Archive | November, 2018

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…

mange

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…

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…

baby snake

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…

estuary stitch

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