My one year Londonversary!

I have been in London for a year already!  The time has flown!  What an exciting, exhilarating, amazing year this has been for me!  If I had told my 20 year old self that this is what I would be doing with my life at 44 I would not have believed me!

It’s weird because on the one hand I have had lots of time on my hands to do nothing, but when I put it all down on ‘paper’ I  can see just how much I have accomplished. This post is a tribute to my first year in London – all the places I have been in London, all the places I visited outside of London in the UK and my travels to other countries.  It’s a pretty impressive list, even though I say so myself!

July – Arrival which was coupled with a few stressful moments –  finding work and the accommodation debacle. Thank goodness Cait and I had our day out in London!  – Cait, Tait and Bi-Bim-Bap

August – I started work in August but prior to that I managed to get myself around quite a bit of the UK.  Nottingham (to visit Dan’s gran), Gloucestershire (to visit an old friend from SA), Cheltenham (to visit my cuz) and Malvern to visit my old friend Annabel where we had a marvellous time hobnobbing with the rich and famous! Also attended my first big festival in the UK: Nottinghill Carnival – what an absolute jol!

September – After only being in the UK for 2 months my only living parent (of which I had 3 originally), passed away suddenly.  Here is my tribute to my step-dad – On Becoming an Orphan

October – Little did I think that I’d be going back to South Africa so soon!  But I had to go for the funeral and sort out my dad’s affairs – I spent a hectic week in Cape Town

November – Went and saw The Lumineers as part of my birthday weekend and went to France for a long weekend!!!!

December – Went to Reading to my cousin for a few nights for Christmas and then of course, the main attraction of Dec 2016 and January 2017 – the Kids visit!!!!!

January – The Kids Epic Holiday in London

February – I did Dry February and Me First and the Gimme Gimmes this month.  MFATGG was the show I went to alone (but with Dan in my pocket)!

March – Back to South Africa to visit the family

April – Long weekend in Portugal – Lisboa you beauty!

June – I always love when I have visitors to the UK as it forces me to get out and about in London which I don’t tend to do when I’m on my own.  Extra special because it was the boyfriend who visited and we really got around this trip! Dan and Maria do London (and a bit of the countryside too!)

June – I LOVE AMSTERDAM!

July – Summer Concert in Hyde Park – main act was Green Day but we also got to the see The Hives, Gorgol Bordello and Rancid.  Hands down the best production I have ever been to!  Hands down the most sober I have ever been at a concert so maybe that’s why! 😉  Green Day played for 2hrs 45 minutes and their stage presence and interaction with the crowd was just amazing and heartwarming and yeah, I’m gushing.  🙂  We were in the middle of a rowdy group of people who moshed to most of the songs and everyone was making friends with everyone else, people were pissed and having a great time.  There are LOADS of videos on YouTube of this crazy event but the part that blew me away the most was when Green Day had a quick break and they played the music to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and the crowd sang every single word.  Watch this video to see and also to see how insanely BIG the crowd was – 65 000 people!!!!  If this doesn’t give you goosebumps, nothing will!

I’ve been in the same job since I arrived here and that too has been an interesting one as there have been times when its been super slow and boring and I was constantly weighing up the pros and cons of the job.  But for the most part I am really grateful to have a job with a great salary and very importantly, that I am able to walk to work, the little bit of exercise I do still get!

I will admit that the travel bug has bitten big time and what I’ve learned from all these quick adventures to other places, is that I would like to immerse myself into the culture of a country, to be able to take time to explore and learn things more deeply than you can when you go for a few days.

Which is why I am doing the TEFL course so that I can go to South America and stay there for as long as I can afford to, living with the people, learn a new language, and really explore … the country, and myself.  I love London and I am so happy here but I definitely feel like I do not want to just be here now.  I need new experiences and new adventures and that is what I am working towards with London’s help – as its paying me the salary I need in order to save enough! 😉  No more travelling for Maria this year!  It’s all serious from here on out – study, save and get slim is my new mantra for the next six months!

AMSTERDAM: Where bicycles rule the road!

So the only way I’ve discovered so far to make my photos not wonk out TOO much is only to put captions on the ones that are rectangular, not square – I had so many pretty square pics that I couldn’t disregard them but those will be the ones without captions – the others should hopefully be descriptive enough!

OK, so where to start about the Amsterdam trip … to put it in a sentence which deserves all caps:

AMSTERDAM BLEW MY MIND!!!!!

I’ve spent a long time on this post trying to put into words why I was so blown away by it.  I think it was partly because Amsterdam was something that Mnandi, Jo, Mike and I had decided on doing over a year ago.  Mike and Jo were coming to the UK for Jo’s daughter’s wedding and they decided we should all go to Amsterdam for a long weekend together. Tickets were booked ages ago and Mnandi (having been there before) booked the accommodation.  For those that know me, know that if I am to go to another country/city with other people who know their way around, I tend to not get involved.  I like the element of surprise and am generally quite amenable when it comes to doing things i.e. I have no set agenda so happy to do what the rest want to do as long as we keep busy and see as much as possible.  I think what I am trying to say here is that I had no preconceived ideas about Amsterdam.  I knew that you can smoke weed in the open and that buying soft drugs is legal and acceptable.  And that cheese, clogs and the Red Light District seem to be Amsterdam’s other claim to fame.  Well, let me tell you dear readers, we did all of this AND MORE!!!

What I didn’t expect:

  • Was to be able to read all the road signs because Dutch is so similar to Afrikaans
  • To be able to understand people when greeting and other similar sentences because it’s SO similar to Afrikaans
  • The friendliness of the people
  • The immense amount of bicycles and that bicycles rule the road and that you don’t find 4 story car-parks, you find 4 story bike-parks!
  • To see mothers with as many as three children with them on their bikes – no helmuts!
  • No road rage, considering there are bicycles, scooters, cars AND trams all contending for the same road space – still, bicycles rule.
  • For my Facebook photo of me licking a giant penis in the Sex Museum to get so many Likes? And comments. I mean really, who died and made everyone a prude!
  • That you really can walk into a coffee shop (of which there are many) and buy weed (and then smoke it there, or in the park, or in the street, pretty much anywhere except the apartment).
  • That you can buy mushrooms and various other mind enhancing chemicals at what is called a Smart Shop (the sign of a mushroom above the shop lets you know you have found the right spot).
  • That I would not see one homeless person in the entire time we were there (not saying that aren’t around, but with the amount of town we covered I think its safe to say that there aren’t many, if any).
  • The beauty and cleanliness of the buildings
  • The architecture – we saw some really modern buildings
  • To puke in the middle of the street and for no-one to bat an eyelid!
Our very first expedition was to the Rijks Museum where we spent a lot of hours looking at art

 

 

 

 

 

Here is the gang looking at some art on the ceiling
Here we are at the Cheese Tasting expedition. We got to eat a shit load of cheese!  The green cheese below has basil pesto in it!

Here I am at the Van Gogh Museum. I am not really an arty person but I thoroughly enjoyed my museum experiences – so much history!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Said by Salvador Dali – what a legend! Our last cultural expedition was to the Banksy and Dali exhibition. Mind blowing!!!!
No explanation needed: Powerful words by Banksy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mike and Jo playing silly buggers at the Banksy exhibition. The tag line for their Onatural line is Keeping it Real so this was very apt!
The photo on FB that got so many comments! My one friend said she thought it was a giant ice-cream without her glasses on and when she went in to take a closer look she got quite a fright!!! ROFL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Us at the Ice-bar! We could only stay for 15 minutes because two of us were wearing open shoes and it was pretty cold in there!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vondel Park – where we spent a very happy morning watching the world go by

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here people suntan in the park!
The scene above when looking from below

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our evening on a river boat in the canal. I’m sure its a very different animal when the weather is cooler – the day we went felt like we could have been on a dam in Caledon (except for houseboats of course)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Us enjoying the evening and the awesome architecture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eat, drink and be merry! Dan and Maria do London (and a bit of the countryside too)!

Please excuse the layout of this post – really struggling with how my photos are posting now that I have to retrieve them from the Cloud.  If anyone has any suggestions of how to fix this, please do let me know!

Daniel’s recent trip to visit me was the catalyst, the straw that broke the camel’s back, the tipping point, the last straw – whatever you want to call it – that caused me to start my new regime of eating less.  For two weeks we ate and drank continuously.  We ate out every day, at least twice a day and drank copious amounts of alcohol.  Besides him going to visit his gran for two nights we spent every moment together and it was awesome. Sadly, too awesome.  It was his first visit to me since I have been in the UK and it has been hard without him since he left.  All my bravado about long distance has gone out of the window a bit but that’s a story for another day.

Here are some highlights of our trip.

The Book of Mormon – excellent show by the makers of South Park.  I was a bit dubious going in, knowing how contentious South Park is and knowing the show is about religion and ‘making fun’ of Africa and things going on there.  However, what they addressed really IS going on – like genital mutilation of women being one example.  I really did not find it any way demeaning (even though there was a shitload of swearing)!  I came away from that show knowing more about Mormonism – what an absolute joke that people really believe all that shyte – and seeing that people can laugh about things that are actually real and hectic issues.  The songs were all very catchy and easy to hear and continued the story. It flowed well and every single character was easy to like and enjoy.  I would definitely go and watch it again – in fact I want to take Nicholas to see it in December and get his take on it.

Image result for the book of mormon

After the show (we went to the matinee) Daniel said that he really wished we could go and see a comedy show.  We tried Google to see if we could find one close by, but nothing came up.  Then lo and behold, while we were walking around, a guy came up to us with flyers to a comedy club with a 20% discount for that very night – in an hour’s time!  And oh what an interesting night that was!  There were 3 comedians and all of them pontificated about politics and racism (all men, 1 White, 1 Black and 1 Indian).  A lot of the stuff I didn’t understand as I am still coming to grips with British politics but the interesting part about it all was the reaction of the crowd!  People were walking out and saying they hadn’t come here to watch this shyte kind of vibe.  Even though I didn’t get some of it, I still found it funny but yeah, the people walking out definitely put an even more interesting slant on the evening.  It was really fun!

Wicked – Wicked is the story of the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz story.  Took a well known story and put a different slant on it.  The acting and costumes and sets were all brilliant and the twist in the story was great.  A lot of people apparently go to this one many times. Definitely a once off for me and Dan.

Camden Market – One can never get tired of browsing around Camden. Always some funny characters to see and be entertained by and of course, the food selection is just INSANE.  In fact, we took so long to eat there because we couldn’t decide.  We eventually chose a Hungarian food stall because it had tables you could sit at and we needed to rest for a bit.  We probably chose THE most unhealthy option in the whole place as well!

This guy was giving away hugs – actually no, it wasn’t free hugs, he wanted to get paid to impart them! Bloody cheek – the funny thing is people were gagging for it!!! And putting in NOTES nogal!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in Soho – Dan and Don (the gran’s boyfriend) had surprised the gran.  Dan by not telling her he was coming to the UK for a visit and Don by arranging a weekend in London with us and not telling her.  We managed to keep it a secret so gran was VERY surprised to see Daniel at her front-door when he arrived.  And then even more surprised and thrilled that they would be coming to London for the weekend!  Anyway, jazz is not our thing but we went because they wanted to and it was another nice surprise for gran.  It turned out to be such a fun afternoon.  A band called The Jive Aces were the act and they were funny and very good.  The songs were all tunes that people know from movies or adverts.  We chose to eat there and the food was excellent, albeit a bit pricey. The show lasts about an hour and a half.  Definitely worth a  visit, especially if you have older folk visiting and not sure what to do with them.  It does require booking way in advance though.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Had to get this picture – of Dan looking at some art! LOL. Not his cup of tea really – National Arts Museum 

After the show we wandered around Central for a while and by the time we got back to Richmond, it was time for a pint at what had become our local in the short time that Daniel had been here.  Turns out it was open mic night and we had the most fabulous time listening to all the talented people having a go!  Daniel’s gran and her man are such good sports and I think they had a better time than us!  Lots of wine was consumed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Queen’s Rose Garden – Regent’s Park – Did not know about this part of the park and was so pleasantly surprised by how beautiful it was.  So many variations of roses and they all smelled different and beautiful!  Lovely place to go if you want to propose marriage to the love of your life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slam Dunk Festival – The whole reason Dan came to visit when he did, was because we wanted to go and watch one of his favourite bands play at a festival in Hertfordshire – Mad Caddies.  So we spent two days doing this. One day to get there and go to the festival and the next day to recover and get home.  It was a very interesting experience to say the least. Coming from a background of years and years of trance party experience (with one rock festival – Ramfest) in there too, this was totally different!  Even if I just compare the Ramfest experience with this one because the genre of music is similar, it was still so different.  Or maybe it was just because we didn’t know anyone so there was not that familiar vibe of walking around and bumping into people.  Or maybe it was because it was gently drizzling the entire time.  It was still really fun though!  The bands we wanted to watch were all great, the sound was amazing and we had a fat jol.   We tried really hard to get drunk but that didn’t happen – not sure if they watered down the drinks or what (they were rather cheap). Anyway, probably for the best because we got to go home and enjoy the quaint little hotel we were staying in and were not at ALL hungover for the free breakfast in the morning!  We even went for a little walk in the town before hopping on our bus to the station.

When last did you see a hotel that still gives you a key to the room! So quaint!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our stay in Bradford-On-Avon.  The second week of Daniel’s visit we decided to drive up to Bath for 4 nights.  Turns out we had booked a cottage on a farm in a town about 15 minutes outside of Bath. It was so beautiful and exactly what we needed after a hectic ten days of being on the go non-stop.  We had lots of big ideas about seeing as much as we possibly could in those 4 days – maybe even driving up to Wales – but the moment we got there we were so overcome by exhaustion and the beauty of the area that we literally didn’t leave for 2 days.  There was a farm stall 5 minutes walk from us with milk and cream straight from the cow, fresh, HAPPY meat and everything else we needed so all I did those first days was cook!  LOTS of food and drink consumed.  We managed to make it into the village on the third day – SO old!  And on the last day we caught the train into Bath, did the hop on, hop off tours and in so doing, managed to see as much of Bath as possible in one day.  We left feeling revitalised which is the main thing.

Famous Roman Baths, in Bath. Interesting history …
Us getting romantic – we drank wine and played Rummikub every night we were there – it was so frikking cool!!!
This tearoom we went to dated back to 1502 – all the waitresses were dressed like they came out of the 1800’s and the teacups looked like we were at grandma’s house. That’s Dan taking a sugar cube from the sugar cube bowl. Neither of drink sugar in our coffee but we put one in just for shits and giggles!
We spent about three hours walking around this tiny town. SO OLD!
A picture of me and the surrounding scenery on one of our walks! Beautiful!! 😉
This umbrella installation, seen in a passageway in Bath, so innovative and colourful!
One of our many meals – this pizza was really good!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is no set date yet for Daniel’s next visit – he has to at least pretend to run his business for a while again – but that doesn’t stop me from nagging him about booking his next ticket at every opportunity.  😉  Can’t wait for our next adventure!

 

 

 

The WEIGHT blog series : Chapter 1

There is always so much hype in the media about women embracing their body shape and not trying to aspire to how the models in magazines look. I’ve decided to write about my experience – mainly because I have picked up a lot of weight since moving to the UK and none of my 44 years of experience of my body has anything to do with me wanting to look like a model in a magazine.

This is my story, my body and my opinions ….

As a child I remember my mother continually getting on the scale and saying she was fat.  She wasn’t.  She never told me that I was fat but she had VERY strict ideas about eating.  A person should have three meals a day and should never want more than that.  As a lot of people know, as a child, you aren’t ready for breakfast by the time you wake up and are hustled off to school so by ‘first break’ you are starving and you eat your lunch. Therefore no lunch at lunch time, then sport, so by the time you get home by 4 pm you are absolutely STARVING!  My mother would NOT allow me to eat when I got home because after all, she had packed me a healthy, substantial lunch and we would be eating supper in two hours.  Because my mother was often ill, she spent most afternoons sleeping and I became the world’s most stealthy secret eater.  My mother was fastidious about cleanliness so you must imagine that for me to cut 4 slices of bread (this was before all bread came already sliced (best invention EVER!) and butter them and use a spread such as cheese or Marmite was an absolute feat of ingenuity.  So I would do this pretty much every afternoon and when supper time came I was stuffed.  But I had to eat my food (and every single morsel of it) because to leave anything would be wasteful and cause an argument.  To this day I cannot leave anything on my plate and get anxious if other people leave food on theirs.  Everything must go!

I don’t remember worrying too much about my weight or how I looked during my high school years.  I did obviously care but it wasn’t an obsession or anything.  I became obsessed after I had my first child.  After that I was convinced that I would be labelled – put into that bracket of once you have a kid you just let yourself go.  And that’s what started the obsession for me – it was not about wanting to look like a model but more about worrying about the perception people would have of me.  Maybe it was because I was an extremely young mom (20 when I had her), I can’t recall, but I just remember that I was totally obsessed with remaining thin.  I was frighteningly thin by the time she was 2 years old.  I took diet pills and all I ate every day was a tiny bit of supper.  Nothing else passed my lips except coffee and cigarettes during the day.

Then, when I wanted to have my second child I was in a real quandary.  I didn’t want to give up the diet pills because I knew my appetite would return with a vengeance.  But I also didn’t want to put on weight.  So I did my research and worked out, very carefully when I would ovulate.  So I would take the pills all the way up until I ovulated and then wouldn’t take them again until I knew I wasn’t pregnant.  This lasted six months until I did fall pregnant and because I was SO thin when I fell pregnant I ended up putting on 25 kgs.  I will admit to binging on King Pie and croissants while pregnant though!  The moment I stopped breastfeeding, back to the old regime and all the weight came off.

Then the worst thing happened – the active ingredient in the pills – ephedrine – was suddenly made illegal and the pills stopped working.  It was around this time that my first marriage broke up and life got really hectic with lots of parties and stress and trying to cope with two little ones so the weight stayed off.  I did also start being very conscious about what I ate and always made sure the children ate healthy food and snacks. As my girls got older my regime was also for them – I wanted them to be proud of their mother who still looked good and looked after herself. Throughout all this time I had also been a gym bunny – since the age of 15.  Obsessed!

I chatted to my girls about it when I decided to write this blog and they both remember me caring about my body and what I put into it.  They remember me always being good about my weight, eating healthy food and gyming a lot.  I asked them if I had negatively or positively influenced how they looked and felt about themselves and their bodies and they said not at all really.  They both said I was always very honest with them when they did put on weight or lose it again.  Khaya said I once told her that she would never be anorexic because she loves food too much!  I still haven’t been proven wrong! 😉

I was very conscientious when the kids were growing up and that started changing towards the end of my time in South Africa because by then Nick was in boarding school and the girls weren’t living with me but I was still VERY active.  I was walking up Lions Head once a week before work, going for some kind of marathon run or Impi Challenge pretty much every weekend and was still gyming or walking before work.

London changed all that.  This is what happened:  First of all, because I walk everywhere, I got it into my mind that I could eat anything.  Walking does NOT make you lose weight – especially if you are eating as much as I was.  Also, the food here is so darn cheap!  You can buy a big packet of Nachos for 46p!  You can buy a sandwich for £1.  You can buy a jar of peanut butter for 65p!  You can buy a 6 pack of doughnuts for 50p!  Those big Cadbury Oreo chocolate bars – £1!!!  And because I have never been good at portion control, this was not good for me and my waist-line!

Also, going back to my previous post about my more sedentary lifestyle and herein lies the problem.  I have really enjoyed doing nothing and that includes not having to cook or get off my arse!  It’s not like I didn’t enjoy going to gym and all the walks and epic hikes (I loved them) but when I got here I welcomed the change as well.  I didn’t miss the walks and was completely happy and blissful reading or watching movies in bed all weekend (with my snacks!!).  The cold weather helps with that.  And when its summer here, its so darn hot and muggy you don’t feel like working up a sweat either!

THAT HAS TO CHANGE!  But the reason I want it to change is not because I want to look like that skinny model in the magazine.  It’s because I know I am not being good to ME.  I know that I don’t need to eat as much as I do and I don’t need to be SO lazy.  I don’t even care how much weight I lose.  I just want to be the best me I can be.  That will probably never be the active, go-getting me of five years ago.  But I feel that I need to reach some kind of compromise between current me and previous me and get to a place where I feel comfortable in my skin again – and hopefully my jeans too!

I have never really dieted properly without the help of some kind of dieting substance so this time I have to go on sheer willpower.  I am scared.  Very, very scared because I LOVE putting food in my mouth.  I am not sure if that’s because of my secret eating of my childhood or because I deprived myself of food for so many years but whatever it is, the obsession is real.

I had a great year of eating whatever I wanted, when I wanted and being lazy and just enjoying doing nothing if that’s what I felt like doing.  But by the same token, as much as I wanted to be a great role-model for my girls when they were growing up, now it’s about me and being the best me I can be FOR MYSELF.

I don’t know how other women feel but I just feel that if you know you are doing the best that you can for your body and yourself and even if that means you aren’t model thin, then surely you can be happy in your body and enjoy it.

If I could talk to my 20-year old self (which it seems is all the rage today), I am not sure I would tell her any different.  Yes, what she did was stupid and she is lucky that she still has a metabolism, but isn’t that what life is about?  Learning from life and using what you learn to become wiser.  In my mid-40’s I realise that if I want to do this I have to do it with nothing but willpower to power this.  The long and the short of it – for me and my body – is that the less I eat, the less I weigh, and the better I feel.  Simple as that.

I will write another blog about this soon and let you know how I am getting on.  If anyone has any tips or stories of their own to share about this very sensitive subject I would love to hear from you.

My previous life

Every time a person asks me what I have tattooed on my leg it makes me realise how far removed I am from my old life.  I actually want to say to these people:  Those are the names of my children, the children I had in a previous life.  I think about this a lot.  I think it’s because when I was living that life I couldn’t imagine my life being any different or that it would ever end.  Having three children spaced apart by first four years and then five years meant that I had young children for a very long time.  Also because I had them so young for the first 23 years of my adult life, I was a mom.  It was all consuming.  And so today, in this new life of mine, it completely amazes me that I no longer have that life.  My life could not be further from that life.  I feel a bit like Benjamin Button.  Like I literally have the life now that people normally have in their twenties.  Even the people who like me, had kids young, seem to already have grandkids and are therefore still in the family lifestyle mode.

It makes me wonder if people who have kids when they are older, can actually see that there is life post kids or is it the same for everyone – even if you did have ‘life before kids’, when you are in it, does it feel for everyone that there will be no end to the sleepless nights, the constant meal-making, the constant dependence they have on you (even when they are no longer children and are teenagers, they are still dependent in terms of needing lifts here and there, help with homework and studying, support, love and attention).  

For so long I was a mom and wife first and foremost.  Nowadays people meet me and unless it comes up, I am just a person, Maria, who recently moved from South Africa to live in London.  I am not sure how I feel about that.  Maria IS a mom and will always be one, no matter where I am in the world or what I am doing.  Three very important pieces of me are my kids, yet they are not all encompassing anymore.  

I’m writing this post because this is something that has been on my mind a lot but also to get other people’s viewpoints on how they experienced or are experiencing motherhood.  Does or did it feel all consuming to you too with the feeling that it will/would never end.  If that has come out negatively it was not meant to.  I loved being a mom when my kids were growing up and I think I was a pretty good one but I do remember thinking at times that it would never end; and being so very weary a lot of the time.  This is why we should listen when older people say, enjoy every moment, because before you know it, they will be all grown up.  That precious time when they are young and completely yours is so fleeting.    

I think that’s also why I am so sedentary in my new life now.  There is no need to jump out of bed in the morning and race around making sure everyone has everything they need.  So I don’t.  I can lie in bed all weekend if I so wish, and sometimes I do.  I can eat toast and butter for dinner every night and sometimes I do.  My time is my own and I am free. Having said all that, I do miss the morning cuddles.  I do miss seeing everything through the eyes of a toddler.  Every worm on the grass, every puppy in the street, every fish in the aquarium, every programme on TV is met with pure delight.  I miss getting cards that say You are the best mommy in the whole world (although I did get a really awesome card this Mothers Day that said ‘You’re Not Like Regular Moms.  You’re a COOL MOM!’)  It’s such a double-edged sword because while I don’t necessarily want that again, in fact I know I don’t, and I love that I am finally at a place where my time is my own, I do think back to it and wish I had been more present and more grateful for what I had.

I read mommy blogs from moms who struggled to have kids and I appreciate how much they appreciate that their kids are a gift and a miracle.  I planned two of my three children and wanted all of them very much so it’s not like I didn’t appreciate the gift I was given.  But by the same token, as much as a mom who desperately wants a child after years of waiting, after waiting 23 years of adult life, I appreciate every single day I wake up alone in my comfy bed to do exactly what I want to do.  The problem though, is that I’ve gotten lazy.  Because of the frenetic lifestyle of my previous life which was constantly on the go – when I have a choice now I often choose to do nothing.  The thought of getting up and going for a run does not do it for me anymore.  I’m definitely fatter and lazier for not having young kids anymore!   

Being a mom is the best thing I have ever done and will always be the best thing I have ever done, no matter how much I accomplish.  Their accomplishments are mine and I could not be prouder of the young adults they are today.  I didn’t provide them with the perfect childhood but it was certainly interesting.  Love and miss them more every day!

The Bucket List Blog – Chapter 6: The Future

I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching since starting the Bucket List blog series.  So instead of this blog post being about the top 10 places in the world I really still want to visit (which was the original aim), its going to be about my immediate future plans.  Writing this series made me realise that there were a few things I wanted to do when I was married that I was really passionate about, and that I would still like to do.  Going through all the photos and memories and my journal, reignited some smoldering fires that have clearly not gone out!

Two things spring to mind first and foremost.  I wanted to go and save turtles in Costa Rica and I wanted to become a teacher.  Saving turtles in Costa Rica was a ‘I need to find myself’ cry for help when the stresses and strains of being a mom and a wife and a go-between was all getting too much for me.  But of course that idea didn’t sit well with anyone and volunteer work such as that, requires you as the volunteer to actually pay to do the work.  But now, this is something I could potentially do.

The other thing I wanted to do was become a teacher.  But changing careers and studying and then becoming a low paid teacher in South Africa was not really feasible either.

BUT NOW, the world is my oyster and so the plan is to do a TEFL course, learn Spanish and then go and teach English as a foreign language (hopefully in Costa Rica so that I can save some turtles too) but if not there, anywhere in South America.

And that dear readers, is my next quest.  It probably means that I am not going to have too much new material for the next while as I settle down to studying on the weekends and save every last cent I have in order to fund my time away, but I do have a few holidays that I have not blogged about yet (Daniel in London and Amsterdam) and a few things on my mind that I wish to share … so don’t panic as the drought is not imminent. 🙂

The Bucket List Blog – Chapter 5: France & Spain

This would be my first overseas road trip and what a trip it was!  It had all the elements of a Thelma and Louise experience, except we didn’t kill anyone, including ourselves – oh ok, the only similarity was that it was two women in a top down convertible, going on a road trip to get away from it all.

The trip started in France – actually, no, the trip started in the UK.  I sneakily booked my ticket to the UK so that I could spend a couple of nights with Dan (only did Dan this time, not London as well) and then headed off to Gatwick where I met Annabel.  We flew to Toulouse and that is where all the fun started.  First of all, even though we had been told that no-one speaks English in France, we didn’t really believe it, I mean after all, everyone speaks English right.  Wrong!  Not even the people at the airport.  So there was an issue with the deposit for the car, and we also needed to hire a satnav and all of this contributed to it getting later and later, with the worry that we would arrive at our destination in the dark.  Anyway, we finally get the car, and head out onto the freeway, but everything is on the wrong side of the road.  Annabel is driving in what she thinks is the slow lane, but everyone is hooting at us and pulling the middle finger.  It took us a while to realise that because everything was done in reverse, so too was the fast lane!  We got hopelessly lost on our way there and had to stop at a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere to ask for directions – so mainly hand gestures were used.  I cannot even remember how we actually managed to find the place, but we did, and as I recall it was dusk, so we made it just in time.

We spent a few lovely days in Mauvezin with my family, eating, swimming, drinking and generally just having a chilled time.  Photos here under to prove it!

The house (mansion) we stayed in. Annabel and I were in the servants quarters section which was still bloody marvellous
Chilling – writing in my journal, which is in SA so I have to write everything in this blog from memory!
Drinking
Intellectualising – I’m sure I just had that out for the photo opportunity
Swimming
Each family had a night to cook. On our night Annabel made her mom’s famous chicken stew in wine which went down a treat.  Here I am preparing food for 12 adults and 8 kids, thank goodness we only had to do it once!
The area was alive with sunflowers as well … fields and fields as far as the eye could see, very beautiful!

After 3 days we were on our way to Barcelona.  We decided to take the scenic route over the Pyrenees which took us about 6 hours.  We had every type of weather on that trip.  One minute we had the top down of the car, the next we were being attacked by hail.  There were cows in the road and at some points we couldn’t even see the weather was so bad.  All on the wrong side of the road – nail biting stuff I tell ya!  Anyway, we clearly lived to tell the tale as here we are.

We spent a week in Barcelona which was amazing, a must see city!  We did the hop on, hop off bus tour which is a really good way to get around the city and get a feel for where everything is.  We didn’t do this because we only did the bus a few days in, but a good idea would be to do the bus on the first day, don’t get off but get a feel for the areas and then use it to hop on, hop off when you know exactly where you want to go.  From tanning naked on the beach, to exploring the food market, to the best wine tasting experience of my life, Barcelona was a blast!  Colourful, exciting and busy.  Here are some pics in no particular order.

Our ride! About to set off for our next adventure
Evidence of said treacherous drive – there were cows at every turn! Note that we are on the cliff hanging side of the road, which made it even worse!
Evidence photo No. 2 – words cannot describe …
Our first meal in Barcelona – the first of lots of tapas meals!
Duff beer – for anyone who loves the Simpsons!

Famous food market in Barcelona, La Rambla. I loved the colours most of all! So bright and cheerful
Our spoils from the food market – more tapas!

Spent just 2 days on the beach, and tanned topless, but obviously couldn’t put the topless photos on here! There is evidence though! 😉
Much of the architecture in Barcelona was created by Gaudi. This building for example is situated between two very ordinary buildings – they are dotted everywhere. Fascinating!
In case this photo is not self-explanatory. Very happy Maria – burnt and drinking beer, life is good!
Cheese and wine pairing – part of our wine tasting experience
Me acting very fancy – think I pulled it off! In Spain, you are actually expected to drink the wine, not swirl and spit. Also they give you such generous ‘tastes’ – like half a glass each time.

 

I’ve done a lot of wine tours/tasting in my time and this one stuck out because of the vast history, dating back far longer than any South African vineyard can boast. It was also immense and we had to travel around by underground train which was very exciting too! It really was a WOW experience.
Our last tasting of the day – CAVA! Which is the Spanish version of champagne. Have loved the Freixenet Cava ever since. And it’s not tooooo expensive at Tesco!
Another building by Gaudi taken while on our bus tour
Paella!!! We ate quite a bit of this too!

All in all a fun and educational holiday experience.  In keeping with what I want to take away from holidays it had all the elements I desire.  Sun, sea, fun, good food, good drink, with a wee bit of culture in the mix!