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!)


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!


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 Bucket List Blog – Chapter 4 – The UK

It would be four years before my next overseas trip – which took place in April 2014. A lot had happened in those four years.  I eventually got out of a very acrimonious relationship with ex-husband No. 2, we sold the house we had bought together and I bought my own little matchbox of a place.  By this time I had my British Passport and one child out of school.  But with two to go and trying to build myself up again to a place where I knew who I was, travelling was not first and foremost on my mind.  Then I met Daniel and 14 months after we got together, he moved to the UK.  His grandfather was dying (albeit slowly) and he wanted to be there to spend as much time as he could with his grandfather before he got too ill.  And so Daniel left South Africa without an end date for returning and so the epic saga of our long distance relationship started.

At about the same time my mothers side of the family were planning a family holiday in France over June/July and because the sale of my house was about to come through I decided to join them.  And then in the style that has clearly permeated all my previous holidays, my friend Annabel and I decided to join that holiday with a holiday to Spain. (But more about that in my next post).

Sometimes I do things spontaneously and because I knew I had the money from the sale of my house, and because I was missing the boyfriend so much, on a whim, I decided to go over in April too, over Easter,  and do London with Daniel – or was it do Daniel in London??  I think it was both! 😉  It was the best spontaneous decision of my life.  It came at a time when we really needed it.  So within the space of two months I did another two trips in quick succession.  I think that this was the start of the plan that was eventually going to lead me to where I am today.  I really felt an affinity with London and knew very quickly, that I could move and live there.  The more I think about it the more I think its because English blood runs through my veins.  My mother was born in England and all her family before her for as many generations as our family history goes back, lived here so it stands to reason that I feel like I belong here.  We have a family Bible that shows the family tree going back to my great, great great-grandfather so there is history here!

Daniel lived in Central London and for the purposes of my holiday that was great!  For the purposes of having a life besides paying rent, it was not great, but that story is far too long to get into here.  He lived in Marble Arch and was literally a minute’s walk from Hyde Park – that’s how central we were.  Besides for 2 days when I went to the Cotswolds to visit Annabel we spent every single day out and about exploring London.

My first time at Hamelys! Check out the price tag on this bear – no wonder he is hanging his head – probably he is sad as no-one will buy him for that price!
Another visit to the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum – it wasn’t nearly as fun without the 3-year old!
Me at the Natural History Museum – I look awfully excited! And thin, which is why I’m posting this picture! 😉
Love, love, love the Science Museum. Could go there a million more times! Always something fun and exciting to do there!
London Dungeons – first visit and it was amazing! Have done it twice now and both times equally as good!
Me in the Cotswolds getting spring water from a natural spring on the side of the road. Again, looking very pleased with myself!
This tree looks like it stepped out of an Enid Blyton book! I have seen many fairy tale trees since then but this was my first.
Drinking beer in the countryside with Annabel – Malvern – Note the sign behind me.  It’s very rare to find a pub that serves food ALL DAY, especially in the country, hence me posing in front of the sign.
Our local – we would go sit here while our laundry was being done at the launderette across the road. Perfect excuse to drink beer and read the newspaper.

No smoking inside so we spent quite a bit of time on the sidewalk playing silly buggers with this sign.
I discovered my favourite meal of all time on this trip – Bi Bim Bap – it’s the national meal of Korea. I could eat if every day! They bring it to you still cooking – its rice at the bottom, then veggies and then whatever meat you want, with an egg on top – then you mix it all together with this amazing hot sauce and voila! Soooooo delish!
We went to see War Horse – got last minute tickets so they were cheap and front row – what an amazing experience, absolutely fantastic show!
Haha, had to include this photo. As this is (one) of the small gifts I got for Nick on this trip. But its funny because very soon after that he actually got a whole trip to London from his mom!

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!

Magical Lantern Festival

Last weekend some friends and I went to the Magical Lantern Festival in Chiswick.  We happened to choose the coldest night of the year to do it but considering its February, there was a good chance of freezing temperatures.  Luckily it did not rain though and I managed to take some stunning pictures.  The whole exhibition took about an hour and a half to walk though – which is testament to the size of it.  For anyone reading this who is the UK, do yourself a favour and go, it is indeed a magical and amazing experience.

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Richmond Park

Ever since Cait and I went and spent our lazy picnicking day in Richmond Park last summer, I have wanted to go back and spend some time traversing it. It is so vast with so much to see and explore.  So one chilly but sunny Saturday I set off.  My mission was to try and get to Kingston Gate and meet a friend but between my phone being a lemon (long story) and me not managing to follow my map app very well, my phone soon died and I was only 10 minutes into what my app told me would be a 55 minute walk.

Having a very good sense of how huge the park is and also noting that even though the map app showed one simple path to follow, in reality, there were many paths to choose from and without the map to assist me there was no way I was going to attempt to find my way.  The sun was already setting and with signs like these up all over the place, quite frankly I was a bit apprehensive.  In these parts one does not need to worry about muggers but more about stray bullets that were meant for deer!


Here are a few other pictures from my beautiful but short-lived walk in Richmond Park!

Here I think it looks like one could be in the veld, somewhere in the bush in South Africa!
Here I think it looks like one could be in the veld, somewhere in the bush in South Africa!
Lesser Spotted Deer! Actually Fallow deer, but they are hard to spot!
Lesser Spotted Deer! Actually Fallow deer, but they are hard to spot!
Arty Pic!
Arty Pic!


More African type pics
More African type pics
Nows about the time I was really glad I had turned around!
Now’s about the time I was really glad I had turned around! Don’t be fooled by the look of that sun. It was not warm in the slightest!
Almost home
Almost home
Very nearly home
Very nearly home
Another arty pic - pink chimney smoke caused by the sunset and what looks like a comet but is actually an aeroplane
Another arty pic – pink chimney smoke caused by the sunset and what looks like a comet but is actually an aeroplane
My road, home at last!
My road, home at last!


Do you want to go to the seaside? Hell yeah!

Just before the kids arrived I got the opportunity to go and visit some friends in Brighton.  I have been wanting to visit there since before I even came to the UK.  There are so many movies made with Brighton Pier involved, and there is of course the pebbled beaches and the sea.  So, even though it’s only a 45 minute train journey out of London, I felt like I was going on a great adventure.  Luckily I had some trusty sidekicks from Fish Hoek with me on the train which made the trip seem even shorter.

From the moment we got there hilarity prevailed.  We didn’t want to get wasted or anything but being together did bring a sense of the old Fish Hoek days and ‘let’s be naughty’ kind of vibe.  So after sitting on the beach for a while and feeling the water (it was actually warm), we bought a few beers from the cafe and proceeded along the pier.  There was a little notice that said something along the lines of “No drinking beyond this point” but we decided to ignore it as drinking in public is not frowned upon in London (all the time).

View from the sea
View from the sea
View from the beach
View from the beach

This is what happened next:

Us drinking on the pier
Us drinking on the pier
Us pretending innocence after a security guard came and told us our fortune
Us pretending innocence after a security guard came and told us our fortune
Us finding another place to drink which was definitely us getting more brazen as the notice was about entering a drinking controlled area with fines of up to £500 if caught, aren't we the rebels!!!
Us finding another place to drink which was definitely us getting more brazen (or maybe more drunk) as the notice was about entering a drinking controlled area with fines of up to £500 if caught, aren’t we the rebels!!!
We decided to take the drinking inside after that
We decided to take the drinking inside after that
Then outside again!
Then outside again!

We eventually found a place to eat a very much needed meal before setting off back to London.  While we didn’t manage to see much of Brighton, we did still feel the pebbles between our toes.  OK, the pebbles beneath our shoes.  I did see Brighton Pier in bright lights:


And sultry tones:


And most importantly spent time with some friends which is beyond important living here.  I love meeting new people but there really is nothing quite like seeing your homies over here.  In fact, I think rather than saying ‘there is nothing quite like home’ the saying should be ‘there is nothing quite like the homies away from home’.

This is how the day made me feel:

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