mission accomplished. I have my new passport…

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Shame it’s not the new British version as promised with the exit from the EU but hey, let’s not go there. And no, you’re not getting to see the photo!

Tick-Box

Another item on the list (must do) is to ensure my drug dependency medication needs are catered for, so a trip to the surgery and pharmacy required. Now sorted and another box ticked. Going well.

Well it was. Opposite the chemist shop in Sawbo central is a trendy little boutique with all sorts of desirable things in its window…

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It’s the kind of place that never displays the prices so I’ve always avoided it like the plague. Like they say, if you have to ask…

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But yesterday there was a couple of lovely, loose fitting, linen frocks hanging outside with big red sale tickets attached. End of season and just the job for my upcoming trip. My ‘what to get’ list includes ‘clothes?’ and, before you could say that now was the perfect time to bag a bargain, I’d been sucked in and handed over the plastic to pay for both of these. Plus a (not in the sale but just what I’d been looking for forever) top.

But, no guilt here. I am so worth it.

The ‘get Hobo ready for winter’ list has morphed into a ‘prepare Hobo for abandonment’ list. And I do feel guilty about that. But, willing neighbours/friends have offered to be there for her/care for her, so I am reassured on that front.

My immediate neighbour will take on the role of looking after of my feathered friends…

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Feed the birds, tuppence a bag. For the Disney fans among you.

Takes me back. In another life, when I had the pub, we hosted many impromptu jam sessions. All sorts of musicians would turn up, from far and wide, and strut their stuff…

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As time went by and sobriety went out the window, the local musos would progress from classic rock and blues and turn to Disney. They’d belt out tunes from the likes of Mary Poppins and Jungle Book and we’d all join in. We all knew the words. Let’s go fly a kite… I’m the king of the swingers... and many more. Good times.

Ha ha, got you! Bet you’re all singing now!

Back to the future, said neighbour will take me to the airport too – probably just to make sure I’m really gone. Seriously, I’m always blown away by the kindness of boatie folk, yet never surprised. Looking out for each other – it’s what we do. And I love that.

Something I must do, sooner rather than later, is to order some currency…

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Right now, I can get almost twice as many Rand to the Pound than when I last visited.

My trip may be a month away but, as you know, time waits for no man. Or Boatbird. Before we know it, I’ll be winging my way to sunny South Africa, ready or not for what is to come.

Get to it BB.

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Get those boxes ticked.