Saturday, 18 January 2014

One countryside to another!

       It has been discovered that Great Britain, the island, is one and a half times further away from the equator than Cape Town in South Africa! That might explain the difference in average temperatures! But nevertheless, Great Britain is in the northern hemisphere and Cape Town in the southern hemisphere and Christmas in Britain is cold, but in South Africa it’s summer!

     It was a privilege and an absolute delight and joy to be able to join our own little family in the KwaZulu Natal Midlands of South Africa over Christmas 2013. Our son and his wife drove the 1500km (940miles) from Somerset West in the Western Cape, to KwaZulu Natal on the east coast. That’s about 70 miles further than the length of Britain - Lands End to John ‘O Groats!! It’s a trip that can be done in one go taking about 13-18 hours, but they did it in a few days, enjoying a couple of wayside stops on the road.

     They arrived at our daughter’s home a few hours before we did. But we had travelled 12 100 km (7510 miles) and it had taken us 15 hours of flying time, plus the waiting to board, the stop-over in Dubai and the queues going through customs, and the 90 minute drive from King Shaka airport to the Midlands!

     We’d left home on the east coast of England at 3pm on Monday 16th and were hugging our children at 7.30pm on Tuesday 17th! But we were happy to be all together and enjoyed a wonderful, sunny, Christmas period eating, talking and generally rocking an eight-week old grandson to sleep!

     Having spent over 10 years in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands we’d seen the sights so sight-seeing came way down the list after family time. But it was really encouraging to see small businesses that we’d seen start, still going and growing.  Piggly Wiggly was a simple farm stall way back then, to which was added a small cafĂ© which is now a restaurant where you have to wait for a table at peak times! Around the simple thatch building surrounded by farming fields, grazing sheep and cattle, is a village of craft shops in a kraal-like formation with children’s play structures and tables and chairs in the central grassed area.  

     Some places never change, like my favourite Culamoya Chimes with the giant chimes in the garden, standing like gallows on the edge of the garden; the famous Howick Falls and its tourist African market couldn’t be missed so another Howick Falls photo with another year’s date!

     We were house-sitting in Pietermaritzburg, about 15 minutes drive from our daughter’s home, and each trip back ‘down the hill’ took us through a local African community. After a few passes, we noticed that in the gardens of each of the brick / breeze block built homes, was a traditional ‘rondavel’ – a round house traditionally made with local materials such as sand, stone, soil and cow dung! There’s always plenty of that around! Motorists instinctively know to drive slowly as the cows grazing along the roadside could decide to cross the road to sweeter grass at any time, and knowing they are bigger and stronger than most average size vehicles, they don’t look before they cross! The residents walk around the cows and just have to be aware how close the cow’s horns are as they share the grassy verge!
(Shutterstock pic) 

     Our home for the two weeks had a river at the bottom of the garden, a wooden children’s adventure structure, lots of garden, a pool (outside, cold water, of course!), a ‘Secret Garden’, and a thatch roofed ‘lodge’ so close to the running river that waking up in the morning, we weren’t sure if it was the river or if it was pouring with rain!

(View from The Lodge's balcony)

     Our visit was essentially for family, but some visits to special friends had to be made; it was a pity we couldn’t see more of them, but two weeks is just so short.

     *  At ‘auntie’ Gwen and ‘uncle’ Nigel’s garden cottage on a hilltop overlooking Pietermaritzburg, Meg got to photograph the Vervet Monkeys playing in the trees and figuring out how to get the banana out of the bird’s nut feeder!

     *  At Alida & Mike’s we sat outside on their beautiful verandah with a large hippopotamus lurking in the corner – OK so it was made of wood, but it was gorgeous!  And we got to be adored by their lovely dog Maggie!

     *  At Penny & John’s we sat on their verandah high above the Amber Valley and watched the red bishops swoop and feed. (See this link for more photos by Meg)
     *  At Kim & Steve’s we relaxed and chatted again on their verandah high over the green valley below, until time for the family photo-shoot!  

     *  It was super to sit with ‘old’ friends – both ‘old’ as in from school days (Sandi) and ‘old’ as in years (‘Auntie’ Dulcie)!

     The charity shop around the corner from our temporary home, opened after Christmas break, just before we left, and what a well-stocked Hospice shop it was! Books and books and rows and rows of books! Having distributed a few Christmas gifts, I felt quite able to add a few books to my luggage, plus a lovely nursery rhyme book for little Michael!  And a last trip to a real second-hand, dusty, jumble warehouse of junk, to bring home a little jar for R5 (50p)!  

     After two weeks of sunshine it was back to a rainy Heathrow airport, with a scary landing where the big 777 plane struggled to stay in the middle of the runway and desperately tried to avoid side-sweeping onto the grass on either side! 

Daily Mail

Precious memories!

And I didn't mention Midmar Dam or the Mandela Monument ......! !

Thursday, 11 July 2013

"I'll never tire of this view!"

      As I stood on the pathway at Pin Mill trying to take a photo of the scene before me - with Bella asking impatiently to paddle in the Grindle – a gentleman slowed down so as not to get in the frame. I thanked him and said, “I’ll never tire of this view” and he could only agree!


Even the presence of the big red boat lift in front of the pub didn't seem to scar the landscape!

Summer lunch-time patrons still enjoyed the view and the comings and goings, from the deck.

     I think the senior primary school students were having their end of year treat, 'messing about on the river', under the guidance of the Pin Mill sailing club. Between 12.30 and 1pm little dinghies made their way up the Orwell River to the shore and excitable and giggly, wet children looked liked they'd had a good time!

    But I did have to get back!

    But I couldn't not capture the summer's day on the river from viewpoints on the walk back home!


Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Feed the birds scraps!

The pros and cons of feeding the birds!

It’s always a soothing experience to watch a little blue-tit slip between the bars of the ‘ball feeder’ without so much as a shiver of a wing! He doesn’t stay for long, does a circuit on the floor of the feeder and although he’s quite safe, exits the open ‘windows’ as smoothly as he entered!

Blue-tits, Great-tits, Chaffinches, one or two Goldfinches and Robins have dined at our everyday-nothing-special-but-food-anyway ‘featherstaurant’!

The cons are when the Pigeons, Blackbirds and even the lovely Song Thrush come to dine, but find they’re like giants in Lilliput and have to make do with the crumbs under the table. The Pigeons are the biggest culprits in protesting strongly by fouling the patio beneath the feeders! Yuch!

So it was time to give them their own-sized featherstaurant out of the way of the patio and the BBQ!

Scrap wood was easily hammered together (thanks to a kind non-DIY hubby!), given an edge and chained ready to hang …. somewhere!!  The only suitable place, for now, until we’ve cleared a bit more of the jungle, was from the old rusty swing frame which had formed a secret entrance to the deep dark jungle!  It hangs a little low, but with nice sunny weather and clear days, the bundu-bashing and jungle clearing will continue and hopefully reveal the ideal tree branch.

Of course, Murphy’s law – I’ve run out of birdseed!!

The Song Thrush was the first – and only – to try out the breadcrumbs and only stayed a couple of seconds. So I did some research to see what other kitchen scraps can be fed to birds – a surprising variety it appears!

Pastry, cooked and uncooked!
Citrus fruit! (Fished the half mouldy Clementine out of the bin!)
Grapes, Melon rind, Apples, Pears, Banana
Peanut Butter
Raisins, Sultanas etc soaked in water.
Baked and Mashed Potato! (not that there’s any left on our plates!)
Unsalted meat!
Cheese grated
Uncooked Porridge Oats!

Yes, I had some left over uncooked pastry! So bits of that went into an Aunt-Bessie-Yorkshire-Pudding-foil-container and was thumb-tacked to the table.

Yes, I have some raisins and sultanas. Soaked them in water and they went into a Peanut Butter jar lid thumb-tacked to the table.
Birds-eye view!

And yes, the other half of the mouldy Clementine fished out of the bin cut into tiny pieces and put in the lid of a Smash (instant mashed potato) tin and thumb-tacked to the table.

And yes, there’s always peanut butter in the cupboard, so some smeared to the side of the bird-table should do the trick.

The Open sign is up…….

...... well either they have a bird-watch and disappear as soon as I look outside, or I just simply miss them, but when I went out to photograph some extras, I took the crust of bread to top up and found ...... 
.... the raisins & sultanas all gone!!

And the Song Thrush was watching
Not a clear pic at all but the Song Thrush is on a branch in the top left quadrant, just her head and shoulders!

Give them time and tomorrow, maybe a little cheeeeese!!

Thursday update!
Soaked raisins are obviously the favourite! In less than an hour the lid was empty this morning!  During the night the Clementine fruit pieces and the uncooked pastry were eaten - by what, I don't know! I think the Starlings have cottoned on to more free food as three or four of them were being smartly marched away from the table on the shed roof by a strident Blackbird this morning!

This morning's menu is grated cheese, soaked wholewheat bread, and soaked raisins - which are gone already! Glad the featherstaurant is being utilised!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Shopping in Felixstowe

     So after we’ve been in the south Suffolk area for about 18 months, we eventually walked the high street of Felixstowe!!  Don’t get me wrong, we’ve enjoyed the beachfront at Felixstowe, had an ice-cream on the promenade and walked the dog at Landguard Fort, but somehow never actually strolled the high street!

(On the beach at Landguard Fort)

(Sunset at Landguard Fort)

   I like Felixstowe town centre!!

     First of all, and always most important, parking was £2.00 for 4 hours! Compare that with Ipswich’s  average of £1.80 per hour (centre of town prices).

     Secondly, I didn’t see a lot of so called ‘High Street’ shops. They’re probably there somewhere, but there seemed to be more independent or small chain shops, which is really great. But I do enjoy popping in to the Charity shops! I generally head for the bric-a-brac first and then move on to the children’s books, toys, then adult books. I did have a list of things to look for, but as usual got totally distracted! The list had things like a tea-pot, maps, and milk jug, but none of those found their way into the shopping bag!

First stop was St Elizabeth Hospice shop and right at the door was a basket of baby clothes. Now this is a new experience for me – wanting to buy baby clothes for an unborn grandchild! But what fun! At 50p an item and some even 30p, it was an opportunity not to be missed. I came away with three very cute babygros in varying sizes - they'll be useful over a few months!!   I got so excited about getting three babygros for £1.50 that I went straight to the counter and paid for them and then realised I hadn’t even looked at the rest of the shop!

    Next door was the RSPCA, and here I picked up some orangey beads which I’m sure will come in useful for some craft other! At 50p, just can’t go wrong! Or they might just get sent along with the babygros to First Love Creations!

Right next door was the SENSE shop (deafblind charity). Again bric-a-brac first, then the curtains/bedding looking for fabric I could cut up for patchwork quilts.   

I did find this very cute Dutch tea-towel, with very nicely blocked classic Dutch pictures – for 99p. While I was also looking out for maps for our next Sweet Monday meeting – those ‘old’ ones with a million folds that tend to obstruct the driver when the passenger is trying to navigate – my husband found an Atlas (more compact but not what I was looking for). This was his purchase and he spent a pleasant half hour paging through it at home suddenly discovering continent sizes, ice-caps and unpronounceable tiny countries and islands!

      I like to think I collect salt and pepper sets. Many years ago in South Africa we had a meal with friends and each guest had a different salt and pepper set in front of them. I thought that was so nice I started my own collection of salt & pepper pots and family and friends helped. So today I added to that collection with a nice cottagey light wood salt and pepper mill.  Together with the Malta buses (thanks Claire!), the Japanese Geishas (thanks Judi!), the wooden Zimbabwe pots (thanks Sean!), the ‘Karkloof’ butterfly (thanks Nicole, and despite the fact that 'my' butterflies look nothing like the Karkloof Blue! It's just a reminder of 'home'!), the blue and white stripe lighthouses (thanks Meg!), and others, the collection now stands at 12. I left some behind in South Africa, like the crocodiles, and I think I've packed away the quirky tap salt and pepper set, they were quirky but really ugly! One of our friends was recently quite disappointed when she sat down at the table with us and I'd only put one set out for three of us!!

The Huggies against the backdrop of the Alice in Wonderland biscuit tin!

Against the backdrop of the Alice in Wonderland biscuit tin!

Against the backdrop of Grandad Ash's still life fruit painting.
The latest addition!

There were other Charity shops we went into: Barnardos, Cancer Research UK, British Heart Foundation, but didn’t go into Oxfam because the search was then quite desperate for coffee, which Greggs provided, together with a custard doughnut!

Of course we had to go into the Thing-me-Bobs Shop although it was a tad disappointing; I thought there might be more 'indescribably thing-me-bobs'! And with the North Sea calling us from the bottom of the road - some people just have to see the sea if it's in the vicinity! - I first got to make a diversion into Fabric8 and rummage in their 30p a piece (or 5 pieces for £1) scraps box for more patchwork bits. I found 6 pieces and she wouldn’t give them to me for £1 :(  They’re only small pieces!! Amazingly it was my very patient husband who praised this shop very highly, taking great delight in the plain white shirt buttons available in tubes, never mind about the gorgeous heart-shaped, pretty polka-dot and teddy bear buttons!

Lastly as we crossed the road on the way to find the car and make our way home, there was Treasure Chest Books! While he got stuck at the counter paging through a Naval book on Flower Class Corvettes etc, I discovered this shop goes on and on and on and further and further back, with old books on every single imaginable subject. Sadly not enough time to browse properly as Bella would need her walk very soon, not to mention not enough spare cash in the purse! Sigh! Definitely another visit to Felixstowe soon!

Monday, 13 May 2013

Walking in May!

     We’ve reached month five, that is the 5th month of 2013, which means we’re very nearly half way through the year! :O

     Spring rocked up a little later than expected but nature has embraced her and the daffodils made their appearance then quickly disappeared, some tulips took their place and quickly exited, but the next door neighbours’ pansies are still smiling all the way down the pathway!

     The sun gratefully took his rightful place and turned up the heating just a little, and April, having been March-bound for an entire month, sent along her showers about three weeks late.

     All in all, it’s been a lovely Spring – and I most certainly hope the majority of Britain’s subjects remember these May sunny days; like the May Bank Holiday when Felixtowe promenade was teeming with young and old, families and dogs, as if it was a Saturday or Sunday! But I suspect it will be like all previous years, "Lousy summer eh?!" choosing to ignore the more spectacular Spring - probably a moral in that somewhere!

     And now that the country paths are dry and passable, it’s once again a pleasure to walk the dog. We all know that we see far more of the little things when walking than when whizzing past in a car; so the tree’s odd shapes, the dappled shadows, the dark clouds against a blue sky through new green growth on trees, is actually more beautiful in real life than a photograph could ever reproduce.

     The fields of Flax (rape) which look amazing from a distance, like Mrs Giant left her sunny yellow scarf at the countryside picnic spot, somehow lose their magic a little when close up; one tends to see the green stems more than the cheery yellow flowers when standing right next to them – there’s probably a moral in that somewhere too!

     So although these pics probably don’t look like much, in real life it was enough to calm a soul, de-stress and feel good!

Bella enjoyed it too!

Rooks and ducks scarpered over Pin Mill when the scarecrow gun boomed!

Even the dandelions looked cheerful!