Monday, 28 October 2013

Where to next?

Thank you for staying with us on our adventure. I'd like to carry on having some conversations with you by inviting you to stop what your doing, make yourself a brew, have a read of the new blog and share your stories with me

 Here is the link

and here is the first page.....much love and thanks Dee.


No No No

This may be a strange place to start out but all my good intentions flew out of the car window today when this tune came at me like a truck from my car speakers......before you read any further I suggest you listen to the rather fabulous Dawn Penn

This tune has a signature  'dddddd d ddddd d ddddd d' at the beginning and after you have heard it once  whenever you hear it again you will feel yourself lifted up and your body will begin to sway. The lyrics are simple, they are all about being abandoned by your man and all the agony that goes with that. I heard this tune many years ago and having experienced the total wretchedness of having my man bugger off to pastures new felt that Dawn sure knew how this felt too.

What occurs to me now is that way back in times past when I listen to Dawn sing 'No, no, no you don' love me and I know now' I would feel gutted by the truth of the words but I would get up and dance like a temptress. Yup, I would gyrate a kind of slow assed groove that was more about me not just feeling shit about my man being gone and all that but also about my very female response to him going.

I think I was saying yes ok you have gone but look at me, look at this here woman you fool what are you doing? Remembering this made me think of the other women in my life, my sisters, my daughter, my girlfriends.....and I realised that we all do it. We all connect our pain with music and then we dance, we dance with our pain we dance away our pain.

When I hear the song now after the crippling pain is long gone, I still dance to it like a temptress. But having survived the heartache of a lost love, the song also serves to remind me that music and not just time is a great healer.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Belonging to Africa part two

Anyhow that seems ages ago as back here in Cape Town as we are now languishing in a rather splendid guest house and are being Cape Town tourists; we spent a whole day in the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens (see which are on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain. The gardens are about five and half square kilometres in size and houses amongst other things a research centre, environmental education centre, an exhibition centre that was hosting the fabulous ‘Untamed’ exhibition which conjoined the work of Dylan Lewis (sculptor), Enrico Daffonchio (architect) and Ian McCallum (psychologist). The gardens were also playing host to a group of students who were dressed as individually as they could muster to show they were all individuals which homogenised them straight away….bless. Students are the same the world over, these like any others were being ‘outrageous’ and not caring what us old gits were thinking or doing as long as we were outraged.  It made me think of my lovely Kate, I hope she is out being outrageous. As we were in the city we also decided to avail ourselves of a bit of culture and went to see ‘Midsummers Night Dream’ which was playing at the Artscape theatre.  We did our usual getting lost on route, but by virtue of our gift for just ending up in the right place we drove the wrong way (‘we’ being me) into a car park designated for theatre staff and patrons, luckily the watchman was generous enough to see that as we were there and it was hassle to drive out again for a small fee he let us stay. The production of ‘Midsummers Night Dream’ was ‘contemporary’; the first half was slightly confusing as the actors had to act alongside laser lights accompanied by high pitched voices (which were supposed to represent fairy folk) and the stage got busy enough to set off an epileptic. The second half saw most of the actors rolling around on the floor and stripped to their very flimsy underwear, most of the references to Bottom alluded to the fact he now had a huge donkey sized penis. All a bit odd but the enthusiasm with which they acted made it highly entertaining. Afterwards we retreated to the luxury of the guest house and the free evening glasses of port and chocolates.  On our last night staying at Jambo guest house we had drinks with Mina and Barry and met some of their friends, these were two elderly (78 and 79) Brits from ‘sarf’ London whose names were Ernie and Carol. Ernie used to be a dress designer and ‘knew everybody darling’ ; he was extremely camp but still took the chance of rubbing up against my arse when I tried to get past him to sit on the sofa. I generously decided to put his friskiness down to the fact he had a bolly eye so perhaps couldn’t see too well and I thought he might have Alzheimer’s.  No not because only men with Alzheimer disease might want to be inappropriately frisky but he had real trouble remembering our names, where he had put his drink, his pizza and his car keys.  Upon leaving Jambo Guest House the following morning we had perfect weather for a spot of hill-walking .  This sounds more adventurous that it is as there is a steep but very accessible route up the Platteklip gorge which goes all the way to the top of Table mountain, you do need to be reasonably
fit though as the mountain stands 1,086 metres (3,563 ft) tall.

Friday 20th April
We are back camping and are in a place called Millers Point, this is on the north east side of Cape Point, it is fucking windy as fuck. It is too windy to cook food so we are having crisp butties and drinking beer, nice one. The view is pretty good though as we are right on the Indian ocean and we have penguins and baboons for company, I don’t like the baboons.  The penguins are funny creatures, they have pinkish fur around their eyes and they come up really close to you and smell a bit (though not as bad as the seals).
Ah but I am getting ahead of myself….sorry…in between getting here we went to stay with the der der derdle der……. SHARPEY-SHAFFERS! …..yes these people really do deserve capital letters.  John is a world famous super-duper nuclear physicist into all sorts of splitting atom type shenanigans and Sylvia is a retired nursing sister and one time Liverpool City Councillor who worked her socks off during the 80’s (time of the infamous Derek Hatton!) Meeting them separately would be an eye and ear popping experience but together they are like a tsunami of intelligence, intense, provocative, funny, generous and absolutely fabulous.  They reside in a posh suburb of Somerset West, as their guests we have been given an ensuite room of our own and are encouraged to come and go as we please, use the pool, walk in the garden and just chill out. I did have a swim in the pool but it was one of those ‘ice lolly up your bum experiences so haven’t been in again.
John and Sylv are supposed to be retired but in reality are busy doing research, writing papers, reviewing faculty standards (John) and volunteering and fundraising for the local hospice and in local library (Sylv).  They are great hosts, they carry on more or less with their schedule and we with ours and we bump into each other at mealtimes.  We take it in turns to cook and James gets nicely drunk with John whereupon they grumble about bossy women (me and Sylv) , meanwhile me and Sylv talk about the NHS, Liverpool, Eddie Izzard and costume dramas. Sylv can talk as fast as machine gun, she is sharp witted and doesn’t suffer fools at all.  While here went with Sylv to the cinema to see ‘The best marigold hotel’ (gentle love/comedy with Judy Dench and other glitterati I can’t remember the names of) and a local amateur production called ‘Dirty Money’, the latter was surprisingly quite agreeable. The production was in the local community theatre, all white SAFA respectability it was a caricature night out enjoying what the well-to-do do.  John didn’t come to either social events instead he harrumped and grumbled and disappeared into his study to complete a research paper. 
We only intended on staying a few days with the Sharpey-Schaffers as we didn’t want to impose but the day we left they surprised us both by asking us to stay longer, we couldn’t as we wanted to wander back out into the wilderness but we did promise to come back to them before going home. We were so touched by their kindness, we had only been able to meet them at all through the random act of kindness of a mutual friend of mine (Pam) back home. John said ‘well you know we stay with other people as I travel a lot and it all works out you know, the helping just gets passed around’. He should know he is super scientific and probably has an equation to support this statement.
But that was last night, and here on the windy enough to bend the tent poles coast we have made a plan, this involved walking on Cape Point then heading up the West Coast of South Africa to the Cederburg mountains. James was a very happy bunny. 


Once again we set off down the road and this time headed up the coast north of Cape Town, stopped at a municipal campsite just off the beach at Yzerfontein then went on to Langerbaan right on the beach,  the coast is stunning but the water is too cold to swim in. Penguins like it though. We carried on to Titties Bai, which has a huge camp site right on the beach, apart from two other campers we had the place to ourselves. 
About 1.30 a.m. I heard footsteps outside the tent, James said it was the wind. I knew it wasn’t, suddenly it just didn’t feel safe, I always go with my instincts so decided to stay in the car then if anyone was about I could scare them away with the horn and save James. I felt very heroic doing this, James thought I was batty and slept soundly all night.  

April 26th 2012
We are in the Cedarburg mountains staying at Algeria camp. We are camping beneath massive eucalyptus trees as nearly all the cedars are gone, on the first night there was a huge storm, the winds were incredibly strong and the hail stones were as big as marbles! 

So far we have walked up but didn’t actually find a nearby waterfall, we got lost and although we could hear it we couldn’t find the bloody thing, we gave up in the end and wombled about in the sunshine.  We have also been off to the caves at Stadsall, this is 40k from the campsite along a road that takes you through passes and mountains, as you get closer to the caves you encounter sandstone rocks that have been shaped by the weather so look surreal and whimsical.  The ‘caves’ themselves look like fantastic constructions of cinder toffee that you can walk around and through, you can touch some of them though not the ones with paintings in as these are fenced off.  James is very chuffed. We brewed up a coffee by the cave with the elephant paintings and just enjoyed the big space.


30th April 2012
We have made it to a place called Beaverlac, this is a nature reserve on top of a mountain near to Portersville, the drive up here was a bit scary as the weather had ‘turned bandit’ and we had to drive up the steep pass with hardly any visibility. We almost turned back at the entrance to the camp but decided to make the effort to at least have a look.  The track back down the mountain into the camp was really only fit for a four wheel drive and Milo bumped along until we found ourselves at the camp and surprisingly into the sunshine. We have been talking s about whether we are selling Milo or shipping him home, I would rather take him home. Selling him just feels wrong and Tim (James’ friend) is faffing us about so I can’t figure out if he is serious or not. If Milo comes home it will feel like the adventure is carrying on….James is keen to sell though as we will be pretty skint when we get back.  The saga of the sale now includes the involvement of Johan (a Pentecostal minister) who was sure he wanted to Milo but as it turns out did not want to pay the asking price, instead he insisted that God needed the car so he could carry on his work converting the San people, I decided the San people had had enough done to them so I refused to sell it to him.  Anyhow blah blah blah, the thing is it is proving difficult to sell Milo because of the import duty; I have finally untangled conflicting information about importing Milo on a Temporary Import Document (which is worthless) and the only way for a purchaser to avoid a huge import duty is for Milo to continue to run on a carnet.  This means any purchaserhas to get their own carnet for Milo and run him on that, that way he remains a temporary import so attracts no import duty. We also have to get Milo properly stamped out of SA, which is great isn’t it as he hasn’t been stamped in.  A friend of James, Tim, is living and working in SA and wants to buy Milo but he and James are fannying around so much we may run out of time which is doing my head in.
Spoke to Kate, she has submitted her Uni work so all is well, we are gearing up to meeting up soon and I am so excited by this I babble like an idiot at her down the phone. 

May 2nd 2012
We are back at the Sharpey-Shaffers. We fly home tomorrow.  We stayed for 3 nights at Beaverlac and walked/climbed along the leopard trail which followed the river to hidden pools and waterfalls,  then wandered along the yellow fish trail to the ‘big rocks’ and yellow river.  We had braied steaks and drank beer and I read to James at night. Beaverlac was our last taste of wilderness and camping before going home, I got tearful and made James promise this wouldn’t be our last adventure.  I don’t want this feeling I have to end, the feeling of wonderment I have of the planet and realisation how much I love the human race, how glad I am to be alive. Meanwhile we share what is left of our time with the Sharpey-Shaffers, their intense, intelligent,  honest and challenging company is a raw and rewarding experience.  They have a fine honed sharp banter that threads its way through their daily routines . Theirs is a relationship that thrives on the rapier wit and intelligence of the other, they are wonderfully funny and human. Last night while I sat in the big lounge downstairs writing this journal I overheard John asking Sylv if they can have the fire lit in the lounge (it is Autumn and there is a chill in the air) and she says ‘absolutely not’.  He was crestfallen, but she was adamant.  When he had gone off to his study she explained over a cup of tea that if they light a fire the smoke drifts up the chimney breast (as there is no mantelpiece) and blackens the newly painted walls. The last time they had a fire John had promised to clean off the soot, he hadn’t kept his promise and Slyv had to clean up so until he made an effort there would be no fire. I wandered downstairs to catch up on emails and stuff and a little while later could hear Sylv making the fire before she went out to one of her volunteering groups, this was followed by John going upstairs and upon spotting the fire exclaimed ‘Oh Sylv, oh you a genius , oh you are so kind, oh how wonderful, oh Sylv a fire you are so kind..’ It was so lovely to hear him and later that evening when we all sat by Sylv’s  ‘kind fire’ watching football  on the telly (they are both footie mad) he had the biggest smile sitting close to the hearth and drinking wine with James. Ah. As the evening progressed James and John got quite drunk on some very fine red wines and John began to sing his school song, after he finished he said, ‘ how strange I can remember all the words, and it is bloody tripe too’.  I said ‘Yes but you are a strange man John’. ‘Yes’ he said ‘I am even strange to myself’ hee hee hee! Then Sylv chipped in with ‘I was the first person to discover tectonic plates in San Francisco. I just saw how they had been caused on the map when I was in school. I didn’t say anything as I didn’t think anyone would understand. And John now full of the wine, the warmth from the ‘kind fire’ smiled at James and I and agreed it must be true because ‘It all comes to do with seeing patterns you know and Sylv is a pattern maker’.
Today we helped Sylv tidy up her garage (which is also her storeroom for gifts that she sells to raise funds for the hospice), helping wasn’t easy as the contents were stored like her conversations (all over the place) and although she wanted us to help she wasn’t the best at giving clear instructions. Still we shifted and lifted and then James found out some stuff that would help stop any flooding getting into the garage, she were right pleased with us.
Friday May 4th 2012
Well today is our last day. Tim finally stopped faffing and bought Milo yesterday. When we handed him over I just stood and cried, Milo had been our home, our transport, our kitchen and our place of safety the whole time we had been travelling. To Tim’s credit he was very understanding about how attached I was to him and told me he had cried over the loss of one of his motorbikes. Anyhow back at the Sharpey-Shafers we gave our bed/kitchen and clothes away to Archie (who is John and Sylv’s gardener) which left us with only two bags of stuff to take home. The bags are rammed to the brim with our few clothes, first aid box, James’ tools and most importantly presents for Kate. I have managed to buy her something in every country, a cartouche from Egypt, a wooden necklace from Sudan, baboon tailed hat from Ethiopia, an elephant ornament from Kenya, a porcupine quill necklace from Uganda, a shawl from Tanzania/Zanzibar, a tinjenza from Malawi, a bracelet from Zambia, a doll form Namibia, a beaded choker from South Africa. As I bring each trinket to mind I remember the events around me buying them….the haggling with the Egyptians for the cartouche drove me mad….the pride with which the South African lady sold me her hand made choker. Packing each away amongst our belongings is like storing away part of myself; I am sure James thinks I am being a bit precious over this stuff but keeping them safe till we get home somehow makes me believe that when I get back I won’t forget that I have been to these places and had my big adventure, it is too easy to slip back into life and forget that I have been someone else living another life.  
While I write these final words in my journal I listen to the goings on in the house, poor John is stressed as the software on his computer didn’t allow him to complete the diagrams for his paper, and one of his PhD students is off track with his research. I feel for him it seems that the same problems associated with writing and publishing research papers are the same no matter who you are. Sylv has just come back from volunteering and is brewing up a cuppa, James is going through our documents to make sure we have passports and stuff ready.  I realise that I am tired, I didn’t sleep well last night. Kate, is uppermost in my thoughts, it will be the best thing ever to be with her again. Then there is the rest of our families to catch up with, three weddings to go to this summer….and work there is work to get back into. How hard is it all going to be?  I want to nurture what Africa has brought into my life, I want to be able to draw on the strength I have gained through finding out I could travel in the way I have, I want to hold the trust I have in the Universe to keep my feet moving and my heart and mind opening to the world. We live in such a magnificent place, but the fact that we too are magnificent it is a lesson worth learning and sharing. James and I took our chance and had an adventure and by doings so we returned to the essence of who and what we are, humans in paradise.