24 Sep 2010
in Guest Post, Saffa Tags: Guest Post, Saffa, South Africa
Today’s guest post should have been announced with trumpets and a loud bang, but sadly my cold and lethargy made me barely capable of tapping a keyboard at all. This post is from my Person. She is a total South African convert and is now engaged to one of us addictive folk and is planning a December wedding to her African sweetheart this year. Here she talks about her visions of South Africa.
I spend a fair bit of time in South Africa; in fact, I will have spent a quarter of 2010 there by the time we’re done with another year.
There are two questions that I routinely get asked about SA:
1) what’s it’s like and 2) have you ever seen a lion?
The main preconceptions (prior to the world cup at least) seemed to be:
1) the roads are generally dusty tracks 2) you’ll probably be driving past lions and elephants 3) it’s hot ALL the time 4) it’s a bit…backward.
When I’m in SA, I spend the majority of my time in Johannesburg and I love it. People seem to have even stronger preconceptions (and misconceptions) about Joburg than they do about the country as a whole!
Thanks to shock programmes made by Louis Theroux and, more recently, our ‘esteemed’ English footballers wives and girlfriends, the main view of Joes is that danger lurks in every dark recess of the city.
There are gun-toting, crack-smoking pimps, gangsters and hookers hanging out on every street corner; poverty abounds and in most high-rise blocks, that were once nice, there are either brothels or hundreds of illegal immigrants hiding out in rooms with stolen electricity or none at all.
It’s amusing, and frustrating, that these programmes aren’t balanced with visits to places like Sandton and Sandton City, it’s ENORMOUS shopping mall (the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere as it happens and if you can’t get something there, well then it’s likely it doesn’t exist). Here, wide city roads are lined with trees and tall, shiny glass high rise buildings.
Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini and Aston Martin are the badge you’ll see the cars that sleek past you if you visit South Africa’s richest square mile. Hmmm, not quite the Wild West that makes for good TV ratings and out-pouring of charity cash, which is why we don’t get to see it.
Before I carry on, let me answer the burning question…yes, I have seen a lion whilst I’ve been in SA. No it wasn’t just strolling casually along the side of the road when I popped out to the local shops under armed guard.
So what’s it REALLY like?
This is where it gets tricky because it has so much of, well, EVERYTHING! It’s diverse, it’s modern, it’s ancient, it’s complex, it can be shocking. It’s fabulous!
To truly understand SA you need to experience it, live in it for a while (if you can) so you can get to know it and the people who make up it’s nation.
The first world that springs to mind when I’m asked, “What’s it like?”, is BIG!
Everything is big. The cities are big – Joburg is enormous – the freeways are big, the mostly unwidened M25 looks like a Liliput road in comparison. The shopping malls are massive – big doesn’t even go some way to describing those – the BIG five (lions, leopards, elephants, buffalo and rhino) are native to Africa.
But by far my most favourite big of all is the sky – I still haven’t worked out how, but it feels bigger here than in any of the other places I’ve been in the world. (I know! I still feel like the UK sky is about to fall on my head. I totally relate to Obelix – Tam)
- Lightning over Johannesburg.
When they’re deep blue and crystal clear it feels so high up and out of reach, it’s as if someone’s lifted the ceiling on the world. When it’s stormy and the clouds roll in, boy, are you in for a treat! VAST apocolyptic skies descend which are fabulously menacing and often erupt into the most epic storms I’ve ever experienced which shake you to your very core.
South Africa is BIG.
Another word is STUNNING! If you want scenery and sunsets of the kind that will take your breath away then South Africa is the place to go. Most people assume that the landscape is predominantly flat, sandy yellow plains, dotted with cartoonesque cacti and termit mounds which go on forever, if that’s what you’re after then you’re in luck! They have that.
But there’s so much more. Drive the Garden Route and you’ll experience everything from lush green hillsides (yep, there is green in South Acrica), to huge mountains that loom in the distance, and driving along their passes through the clouds you’ll read signs warning of ice and snow which might have a monkey or two perched on top of them (I kid you not!).
Exotic plants that we can only grow in our greenhouses or conservatories grow freely in gardens and unfamiliar birds of various sizes are everywhere, and if I start talking about the beaches and what it’s like to watch the gentle rise and fall of the ocean by moonlight then I might start drooling!
I first went to South Africa in 1992 and I fell in love with the Hadedah bird (African Ibis) – they’re big, they’re noisy and are one of the things I look forward to seeing most whenever I go back. I’m sure the ‘natives’ think I’m mad but, for me, there’s always just been something magical about this fabulous bird.
South Africa is STUNNING.
Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t always bathed in hot sunshine. OK, so the weather is predominantly sunny but in Joes, during the winter, don’t be surprised if temperatures dip into minus figures overnight and you find yourself scraping frost off your car very early in the morning. When I packed to go back in August (their winter) my kids thought it was most amusing to see me bundling jumpers and warm winter clothes into my case, I needed them too!
Another thing you’ll notice as you drive around the country is the sheer number of white cars! It’s funny the things you notice, and this is one of the most obvious. Here, almost every other car is either black or silver but THERE, I’m telling you, for every non-white car there has to be at least 10 white ones.
I suppose I had to get round to black and white at some time. South Africa’s Apartheid history is just that – history. It’s interesting to watch the country and it’s people moving on from this part of their past, and it’s important for anyone who really wants to understand this complex part of the country’s to LEARN about it rather than just regurgitate what they’ve heard on the news or from John who lives two doors down from their friend’s cousin’s neighbour in Scotland.
It’s also important to realise that you can’t just sweep away the colour barriers (or any barriers in any country in the world for that matter) and expect all things to be equal overnight, it’s not as simple as that.
Yes, there are a lot of black people living in tiny corrugated shacks in informal settlements and townships, but there are a lot of very wealthy black people too; and before we start climbing too high up on the moral high ground, there are a lot of white (and black) people living in poverty and sleeping on the streets of our own country.
The younger generations don’t see colour – it’s not unusual for black teenagers to have white friends and vice versa. The only thing that’s odd about it to them is if someone comments on it. Sure there are still some members of older generations who don’t like it, but in my experience they are VERY few and far between.
The overwhelming sense I get from the nation as a whole – young, old and every age in between – is one of excitement. This is a new country now and one that can moulded into whatever its people want it to be. Yes, there is crime and yes people live behind big walls with electric fencing running around the top.
Yes there are things you shouldn’t do and places you shouldn’t go to, otherwise you’ll be asking for trouble – but there are those places here too remember, and if you walk around parts of London with your bag open or your wallet in your back pocket, then don’t be surprised if you get home and find things have been taken from you.
South Africa is COMPLEX.
- That’s not a South African robot
South Africans are FIERCLY patriotic and proud of their country and with initiatives like Lead SA going on, there is no doubt in my mind that the country will be a very different one again in another twenty years time.
You don’t even have to go to SA to experience the patriotism, you only have to talk to an ex-pat. They have such a strong sense of what it means to be South African, such a sense of pride in their cultural identity and they are FRIENDLY!
As a Brit this is the thing that hits me most whenever I’m there – people smile at you, people you don’t know! And they talk to you too! If you talk to a stranger they don’t look at you like you’re some sort of weirdo no, get this, they talk BACK! And they will probably share a laugh with you too! It’s always a bit of a shock, landing back in the UK, and realising that’s not welcome here.
South Africa’s friendliness and pride is one of the things I am deeply envious of. We just don’t have that anymore.
They have funny names for things. Ask a South African for directions in your car and you’ll likely get something like this: “Go down the road and turn right at the robot, then go over two circles, past the braai shop bla bla bla.” So you’ll merrily drive down the road, get to the traffic lights and wonder if you should go left, right or straight on now? They didn’t say but one thing’s for sure, you haven’t seen the robot they were talking about and what on EARTH are braais?!
Traffic lights are robots, circles are roundabouts and braais are barbequeues (and OH do South Africans know how to braai, you’ll never want to go to an English BBQ again once you’ve braaid in SA!) – there are a whole host of other things with funny names that I can’t remember right now.
Their taxis are MAD, don’t think private hire cabs that come and pick you up and deliver you door to door – think mini buses PACKED full of people who take thier life in their hands every time they get in one! The taxi drivers read the rules of the road and then make up their own version, almost everyone has a tale or ten to tell about encounters with SA taxis.
If you’ve been to South Africa and never eaten koeksisters, biltong or boerwors then I’m sorry, you simply haven’t lived. Koeksisters are the most evil things on the planet – I did them to death when I was there in April and May and will be eternally grateful that they don’t display it’s (lack of) nutritional content on the label, you’d just cry.
Biltong – air-dried and cured meat – sounds odd to us, tastes fabulous and I could happily live on it. Boerwors, sausages will never be quite good enough again once you’ve eaten Boerwors, especially if it’s been braai’d!! And as for Ouma’s rusks – oh just don’t get me started on those otherwise I’ll be in big trouble.
You see, I’m going back to SA for a month over December and January and am facing the prospect of a bikini on the beach in Durban in Christmas day – how WEIRD is that going to be!!!! Everything will be back to front – Christmas in the summer, leaves on the trees and HOT sunshine in December, I can’t wait!
And what makes it more exciting is being in Tamsin’s native land at the same time as her and having her about ten minutes up the road when we’re both in Joes! I only know her from here, I only know ‘my bit’ of Joburg without her – to have the two together is going to be surreal to say the least, but utterly amazing.
Rugby! You can’t talk about South Africa and not mention rugby. If you don’t know anything about the game, or you don’t like it, you have two choices when you’re in the country – either get with it, or get out!
Back in 1992 I got in – it was the the only way – and in August I was at the Soccer City Stadium (sorry, the FNB Stadium) with 94,000 other rabid rugby fans to watch the Springboks (SA national rugby team) take on the New Zealand All Blacks.
The atmosphere can only be described as A M A Z I N G and I waved my SA flag and cheered on the Boks as if they were my own. You see, I feel more at home in South Africa than I do here in the UK. I know all about the crime statistics and everything else ‘negative’ about the country but, for me, the positives outweigh all of those things and I’d live there permanently again in a heartbeat.
I’ve found this really hard, tthere’s SO much about South Africa to tell that it’s almost impossible to know where to start. It’s no good, if you REALLY want to know what it’s like, get yourself on a plane and go there for as long as you can. But I warn you…you might not want to come back!
(Thanks, Sarah, you’ve made me INCREDIBLY homesick)
20 Sep 2010
in Guest Post Tags: Blog, Child, Cleaning, Guest Post, Guilt
Heeeeeere’s Heidi! This hilarious, brilliant and ever-so-accurate blog comes from the mind of a mum whose sense of humour has me rolling in the aisles on a daily basis. Don’t forget to catch more of her brilliance at Mums Rock.
A mother’s love knows no bounds.
I’ve just wasted an entire morning trying to find out who said that, to no avail. Of course, had I thought about it properly, I’d have realised that there’s probably no living record of the sucker who uttered such unfathomable nonsense.
They were probably hunted down by mothers across the globe and tortured to death. I envisage coven-like cackles as they pinned him down (it had to be a him, right?) and screeched “Feel the bounds of this, sunshine?” as they stuck pins in his eyeballs and laughed while he cried for his Mummy.
Phew. Did someone unleash the Kraken in here this morning? Sorry. Mama needs a little more caffeine to start her day with a smile instead of the fury that comes so naturally.
My point is this: the idea that a mother’s love knows no bounds? Well, it’s just that – a lovely idea – but I just don’t think it’s true. What’s more, it’s Stepford-style brainwashing like this that leaves many mothers so wracked with guilt about their perceived inadequacies that they can’t stop weeping over their failings for long enough to recognise that their charges are alive and not in jail, ergo: job well done.
I can say all this with some confidence because only last week this mother was suddenly confronted with the very real limit of her love. Faster than you could say Wow-that-scene-from-the-Exorcist-was-actually-pretty-true-to-life, every shred of maternal instinct upped and left my body.
Yes, my son was parted from the contents of his stomach in an abrupt manner on the drive home from school and yes, I did run screaming from the car and hide in the bathroom whilst trying to figure out what to do.
See? No sign of boundless maternal love here. Now don’t get me wrong. I would take a bullet for this kid, and have happily endured seasons of great heartache and anguish sometimes purely because I had his best interests in mind. He’s my first baby and to this day I don’t believe a more beautiful baby was ever born (except for his brother, who is his perfect match in the beauty department thing).
He’s funny, bright, kind and wise beyond his years, and a heartfelt hug from him is like nothing else on earth. I love him with every fibre of my being. I do not love donning wellies and rubber gloves to wade through several inches of his regurgitated lunch as it sloshes around in the footwells of my car.
I should have seen it coming and if I’d had the fortitude to encourage him to barf at the side of the road before getting in the car, perhaps I wouldn’t have encountered such an epic fail in the motherly love department. I was greeted at the school gate by the sight of him clutching his teacher’s hand, his face so pale it was practically blue and see-through.
“He says his tummy is sore,” she said, with the empathy that only a fellow mother can convey. I guided him gently to the car and deduced from his uncharacteristic silence and stillness that all was not well. Literally. Even the requisite after-school snack failed to rouse him but at no point did he say he felt like he might pebble-dash the back of the passenger seat or leave partially undigested strawberries lurking in the seat pocket.
And so it was that just as we reached the top of the road, the noise I fear most in all the world erupted from the back seat. For a split second I looked to the skies, and then to the ocean on the horizon, convinced that only a tsunami could be preceded by such aural horror. I glanced in the rear-view mirror and had to do a double take.
His brother started screaming in terror as he beheld the traumatic sight beside him and realised that his toy wrestler, which he’d accidentally dropped moments before, was about to be swept away. All the while I uttered soothing sounds of comfort, assuring my son that I would stop the car in a matter of seconds and rush to his aid. Except once we were stationary the first thing I did was remove his stunned brother from the scene of devastation.
It was like one of those gut-wrenching movies in which a mother has to choose which child to save when faced with impending disaster. The solution was surprisingly obvious to me. Take the one you don’t need full body armour and a nose peg to pick up. I placed him just inside the front door and as I returned to the barfmobile I was hit by – well never mind that’s probably way too much information but suffice it to say my own lunch threatened to make an exit in solidarity with my son’s.
There was nothing for it. I turned on my heel and fled. In my son’s hour of need I momentarily abandoned him. Wretching, I ran to the bathroom where I battled as I have never battled before, desperately drawing on every shred of decency I could muster to arm myself to return to the carnage that awaited me.
Within seconds, with new resolve, I ran to the kitchen like the firefighters in Backdraft returning to face down certain death in the name of saving humanity. I grabbed my Marigolds and silently thanked my mother for insistently bringing a pair with her whenever she comes to visit. And then, in a scene reminiscent of Lord of the Rings when the eagles swoop down to rescue Sam and Frodo, clutched from the jaws of death-by-volcanic-lava, I swooped upon my son and freed him from the confines of his car seat.
Stripping him of his clothes in the front garden, I carried him aloft to the bathroom where I hosed him down and showered him with love and comfort before dressing him in fresh pyjamas and making him a nest infront of the telly.
And then I spent an hour and 45 minutes squished in the back of my car where I wept as I confronted my greatest fear.
This mother’s love knows its bounds. That’s not to say that I stop loving my child when he’s dripping with the contents of his partially digested lunch, of course not. It’s just that my capacity to be a loving mother when faced with the v-word is drastically reduced.
Ok, totally compromised.
And if love is a verb – a doing word, as we learned in school – then being loving is what love is all about. It’s not very loving to weep with horror at the sight of your child demonstrating what a powerful muscle the stomach can be.
Give me those newborn nappies full of inhuman tar-like stuff that you practically have to scrape off with a scalpel any day. I think it all stems from a childhood experience when my cat puked in my lap and then preceded to walk in circles around me, continuing to be desperately unwell, until I was trapped inside a ring of steaming nastiness, squealing weakly for help.
It took some time for someone to rescue me, so at least I’ll be able to empathise with my son when he’s in therapy because of the time he was left alone in a putrid mess of his own making in the car while his mother momentarily contemplated running for the hills.
Joking aside, I do really think that image of boundless maternal loveliness is pretty unattainable. I also think its to blame for everything from the sense of creeping guilt that cripples some poor mums, to the manic sense of rivalry that leads others in a relentless quest to outdo their peers in the maternal perfection stakes. I’m not proud that I’m practically phobic about puke but I am proud that I’m getting better at compensating for my shortcomings.
No-one tells bedtime stories quite like I do, and I choose to believe that my kid is going to recall those magical made-up stories long after he’s forgotten the time I panicked in the face of projectile puke. Forget boundless maternal love that pretends it doesn’t occasionally curl up and die just a little bit – the ability to compensate for one’s shortcomings is what makes a mother truly awesome, in my books.
19 Sep 2010
in Guest Post Tags: Blog, Guest Post
I have another fantastic guest post arriving at 9am tomorrow morning and I am actually rather worried about posting it. You see, the author Heidi (visit her blog at Mums Rock) is extremely funny and I’m terrified that you’ll read her post, cry with laughter and then go to her blog instead of mine.
I am very shallow, yes.
This particular post was inspired by an incident that most parents fear. In fact, it makes grown men quake with terror. It is also excellent fodder for a pant-wettingly hilarious post. You have been warned…
See you tomorrow at 9am!
15 Sep 2010
in Guest Post, Saffa Tags: Blog, Fascinating, Guest Post, Saffa, South Africa
As promised, here is an interesting post from Jade from Now that I’m no longer 25… I know that I wish I was still under 30, gosh, I never creaked back then. Or put my back out opening the bin. Pah. Anyway, Jade visited South Africa and it really had an impact on her. I found her views really poignant. Enjoy…
Jade getting to know the locals...
I’ve only been to South Africa once so far but it is a country which has played on my thoughts since. I was both appalled and intrigued by my trip to Johannesburg. My return to the UK left me wanting to find out more about the country and its history.
I felt as if everything there was unusual and out of place from my common surroundings.
I travel quite a lot and I’ve never really had that feeling of such different surrounds, behaviours and attitudes.
There was definitely something different about being in South Africa, and Johannesburg in particular. Usually when I return from a trip I’m eager to blog about it and share my photos and stories, however, with this trip I took 6 months to describe what I thought of Jo’burg.
On arrival at Johannesburg the immigration staff were laughing and joking with each other while having a quick scan though my passport, a slightly different approach to the US customs officials!
I travelled by pre-booked taxi and I was amazed at the size of the city, it felt like one of the largest cities I had ever been in, this was both exciting and intimidating.
It was quite disorientated travelling from the airport which is quite unlike me, I usually have a pretty decent sense of direction.
I found Johannesburg both terrifying and compelling at the same time and I realised how little I know about a country in which there have been memorable and important events within my lifetime. I had heard stories about Johannesburg and seen snippets on the TV, for example, so I did arrive there with quite a lot of preconceived ideas.
I was staying with family too, so I had a different view of the city and the day to day living situation compared to if I’d been there as a lone tourist.
I passed by a township and I couldn’t even comprehend it having seen it with my own eyes, it was like watching a movie. I can’t even being to imagine what it’s like to live in those conditions. I did notice there seemed to be a strong sense of community, with groups sitting, chatting and laughing together.
I always find that no matter where people come from and what living situations they are in, almost everyone like to interact and laugh with someone else.
For many people there seems to be a constant thought or threat of something happening; with many people choose to live with electric fences, gates and panic buttons. This is so very different to what I’m used to in Scotland, not being able to walk down to the local shop or walk around the city is completely foreign to me.
I suppose if you grow up with these surrounding you accept them but I think I’d struggle to live like this and accept it as a normal way of life.
I couldn’t believe the difference between the wealthy people in Johannesburg and the people in the townships. In some ways there have been many changes since the overthrow of the apartheid government, but then again, there is still a long way to go.
I was really lucky to be able to visit Johannesburg and experience it, I’m glad I did and I would love to go back but I don’t think I could ever live there. I did have a really fun and interesting trip and it was great to catch up with family.
I got a glimpse of the beauty of this country, visiting the Elephant Sanctuary and also learned a lot more about what life’s like for some people in Johannesburg and the amazing contrasts that exist every day in this huge city.
Tamsin’s note: It really is a country of contrasts and a lot of work still needs to be done, but things are really changing for the better. And just look at that sunset. Oh man, that’s one of the things I crave from home.
14 Sep 2010
in Guest Post Tags: Blog, Guest Post, Saffa
Oh, you will NOT believe how lucky I am. I got a guest post from Jade over at Now that I’m no longer 25… If you have itchy feet, or want to travel the world from the comfort of your own sofa, then this is a blog to visit. Her recent visit to Napoli will have you dying to buy tickets and gallop over there yourself.
So brace yourselves for her interesting and insightful views on her first visit to South Africa. Oh yes, she went to my home country and it took her by surprise. This awesome post will be appearing tomorrow morning at 9am – be ready!
13 Sep 2010
in Guest Post, Knitting Mama Tags: Child, Geek Knit, Guest Post, Knitting, Mommy, Star Trek
This fabulous guest post comes from the lovely Rhian over at The Crafty Geek. She’s one talented lady and can knit socks like nothing else.
I’ve just started knitting my Tardis socks so I can testify that socks take quite a bit of getting used to, and Rhian has designed some for Simply Knitting! She’s awesome, funny, and brilliant. Enjoy…
I’ve always been ‘crafty’, whether that was cross stitch, knitting, card making or beading. Unsurprisingly many of my friends are the same. When my son Harry was born we received a gorgeous selection of hand-made clothes you couldn’t have bought in any shop.
From a crocheted Star Trek uniform and tie-dyed babygro to a huge selection of black knitted clothes from a goth friend (seriously, have you tried buying anything for young children in black? [It's almost IMPOSSIBLE ~Tam]), we were thrilled to be able to dress him in our friends’ talent. And his handmade clothes were always the ones singled out by other parents, who wanted to know where they could buy their own.
My own attempts at knitting for Harry were less successful. I completed what should have been a lovely cream jumper in 0-3 months size when pregnant; Harry is now nearly two and the jumper still lies in pieces in his cupboard – I never sewed it together. He’ll never wear it but I can’t quite bear to throw it away.
A blue Debbie Bliss cardigan and a cute knitted monkey still lie half done on the needles, stuffed on my craft shelf.
So knitting for Harry never really worked out. Truth be told, knitting had never been my favourite craft; cross stitch was my true love. But though I did continue with some commissioned pieces, stitching isn’t really the most practical craft round young babies. There are sharp needles and pointy scissors, and the fabric must be kept scrupulously clean at all times, as must your hands when working.
This picture is genius.
Then, when Harry was about two months old, I was finally convinced to give sock knitting a try. I’d heard it was addictive, but oh, I’d had no idea. Basic stocking stitch socks are fiddly in three places – the cast on, the heel, and the toe.
In between, it was just straight knitting, round and round and round. How many rounds could I get done in a nap? How many while Harry toppled piles of blocks over? I was hooked.
(Knitting does come with pointy sticks, yes, but they’re still not quite as lethal as scissors, nor as edible as a tapestry needle. Much more baby-friendly)
It’s now coming up for two years later, and it’s difficult to estimate how much time I’ve spent knitting socks since then – but it’s a lot. Sock knitting is the perfect mummy hobby. It’s fast, portable, and mistakes are generally easy to fix. Designs are as easy or as complicated as you choose.
If I can get my husband to push the buggy, I can knit while walking. I can pick them up and put them down as Harry is playing. When I’m in the mood, I can even knit socks for him (this still doesn’t happen very often; I am rubbish at knitting for my child). Compared to knitting jumpers, it’s also relatively cheap.
Rhian's own design...
And in the last year I’ve also been designing my own socks for a magazine; the perfect work at home mum solution.
I found maternity leave long and lonely; knitting brought me structure, achievements and new friendships. I thoroughly recommend it!
12 Sep 2010
in Slightly Insane Tags: Guest Post
Announcement! Haroooga! Haroooga!
Tomorrow morning at the wonderful hour of 9am I have my very first guest post going up. Oh yes! My excitement is beyond bounds. I am like a puppy, bouncing on my chair and wagging her tail.
Except for the bouncing and wagging as my back is out and I look like I need a zimmer frame. But ANYWAY!
So tomorrow morning the delightful, the delectable, the amazing Rhian will be posting on my blog. Be ready with a cup of coffee and enjoy.