Monday, 29 September 2014

My Sunday Photo - Spring Flowers

My Sunday Photo is always a photo I take on the Sunday. I spend time during the week thinking about the photo and it ensures hubby and I go somewhere or do something together, rather than just our separate ways at home.

Well this weekend, I'm in the Western Cape of South Africa, alone. Why? Well why not? So far it has been assumed I'm a travel writer/journalist and a food critic and/or hotel inspector.

People seem quite surprised when I tell them 'no, just having a little holiday to see the flowers'

Friday, 26 September 2014

How well do you know your adult child?

Prompted by child 4 of 5 returning to the UK as an adult after 3 years as an expat child and a visit from the middle child and his girlfriend for 2 weeks, has made me wonder how well I know my adult children.

Hubby and I have 5 children between us and we’ve been together for 15 years.

Child 1 left home aged 12 she is profoundly disabled and has been in residential care since 2001. She is now 26.

Child 2 left home aged 18 to join the British Army, he is now 25. When we embarked on lives as expats, he’d been away from home for over 3 years and was based in Germany, prior to our move we saw him maybe twice a year when he either visited the UK or we made the trip to Germany.

Child 3 left home aged 18 also, in September 2010, around a week before we were asked to move to South Africa, leaving the UK 4 months later.

Child 4 left home aged 19 in January 2014 to return to the UK, you can read about some of the issues he’s having as an expat child to adulthood here.

Child 5 left home aged 14 in August 2013 to return to the UK to boarding school.

We have had no relationships at all with child 2 & 3 as adult children, they left home having just gone into adulthood and with us living in different countries we have not been able to establish relationships with them as adults.

They visit here, we visit the UK but without a base, somewhere to stay, somewhere just to pop in and out of and say ‘hi mum, hi dad’ it’s been strained, The assumption from them is that we’ll nag, critisie and give instructions, but no matter how hard I try to explain, I just don’t get through. ‘Yes when you lived at home, under our roofs and we paid the bills, we were intitled to make you do chores, keep your rooms tidy, etc’
As adults with their own homes, paying their own bills they can do what they like and if they want guidance and assistance then it is up to them to come to us, I’m not going to nag, I haven’t nagged, I’ve respected their wish to meet in town and not at their flat, despite having travelled 1000’s of miles by plane, then 100’s miles by coach or train. I’ve stayed in hotels near by rather than request the use of their sofa, so they can have their privacy, I’ve been told I can stay on their face book as long as I don’t post stupid comments or tag them in statuses or heaven forbid ask their friends to my friends also.

Child 2 is struggling at the moment, having left the army 2 years ago, he’s flitted in and out of employment and has finally reached the stage where he’s asked for help. We’ve offered in the past and had our heads bitten off, but we knew he’d come to us when he was ready and now is the time.

Child 3 came to visit with his girlfriend for 2 weeks, we were given a huge list of do’s and don’ts, respect their privacy, book separate rooms in hotels and not an apartment etc., etc.

We didn’t tell child 3 that we were doing that anyway, that we wanted our space, privacy, time alone together. We went away for 8 days, hubby was unable to take the time off work, a whole days driving in the car to reach the coast, I left them on the beach for one afternoon while I drank coffee and read a book, we spent 8 hours together on 2 different boats, whale watching and a croc and hippo tour. We then had a 7 hour drive to Kruger on day 4 and spent days 5, 6 & 7 up to 9 hours each day on safari and day 8 a 5 hour drive home. Trust me, it was me that wanted a break, a rest, some time alone and on 2 evenings, I had to insist that they spent some time together on their own and that I would pick them up from the restaurant later. I wasn’t valuing their space, I was securing my own.

They’ve gone now, back to the UK to their lives and it’s been fab, in fact they have been the best visitors we’ve had. No need to ask them to empty the dishwasher, suggest they might like to buy the coffee, they’ve shopped, tidied, cooked, sat with us in the evenings, chatting and watching TV, identified when hubby and I have had a little spat and they’ve disappeared, discretely, as we have done with them.

Child 3 is no longer a child, he’s now 22, with his flat, girlfriend, career, he makes his own choices, earns his own money and apart from one or two occasions where he’s asked for assistance, he’s turned into a dam fine adult and he’s done it all by himself.

Child 4 has had a transition into adulthood, with the school year in SA commencing January till December it meant he was almost 19 when he finished his education, he learnt to drive in South Africa, I taught him, something I wasn’t prepared to do with the older 2 boys, due to clashes and conflicts.
From the age of 15 he had to take responsibility for his youngest brother with international flights, at 18 looking after his brother while both hubby and I were in the UK for 2 weeks, including dealing with a medical emergency and managing to sort out the medical aid by himself. He’s now back in the UK and joining the British Army, he’s wanted to do it by himself, but asked for advice when needed and consulted with us about his decisions. We are financially supporting him until he joins up, not a lot with the exchange rate as it is and he is staying with family for the time being.

Child 5 was in boarding school from the age of 6 until 11 when we moved to South Africa, but after 2 years it was evident this was not the best decision for him and so he returned. He’s just started his final year with his GCSE’s and we are hoping we can move him to Dubai next year for his A levels. 

Who knows how our relationships with our adult children will develop and change. We don't have the luxury of 'just being there' nearby. We can go 6 months without a visit and as young adults, they grow and develop without us.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Whale Watching from Richard's Bay to St Lucia

This was my 3rd Whale watching experience in South Africa and all 3 in 1 year. My 1st trip was to Hermanus in August this year with my youngest son, where we watched the Whales from the shore line out in the bay.
The 2nd trip was with Advantage Tours based in St Lucia, again in August and with youngest son and hubby.
The 3rd trip was again with Advantage with my eldest son and his girlfriend in September.

This trip was by far the best. We left Richard's Bay at 5.30am, expecting to only be out for 2 hours, but they requested we join them for the trip to St Lucia, where they had arranged a lift back for us and we would be out at sea for nearly 4 hours.

We saw around 15 hump backed whales, we saw babies, we saw them breach where they leap out the water, lots of sky hopping, head first out the water, tail flips and waves.

We were also accompanied for around 30 minutes by a pod of dolphins and we were encouraged to clamber up on the front of the boat to watch them more closely.


After a beach landing, the owner treated us to a hippo and crocodile boat cruise in the estuary with drinks and snacks, before driving us back to Richard's Bay.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Can you see the Big 5 at Kruger in a small car?

The answer is YES.

This was my 4th visit to Kruger National Park and I was hesitant as to how much we would see in a small rental car on the tarred roads.

My son and his girlfriend had already requested to go on sun rise and sun set organised drives as they were here on a holiday of a life time and didn't want to miss a thing.

The morning we entered the park, we took nearly half an hour leaving Marloth Park where we were staying due to giraffe on the road, zebra and various antelopes.

It took a further half hour to get over Crocodile River before we entered the park as we saw elephants, cape buffalo, a crocodile with it's kill, various birds and hippos.

We stuck to the tar roads and drove up to Lower Sabie, we only left the tar roads for the short drive to a hide and by the end of day 2 we had seen Lions, Black Rhinos, White Rhinos, Elephants, Hippos, Cape Buffalo, nearly every type of antelope, that we were now ignoring, giraffes drinking, a rock monitor lizard, monkeys and baboons.

Suffering with animal fatigue and lack of new sightings on Day 3 we decided to identify birds and I saw more on this trip than I've ever done before.

So for those of you still reading, it appears we've only seen 4 of the Big 5, but wait....our last night as the sun was setting, I decided to go for a walk, my son and his girlfriend were in the pool. A guide called me over and on the opposite side of the river was a Leopard, stalking several Impala. Taking a quick photo, I ran back through the woods to the lodge, passing a woman with young children and I gasped 'Leopard....river.....quick' and she ran off from where I'd just come. Son and his girlfriend, grabbed flip flops and we ran back to the river, in time to see the Leopard striking for the Impala, it missed and wandered down to the river for a drink.

It was only at this point that the woman realised that she'd run in the direction of the where the Leopard was, not checking that it hadn't been chasing me and judging by the state of the fence, there wasn't a lot separating me from the wildlife in Kruger.

We finished the holiday by watching an African sunset