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!

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 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!

The Bucket List Blog – Chapter 2: The UK & Turkey

The next adventure was overseas!  And not long after the first time – in March/April 2006.  As I said the bug had bit and we were amped.  There were two factors to the next trip.  Ex-husband No. 2’s mom lived in London and she had been wanting us to visit for a while, and, well, more importantly to us at the time, there was to be a full solar eclipse in Turkey.  At the time we were avid trance heads, going to as many parties as we could with a small child and limited cash.  But as most people know, if you have a passion for something, you generally make a plan.  So when it became known that a trance festival was being held in Turkey for the solar eclipse we thought it the perfect opportunity to attend a massive SEVEN DAY festival, see the solar eclipse and see a bit of London.  The plan evolved into taking our son with us, who was three at the time, dropping him off in London with his nana while we went and partied hard for seven days.

Unfortunately all the photos I have of that trip are actual photos and if there are digital copies, I don’t know where they are.  Said actual photos being somewhere in a box in South Africa. So I will need to regale you, avid readers, through imagination and wit.  And a little help from the video below.

We spent 4 days in London before leaving for Turkey and had an amazing time.  That was my very first time in the UK and I was hooked the moment I arrived.  It was late March and all the blossoms were out as were the daffodils and it was just so different to South Africa.  I suddenly realised that I had an affinity with old buildings and architecture, something I didn’t realise before.  We did all the touristy things you can do with a three year old.  So it was the Natural History Museum where we saw the life-size, life-like dinosaurs – I will never forget Nic’s face when he saw the dinosaurs move.  It was a boat ride on the Thames, it was Trafalgar Square to look at the pigeons.  It was the Science Museum for a ride in the rocket shuttle and we even managed to go and see a play at the West End (Les Mis), which was obviously without the three old.  We packed a lot into those few days but finally we were off on our festival holiday and we could not wait.

After a 3 hour flight and a bus ride, we arrived at the venue, where we had to complete the last leg of the journey in an open air truck – think woollen scarves and hats and frozen faces and smiles by the time we got there – it was late March in Europe after all, not that warm!  Dawn was breaking when we were dropped off with our tents and backpacks and as romantic as that sounds you must remember that we had been doing trance parties for a fair amount of years now so sunrise was a time of day we were quite used to 😉  Dawn in Turkey looked exactly like dawn in Elgin or Grabouw or Stanford or Caledon.  I felt like I had travelled 6 000 miles to a place that looked exactly like every other trance party I had ever gone to.  It was a let down to say the least.  I think it’s because the entire travel had been done in the dark so there was no sense of looking out of the plane onto foreign landscape; it literally felt like we had been transported back to a party in our backyard.  Then, to make matters worse, about three hours after we arrived, and erected the tent and were just getting into the party vibe, the heavens opened and the entire party flooded, not just rain but hail the size of grapes nogal!  (If you have three minutes to spare, please watch the first three minutes of this video which gives a graphic, blow by blow account of how bad this flash flood was).  It was so bad that the main stage was completely destroyed and for the first four days of the party a smaller rig and set up was used while they fixed it.

See what I mean?  As you can imagine, this did not put me in the best of spirits.  The rest of the party remained muddy and no amount of party essentials could really completely take me away from the fact that I was living in a soggy tent, all my clothes were wet and I was going to be there for the next seven days.  To top it off, the toilets were disgusting and the queues for everything were long.

The piece de resistance and what made the whole party was the amazing solar eclipse and to be there for that made the whole journey worth it.  (Minutes 7 to 8 on the video although I don’t feel this video really captures the essence of what was such an amazing celestial happening).  Some solar eclipses, even though they are full, can be very quick and can also occur towards the beginning or the end of the day when the light is not at its fullest anyway.  This eclipse was at around 1 pm and the full eclipse lasted about 4 minutes with the entire process taking a couple of hours.  The music was stopped when the eclipse took place and the birds started chirping as the ‘sun went down’.  It was such an amazing experience and to be surrounded by thousands of like minded people was mind blowing.  After the eclipse was over the music was mental – the whole South African crew that went to the party, all converged at the river for an afternoon of connection, love and light.

The eclipse was on day 2 of the seven day experience.  I lasted 4 days and tried really hard to enjoy it and lose my mind but when the drugs stopped working (and I had had enough of the filthy toilets and the freezing cold nights) and started thinking about the fact that here I am in Turkey and I am not going to see anything except this forest, I told ex-husband No. 2 that if he didn’t get me out of there and into the City to see some sights, there would be huge issues.  He must have been feeling the same way because soon we were on a bus to Antalya where we found a cheapish hotel which was all inclusive.  I have NEVER been so happy to see a proper toilet in my life.  And NEVER been so happy to have food in my belly.  That experience had been harrowing.  Thank god there is a solar eclipse experience as a reason to have done an international trance party because if there wasn’t I would feel very foolish to have made that journey just for a party.

I managed to find two photos of me at the party on my Facebook.   I’m looking happy so I’m sure they were taken either on the first day or the last day when I knew we were leaving!!!

We had three days left and we made the most of them.  We hired a car and went to all sorts of ruins.  We found a really cool cheap apartment and wondered around, going into shops and drinking apple tea with the proprietors.  We went on a tour to a leather factory and a diamond factory and I swam in the Mediterranean.  The memories are a bit hazy after 10 years but I know I felt relieved and grateful that we had managed to see a bit of the city we were so close to and so close to not actually seeing.

Birds eye view of Antalya – imagine we had missed seeing this!

Perfecting the long distance relationship

For those who know me and Daniel, you know that we have been together for almost five years and of those five years, we have spent probably half of them living in different countries.  To say that ours is an unconventional relationship would be putting it mildly.  If after a year of being together, someone had asked me to put money on whether or not we would still be together, I would most definitely have bet for not, and lost.  We have been through a lot in the last few years – both my parents passed away and Daniel’s mom and grandfather too.  Daniel’s mom’s passing was especially tragic as it was cancer, it was quick and she was only 49.  So we have been through stuff.  I have watched Dan grow from a computer game obsessed young man who would get to bed at 3am every night into a man who now owns his own business.  It’s funny that one of the main reasons he started his own business was so that he could sleep late and not have to negotiate heavy traffic and taxis every morning and evening.  Yet, he is up at 6:30 every morning now raring to go.  He has bought a bike and so even if he does have to ‘go into the office’ he can do so with ease.

I thought that everyone who is in a long distance relationship would have thought about the things we do to keep the relationship alive but apparently not.  Everyone I tell thinks it’s completely unique and cute (or else they are vomiting behind our backs, who knows?).  But in the interest of keeping a long distance relationship going strong here are some tips to keep the romance alive.

The long and the short of it is this – when you are not out and about with friends, which of course should still happen as it would in the normal course of events, do everything together.  With the technology we have today this is completely doable.  You can cook together, shower together and then get into bed and talk, choose a movie or a series and watch together, just as you would if at home..  Once in bed at the end of the day, Dan and I Skype for a while and catch up on our days.  Then we put the same movie/series on on Netflix, get to the same point in the show and then press play.  Skype minimises to the top right hand corner and voila, you are watching a movie together.  In some ways it’s better as both of you can fart in the bed and it doesn’t affect the other! 😉

OK, so there is the very real problem of missing the physical aspect of the relationship and yes, that’s the worst part about being separated, no mistake!  But we all know that there are ways around that and while there can never be physical touching while apart there are loads of ways to enjoy each other’s company and still keep the romance alive.  Like taking him into the shower with you.  Or going sexy underwear shopping with the whatsapp camera on.  And then getting home and putting it on.  We have called it the ‘laptop dance’ and it works wonders for keeping things exciting! 😉

For most people in long distance relationships, they are apart for a reason that is important for the future, the goal is that you will be together again and the end goal is making a life together.  Otherwise you would not do it.  As its hard.  But these days the time apart does not have to be a negative thing.  It can be a time of spicing things up, enjoying yourselves in a way you might not be able to when eventually together.

A few weekends ago a band that we both really like played a show in London and he asked me to go and ‘take him with me’.  As it was last minute and a pretty obscure band, no one I knew wanted to go with me so I essentially did go alone. That was a huge ask but I did it because I knew that he would appreciate it, and he did.  Even though I kept muting the sound by mistake when sending videos and the wifi was not great on the Whatsapp call, it was certainly a unique and memorable experience.  It got me out and about to a place and a show I had not seen before and it was worth it for having given Daniel the experience too, albeit a bit smudgy and wonky.

I miss my partner immensely but we are basically together at every opportunity chatting and catching up, our lives are still very much intertwined. My heart is full.  I feel lucky to be in London with a boyfriend who is happy for me to be here and who understands that my life is here now and that he needs to make the move over here and live with me eventually.  I understand that may take a while because he has a business to grow and that making the move to the UK might be a challenge.  It’s also great to know that while that is our immediate future goal, our long-term future is still fluid.  I will admit that its not always easy.  I have had to practice patience which is not my strong suit.  It gets tiring always going out on your own even though you have a partner.  But its also fun to go and then be able to tell them all about it afterwards.  I guess there are loads of couples out there who wish for the day they could get some distance in their relationship.  I guess its all relative and we need to do what feels right.  In the past I fought this relationship every step of the way because I thought that the age-gap was too big, or that he didn’t love me enough or that I wasn’t sure I wanted to DO love again being the cynical, jaded person I am now.  But he changed that.  He showed me that the gap is irrelevant and that his love for me has grown in such a way that its apparent.  I feel happy, safe and secure.  Still don’t feel patient though! 😉

My soul bestie
This is a pic of me and Dan – can you see Dan in this at all?
Dan and I having a laugh on one of our last nights before I left for the UK last year!
One of the very first pics I took of him – 4 years ago
Dan in London – when I wasn’t – 3 years ago.
Dan cooking me my fav on the braai – Woolies steak!
When your man thinks its funny to dress up in your clothes … I must say the colour really suits him!!

If anyone has any other tips to keep things exciting and funny please let me know, I would love to hear from you.

Home for the holidays

Before Portugal I went back to Cape Town for 2 weeks to visit my boyfriend, family and friends.  It was my first trip back since I left in July last year (except for that one hectic week when I went back for my dad’s funeral) so was looking forward to seeing everyone and catching up.  So for starters, two weeks was not enough!  You need one week to get settled, then another week to actually start enjoying yourself and get into the Cape Town vibe and then another week to be at one with it all.  So next time, definitely three weeks or more! 🙂

I crammed so much into that time!  First of all, the boyfriend had acquired a motorbike since the last time I was there and was very excited for me to ride with him.  I, on the other hand was slightly nervous and had all sorts of scenarios flashing through my mind, not least of them was that I have no medical aid in South Africa anymore so if something happened …. Anyway, I bit the bullet and feel like I gave off a very unanxious vibe throughout the holiday.  I’m sure the boyfriend would tell you otherwise. But seriously, by the end of the holiday I was not squeezing his midriff so tight he could hardly breath and was able to hold onto the handles on the side quite comfortably without feeling like I was going to fall off.  And truth be told we did some amazing rides.  On the one Saturday we did the entire Peninsula.  Started in Glencairn, went up through the Navy barracks; I sat on a cannon.  We found Just Nuisance’s grave and went for a long walk there – saw Simon’s Town from an angle I have never seen it from before which was actually amazing.  You live in a place your whole life and you think you have seen everything so it’s uber cool when you discover something new!  Then we went all the way around Cape Point and ended up at the 2’6 for a pint (half a pint for Dan as he was driving). Then we went back through Scarborough, down to the beach and then to the Jolly Skollie (Camel Rock Restaurant) for a bite to eat.  That was the best bike day.  We also went to Hout Bay which was the day we went the fastest we ever went (on the M3).  160kmph and weaving through the cars!!!!!  Let’s just say that I preferred the sedate coastal drive. 😉

Trying to look sexy & confident while shitting myself 😉
Me at one with a very big cannon (and a helmet)
Just Nuisances Grave
The view from the top! Absolutely stunning!
One of the very few couple selfies I was permitted to take on my trip

Other highlights of the holiday include:

Staying at Monkey Valley for 2 nights.  I’ve spent a bit of time there and got married there once upon a time; yet I never get over its beauty.  That view is just one of the best you will ever see in the world.  It was extra special that I got to invite all my special peeps over for a braai on one of the nights.  However, it was far too short and if we go again, 3 nights or more is a must (Dan, take note!).

View from our chalet

My besties birthday – we drank champagne from morning until night non-stop and we didn’t even get drunk! Still not quite sure how that happened.  Now that I think about it, Cathy was making the mixes in the beginning, hmmmmm, maybe the key was that not much champers was going into those first mixes.  That would explain things!!! 😉  Anyway, whatever happened it worked, because it was just a fun, chilled, awesome day, hanging with good people and good vibes.

Happy, shiny, beautiful people!
Ok, so the night did END somewhat sketchily with us dancing all over the house, in passageways for example

My get-together at the Glencairn Hotel –  another fun-filled afternoon seeing people I haven’t seen in ages and managing to see family too (thank you for coming, you know who you are).  (Did not take one picture there, silly me).  However, afterwards went back for 2 nights at an absolutely stunning home in Glencairn courtesy of a friend who could not make it to my get-together as she was away.  Thank you so much Adrian and OMG did the threesome have fun that night braaiing and played Heads Up.  I want to choke with laughter every time I think about it.

View from the balcony
View from the braai
Our feet at the end of the night! Don’t ask!

The Farmhouse – watching Grassy Spark – one of our favourite SA bands! Going there was probably the most nostalgic I felt during my holiday. Have had such good times there and this time was no different.  The vibe was excellent, and the bands all put on such a good show.   The energy was top notch and I got to dance and jump and go mad with the sun on my face, my whole body energised.  Then afterwards, a divine braai with friends, which ended late and resulted in hangovers but totally worth it!!

Tania and her tribe, arriving at Grassy Spark. Excitement much!
So happy that Khaya came and joined in the fun. So much love for these chicks!
In our happy place!

Family nights with the kids – we had so many fun nights playing board games, eating sushi and braaiing (and yes, I believe one night was sushi and braai – why not!).  Nothing quite like having a braai, with your nearest and dearest, just chatting and catching up.

Nick guessing which famous person he is – check out the mullet wig
Daniel guessing which famous person he is – the mullet really suits him!

We even had a cultural evening and went to the theatre.  Kalk Bay Theatre is a must do if visiting the Deep South.  It is intimate and cosy (the complete opposite to most theatre experiences you would have in London). There is a restaurant at which you can eat beforehand with lovely (but not spoilt for choice) 3-course meals and of course as much tipple as you like.  You can even take it in with you to watch the show. The show we went to see featured the gorgeous Liam McDermott (Khaya’s boyfriend) and because the audience really is so very small we took up a 10th of the entire audience so you can imagine how much clapping and cheering was coming from our section.

Me and my beautiful daughter before the show!
Me and my beautiful friends after the show

As suspected, I did not do everything I would have liked to do while there. I missed going up Lions Head – but my ex-colleague wanted to do the usual mission and go at 5:30am before work.  I somehow could not get my head around doing that!  I missed seeing some of my friends that while we are not close, I would have loved to have seen.  I’m just grateful that I did get to spend time with my nearest and dearest.

Had some hilarious restaurant experiences where the service was just so awful you felt that surely there was a hidden camera somewhere playing a joke.  On the whole though the food was amazing.  We ate out a lot and ate a lot of calamari and seafood.  Hands down though, the best food we ate was at the Chapmans Peak Hotel in Hout Bay.  Baracuda’s in Fish Hoek was not bad either.  And the waffles, egg and bacon with syrup at Fish Hoek beach was top notch.

I do not feel drawn to South Africa at this time.  Especially after Portugal and the realisation that there is so much of this beautiful world to see. Yes, my kids are there but I’d rather see them over here or plan a trip to another country than go back to Fish Hoek again for a very long time. Fish Hoek/Deep South in general, you are truly magnificent and I appreciate your beauty but you will be just as beautiful as you are now next time I visit.  Actually more beautiful because by then hopefully all the vegetation and mountainside ravaged by the recent fires and the pending rain will have fallen (Please Universe, let it fall).

Beautiful sunset at Tania’s house
Beautiful day at Tania’s house – these are pics she sends me when I am already back in the UK to try and lure me back, tempting for sure!
Fish Hoek beach from the catwalk

Kids in London

So after such a long build up – I think Rayne started the countdown at 100 days, the kids have been and gone.  What a whirlwind time we had!  Not sure where to start … so many dimensions to this trip.  The touristy stuff combined with the emotional stuff.  Being together for two solid weeks made me realise just how connected we all still are.  After living such separate lives generally – Nic at boarding school, the girls leading their grown up, working lives, we integrated and gelled so completely well again – like we were never apart.  Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean we didn’t get irritated with each other.  The normal sibling stuff was there but it was not bad at all – Nic had two mothers the entire trip.  His cool mom and his irritating mom.  I am the cool mom.  I will say no more.  🙂 Because this is not a travel or adventure blog and because my blog is about being in London away from my children, I want to focus more on the emotional aspect of them being here.  It’s been almost a week since they left and already it feels like a dream, yet while they were here it felt so real and solid and right.

I got to give my son some of the best experiences of his life so far.  He went to a football game on New Year’s Eve and watched a really good game of football.  Chelsea vs Stoke (4-2).  We went on a stadium tour of Arsenal stadium which is where I got to watch him chat to the tour attendant and realise that my son is a vibrant, interesting and interested boy who gets on well with people and is becoming a mature, solid guy.  Affection was not taken well by him on this trip but I can live with that.  ‘Don’t touch me’ often came out of his lips when I wanted to get all demonstrative.

Their first day was an adventure in itself.  First of all I thought I would be late to the airport because I had under-calculated how long it would take me to get to the airport.  I knew they had managed to get OUT of South Africa because Rayne had messaged me – the reason why this was so important is because we had been hearing horror stories about kids not being allowed out of the country at customs due to not having the correct paperwork.  Rayne had already asked permission to leave her brother at customs if this happened!!!!  (I said NO!) After all that, the only bad thing that happened was a really long queue at customs (not one question asked) so I ended up being there in plenty of time and then obsessing about why they were taking so long.  I had cried three times before they eventually came out of arrivals and wondered how it would be to see them – maybe it’s because the break from seeing them hadn’t actually been THAT long but it was just like, OK we all together now, let’s go!!!  And go we did.  These kids did not know what hit them.  Got them on a tube, then on a bus, then home, then back on a bus, then a tube, hit Winter Wonderland, did some crazy rides, ate some crazy food, then back on a tube, then a bus, then a walk home.

My biggest coup of the whole holiday was taking them to see a play in the West End – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.  Nic was in no way happy to have to go and see a play. That is SO not cool! I chose this one specifically because I thought the storyline would appeal to him.  And it did.  He was blown away and loved it and was not afraid to say so!  In fact, it was number 3 on his list of best to least favourite things we did on the trip.  Here is his list:

1    The Chelsea vs Stoke Football match at Stanford Bridge Stadium

2    Camden Market

3    Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time

4    Winter Wonderland

5    Madam Tussaurds

6    Arsenal Tour

7    The London Dungeon

8    The Science Museum

9   The Tate Modern Art Museum (this was expected but needless to say Khaya insisted on staying when we needed to leave because she was enjoying it so much and Rayne loved it too, much to her surprise!)

Look! Khaya and Nic met Morgan Freeman
Look! Khaya and Nic met Morgan Freeman
And Shrek!
And Shrek!
And the tour would not have been complete without meeting Bob!
And the tour would not have been complete without meeting Bob!

The funniest part of the trip was when Khaya vomited at Winter Wonderland.  She went on two extremely crazy rides one after the other and after the second one got off, green, and gesticulated wildly that she needed to hurl.  Luckily we were close to about the only grass patch in the whole place and I said just go for it.  And go for it she did! Was hilarious!  We had such fun that day, went on so many rides, drank wintery mulled wine and cider, ate roasted chestnuts and churros … and that was just Day 1.

Me enjoying the mulled wine (with a shot of brandy) at Winter Wonderland
Me enjoying the mulled wine (with a shot of brandy) at Winter Wonderland

Rayne and Khaya did not like the transport system and they did not like the weather.  But they shopped till they dropped.  After the first disaster when I sent them off shopping and told them to just catch the same bus back from the bus station and they got lost because that bus actually left from a different area of the bus station that I did not know about.  The unfortunate thing about me being a relative newby to London is that half the time it was the blind leading the blind and I feel like we took some very long routes at times.  LOL.  Nicholas did his best to annoy his sisters and did very well most days, especially the day we went to Madam Tussauds and went on an automated tour in little buggies.  The people in the buggy are meant to tune it to the language of choice and Nic thought it would be funny to change the language.  Unfortunately once chosen it could not be unchosen, so Rayne and Nic listened to that whole tour in French!!
Both the girls have their own blogs and so I am sure they will share more of how they experienced the trip.  It was the trip of a lifetime, because it was so fantastic and because we will probably never have a holiday with just the four of us again.  It was so special because I shared it with the most special human beings in my life.  I am so lucky and honoured to have given birth to such awesome people!  Only 115 days until I see you all again, let the countdown begin!

Walking the streets of London!
Walking the streets of London! And boy, did we walk!
Camden Town!
Camden Town!
Us on the Millennium Bridge, just before going to visit the Tate Modern
Us on the Millennium Bridge, just before going to visit the Tate Modern
Our last day - enjoying coffee and croissants!
Our last day – enjoying coffee and croissants!