Monday, 31 January 2011

Takes some getting used to.......

Can’t get my head round this......

My normal journey home takes me on the M5, the most exciting road sign I ever see is for Birmingham.

I keep thinking I’m ... well I don’t know what I’m thinking at the moment the kids seem indifferent to the fact, maybe it’s because they are so well travelled, maybe because they don’t realise exactly what we have done...all I do know is that seeing a sign for Jo’burg on the school run every day is not an image I ever thought I would see on such a routine journey.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Potato or Potarto?

Go into any UK coffee chain and ask for a latte and they will 9 times out of 10 say ‘larte’
Either way you get a shot of espresso and topped up with frothy milk, the only difficulty you may have is if you ask for a regular and they reply ‘do mean a grande or talle?’
Ask for a latte in South Africa, it comes in one size and is just hot frothy milk, if you wish to have a shot of espresso you have to ask for it by it’s proper name which is a ‘cafe latte’ as we all know any way.

10 things we didn’t do in the UK last week

1. Have a Braai
2. Own a ‘cell’ phone
3. Go to bed at 9pm
4. Get up at 5.30am
5. Limit usage of the internet
6. Play with monkeys
7. Watch unlimited football on the TV, free of charge
8. Sit outside drinking wine in the evenings
9. Have lizards on the patio
10. Spend time together as a family

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Culture? Colour? or Class?

For anyone reading this blog who currently lives in or has lived in South Africa, it would be helpful to know I am from the UK. Welsh by birth, but if you ask me my nationality I will say I’m British and I live in England.
There is a big culture difference between the two countries, although fashions from the high ponytail with the instant face lift to the day glow orange tan. The school run Mums look the same as back home, except for the fact the 4x4s are a necessity, rather than an accessory. Now, OK and Hello magazines line the shelves with Katie Price, Kate Middleton and the Beckham’s, it seems that English celebs are far more in demand here than Travolta’s latest edition to his family.
Inside a shopping mall, one could be anywhere in the world and it is only when driving that the differences of this beautiful country become apparent.
It started raining here at 4am and at midday it has only just stopped, there is local flooding and Peter had to take an alternative route to take the kids to school due to the road being closed.
Now, no matter what class or colour, people deserve to be treated with Respect, and from I’ve seen so far, the people of South Africa have earnt this. Did you read the blog about the train stop at Irene? Where are these people going? They are walking miles, leaving home very early to clean our houses, tidy gardens and work very long and very hard during the day for little pay.
So how do the 4x4, drivers repay them? They drive as normal, through the puddles and floods and without slowing down or moving over, drench these poor folk from head to toe. Peter slowed down, moved over and reduced the spray from his vehicle to nothing. A woman turned round, smiled and thanked him for doing so. The next car driver soaked her through to the skin.
Yesterday the kids and I stopped off for milk shakes, we asked for the bill, as we did so a white man aged 60ish sat down and sharply clapped his hands at the black waiter and demanded ‘a cold drink with ice, make it coke’ The waiter didn’t bat an eye lid and went off to fetch this white mans drink, came back with our bill and apologised for the delay. Alex looked at the customer and said ‘how rude’. We paid and left.
This I believe has nothing to do with cultural differences, I believe it is sheer bloody ignorance. These examples are not from an endless list , but the only 2 cases where I have seen a major divide with class and colour.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Living in South Africa

As a criminology and psychology student, I couldn’t be in a better country than South Africa for the final year of my degree. Being here has made me think a lot about previous assignments, in particular ‘Does security breed insecurity?’
Gated communities here in South Africa are the only way to live, we’d be mad not to. The risk of crime is very high, but you can minimise the effect and consequence of crime if you are cautious. It’s a natural human instinct to protect oneself, family and property. If someone were to order you out of your car at gun point, would you go willingly? Most of us would say yes, we’d let them have our car, but like falling, there’s a natural instinct to put ones hands out in front as you do, inevitably breaking one or both arms. Small children don’t have this instinct and suffer fewer breaks than adults.
There are many different types of gated communities, in the UK it is more about status than the actual fear of crime and not too dissimilar to the US. However, living in a safe secure environment often leads to the fear of crime and can have either a positive or negative impact on the environment. Is the gated community there because there are high crime levels? In which case, if you can’t afford to live there, one moves further away to avoid the crime, or does a gated community nearby mean there are higher levels of security therefore making the area a safer place to live?
Here in South Africa a gated community is a means of survival. There are many different types.
Tenement blocks are not the most attractive of buildings, a complex of approximately 20 brick houses with 4 apartments in each, a communal pool and gardens. An electronic gate, manned 24hrs a day, but often on the outskirts of the town, and cheaper to rent or buy, therefore considered less desirable areas to live. These places are similar to holiday camps, little privacy and noisy and are preferred places for lower income families to live.
Cluster houses are the next step, again there is the 24hr security, but these houses are packed in with little outdoor space, they offer larger living accommodation but again are in the slightly poorer areas of town and often near major intersections which can prove noisy and offer little privacy. These are also small estates.
There are two types of housing left to consider. The larger gated communities, with the bigger houses with pools and large gardens, often surround a golf course and are of course far more expensive to live in. These houses are purpose built and vary in style and design, like the UK this type of living is a status symbol, the houses vary from English style, through Italian to thatched roof cottages and on the whole a little tacky. They offer the greatest security and are surrounded by high fences with barbed wire and electric fences.
The final style and our preferred living are the houses where the neighbours have come together and have decided to fence off the roads with only 1 access point with a security barrier which is manned, but not electronically operated like the other estates, The gates are locked at night and each house has it’s own wall and fence with barbed wire and security. These are more attractive houses and offer greater privacy.
The house hunting starts later this week. I am open to view any property as long as it fits our living requirements and is within a half hour drive of the kid’s school.

Day 6

Day 6 25th January
The views above are typical of Gauteng, which the area Jo’burg is in. Mango trees and fantastic landscapes and townships. I won’t be driving at night on my own and as long as you are alert and remain alert it is perfectly safe to drive here. I’m driving a rental car at the moment and won’t be buying anything flash, so not to attract attention. All bags are put in the boot and valuables kept out of sight, we’ve been told that if we are car jacked to raise our hands, place them on the seat belt strap at the shoulder, then slide hands down gently to the buckle and release, step out of the car and don’t make eye contact, they’re not interested in you, just your vehicle and it makes no difference if you’re alone or with someone else. Keep your mobile phone in your pocket with house keys and don’t forget to make an insurance claim.
This morning Peter and I returned to the bank....Peter has to give permission for me to have a bank account and as I’m here on a visitors passport it seems pointless as I won’t have any money to put in it. I’ve been using Peter’s card for the HSBC, you have to chip and pin for all transactions and sign as well. They stopped joint bank accounts last year to prevent fraud. A single woman can open her own about a suppressive country.
We drove to the office in Eden vale about 10kms from Jo’burg after dropping Peter off for the day I drove home. Road works and exit changes which hadn’t been updated on the sat nav made for an interesting journey home, thankfully I had paid attention and apart from the township I drove past I felt safe.
After collecting the boys from school we drove to Irene Farm, it’s a 112yr old/365 days a yr dairy. I had left my cards at home and was only carrying a small amount of cash, we weren’t able to buy drinks as they didn’t take cash to minimise robbery attempts, which is worth remembering. We drove onto the Mall for milkshakes and some bread.
SA is safer than I thought; I made an assumption that apart from the school runs I would be ‘stuck’ in the house all day and would need to go out with Peter couldn’t be further from the truth. If I want to pop out to the shops for a coffee or a pint of milk then I can. Living away from the tourist area is fantastic and we are also a bit of a novelty, apart from Dan and Alex there is only one other English child in the school and he was 2 when his family left the UK and has a SA accent.

Day 5

Day 5 24th January
OMG, there may only be a 2 hour time difference, but the day starts much earlier in SA. We left the house for the school run at 6.30am. I say ‘we’ Peter went to work. At the moment he is collected and dropped off, as we can’t buy a car till we have bank accounts.
The train arrives in Irene at 7am every morning; it was fascinating watching the locals being literally poured off, down the embankment and onto the road. There is no health and safety laws here that I can see and if they want to dig the road up, it’s your responsibility to avoid the hole. People travel 25+ in a 16 seater mini buses, they hang off the sides of the train and we counted 15 people, men, women and children squashed into an open truck base. It’s the sheer number of people that stop them from falling out. This isn’t just on the side roads but driving down the N1 at 100kms. It’s a frightening sight.
By 8am, not only was I home but I’d done the ironing and put the washing on. The house keeper arrived at 9am, so I sat in the garden till 10.30am reading a book, then made dinner and decided I was going to Pick and Pay to do a big food shop. The one near us at the Mall is closed for refurbishment so I drove a little way out of town to the one I saw this morning on the school run. The car park wasn’t secured, but there were people around to keep an eye on your car, when I returned to the car, the man loaded the shopping and returned the trolley in exchange for 5 Rand (50p). While I was shopping I got a text message from Dan saying ‘in hospital in Jo’burg’ it’s work experience week and he was working on a children’s cancer ward. No one spoke any English and Dan and his friend were the only white people there. It was an interesting experience for Dan, he said he wasn’t scared, but him and his friend were a novelty, lots of pointing and giggling.
I left for the school run at 1pm, the boys were waiting in the car park and we came straight home as everyone was hot and tired and we all went to bed and had a sleep. I was woken at 3.50pm and asked to go to the bank as the company had signed the paperwork, to discover the systems switch off at 4pm. What amazed was the computer did not have UK as a drop down option for nationality, nor was there, Britain, Great Britain, England, Scotland, Wales or NI. The man in the bank had not opened an account for anyone from the UK before and remarked, ‘not many of you come here, it’s usually the other way round’
Kids were in bed and asleep by 8pm and I wasn’t far behind them. There is no air conditioning and I spent most of the night on the sofa with the door open.

Day 4

Day 4 23rd January
Armed with a rough idea of where we were going, no map, just a tour guide, we piled in the car with a picnic and headed West of Pretoria to find the Cheetah reserve. We got slightly lost and ended up in a town called Brits. This is how I thought the whole of South Africa would look like. Old fashioned, under developed, surrounded with town ships and then one large mall in the middle. As it was Sunday, everyone was at church, which in the area we were in was mainly Methodist. We found the Cheetah reserve, we needed to book in advance and as we weren’t able to go on the tour we wandered around the picnic area. The Cheetah in the picture, rolled over, purred and offered his tummy for a tickle. There was only that thin piece of wire fencing between me and him and if I had wanted to I could have given him a stroke.....However, I’m NOT stupid. The cost of this tour was £45 each so we decided we’d leave these sorts of things for when the visitors come.
We then drove down the road, following the brown signs to Bush babies Monkey Sanctuary. This was only £20 each and we had an hour’s guided tour through the ‘open’ enclosures. The monkeys were everywhere, in your trouser pockets, looking for things in your hair and giving it a good old tug, in people’s handbags and one monkey made several, failed, attempts to rip my earring from me.
We drove home via Hartbeespoort Dam, which is a hive of tourist activity, markets, and restaurants and down to Monte Casino for a birthday tea. A nice place, very Americanised, a sort of mini Vegas, built mainly for the people of Jo’burg to gamble on the weekends.
The only concern we had all day was when we were driving and saw a sign that warned of carjacking for the next 20kms, it was a windy country road with lots of shrubbery, trees etc where people could lurk. The speed limit of 80kms was ignored by all.
We spent the evening waiting till 9pm (7pm UK time) to make the Skype call home. Mum, Dad, Sister, BIL and Niece all sat round the computer. It was lovely to speak with everyone and actually see them. Far too much to talk about and questions to be answered. Internet here in SA is limited; they can’t believe that in the UK we pay a monthly fee with no limitations. Here we are restricted to 1G which limits Skype time, we’ve been advised not to use Google earth as it uses a lot of band width and I’ve un installed my beloved tweet deck for Twitter.

Day 3

Day Three 22nd January
A day of nothing.
After a very lie and deserved lie in, Peter and Dan headed off to Centurion Park to see if they could purchase tickets for SA v India for Dan’s birthday, unfortunately they had sold out. We all met up in the mall, had lunch and mooched around trying for inspiration for a gift for Dan. Bought Dan some new school shoes as the ones he bought with him didn’t fit. Did some food shopping and came home to watch Birmingham City get thrashed by Man U and sat in the garden till late having a Braai.

Day 2

Day 2 21st Jan
Up and at ‘em. The children were up, breakfasted, washed and dressed and ready to go by 7am. I then tidied up, had a shower, ate my breakfast outside and drunk tea. Peter was gone for 90mins and I was starting to get a bit worried. Traffic here even on the side roads at rush hour is similar to a Friday evening at the M5/M6 or the Mall at Cribbs causeway on a bank holiday.
Kids already referring to ‘here’ as home, then correcting themselves, then adding well it will be home when we’ve got our own home.
Still not sorted the internet out, but now have local cell phones, this seems to be the only Americanised word we’ve come across to date. I was able to contact the agent for HSBC in the SA and armed with passwords, PINS and account details we are off to the Correspondence branch to organise it, without a local bank account we cannot get broadband connection, rent a home, and buy a car, even if we paid cash up front.
HR is coming to pick us up in an hour and is taking us on another whistle stop tour, this is the first time Peter and I have had anytime to ourselves just to sit, drink coffee and relax. We are very grateful to all the assistance we’ve received from the company, to date. I’m looking forward to next week with both kids in school and Peter at work. I plan to spend it in the local mall. We’re not tight but there’s a hell of a difference with food costs and toiletries, cleaning materials etc so I really need to spend some time familiarising myself with it all.
Just got one little task to sort out today and that’s Medical Cover and locating a dentist. I chipped my front tooth this morning trying to hang up a shirt, I put the coat hanger in my mouth…..idiot.
We’re shopping today for Picnic food for tonight at the school. It’s their family Braai night (Barbeque), stuff for pack lunches and equipment for Dan for next week as he’s on work experience in the community working with disabled children; they call them handicapped and retarded here which will take a little bit of getting used to. I shall use the words Learning Difficulties as will Dan when he’s there. Dan will also be on camp next week and away from ‘home’ for a night.
Well if you’re reading this now, it means WE HAVE INTERNET…no mean feat without proof of residency. I.e. utility bill or bank account. But hold your horses, don’t get carried away. We are on pay as you go, spent £70 on a dongle as mine wouldn’t work over here…again thanks (NOT) to Vodafone for not being worldwide, however I bought a Vodacom sim and a Vodafone dongle……either you’re connected or you’re not.
Med aid forms completed today and in operation with immediate effect, bank account sorted. The kids had a grand day at school, Dan even came home and did his homework, *faints* The journey there and back in the afternoon was just as time consuming so that will be the deciding factor on where we choose to live. Alex said there was so much rain that the pool flooded and the swimming gala was put on hold. I drove both ways, refused to go on my own for the first time, but have no problem with the journey next week when Peter is at work. I shall be stopping off, when I collect the kids at 2pm via the Mall, the farm shop and the dairy on a daily basis.

Day one

Day 1 20th Jan
It is ‘silly o’clock’ here in South Africa. 6am local time, 4am in the UK, you’d think I had jet lag but there’s only a 2 hour time difference, the sun is shining (streaming in through bedroom window) and there’s a variety of birds with their varying noises, dogs howling that have woken me up. Is there anywhere in the world that doesn’t have bloody seagulls? The washing machine has been on and the clothes are hanging up in the garden. I’ve had several cups of tea and have sorted out all the new paperwork, rearranged drawers and kitchen cupboards, am fully dressed and raring to go. I shall sit here quietly for the next 2 hours, reading and await HR for what will be a very long day. The children aren’t too impressed as they are off to school today to purchase uniform, register for classes and meet their new class mates. Dan isn’t impressed with the uniform – short trousers, knee length socks and its all beige. School here starts at 7.30am and is finished by 2pm every day. Peter will take the boys in the mornings and I will collect. Depending on where we finally settle, if its close enough the boys can cycle to school. At the moment we are about a 10 minute walk from the mall and it is perfectly safe for us to walk to it.
Our apartment is in a secure, gated tenement block, basically it is blocks of flats all brick built, it’s peaceful, tastefully laid out and we have heard rumours there is a swimming pool here. It’s a bit like a holiday complex and is perfect for us, while we get our bearings, but not an environment I would like to stay in permanently.
This morning we left the kids in their pyjamas while we went car shopping to the Toyota dealer to buy a gas guzzler of a 4x4 Fortuner 4 litre and a V6 engine and additional fuel tank.
We were welcomed at the school, a quick whistle stop tour, purchased school uniform, went shopping for stationary supplies and ta dah!!! Alex had his hair cut. Spent nearly £400 as we couldn’t bring everything with us on the flight, slightly annoyed that most of the stuff we purchased today will be coming over on the boat in 8-12 weeks. The school uniform is so different from what the boys are used to and Dan bless him at 16 in 2 days time has to wear short trousers to school. The kids look like they are off on safari, the only complaint we had, was from Dan who drew the line at wearing Speedos and opted for the board shorts. He’s also refusing to pull his socks up, so we’re not hassling him about it, he’ll soon fall into line at school. He’s also insisting on wearing his shorts hanging off his hips. Kids here wear their trousers on their actual waist and therefore don’t need belt loops and their shorts don’t keep falling down.
We took a drive around 2 different types of housing estates, one is cluster housing and surrounds a private golf course in a security estate, houses are big and grand with small gardens and spa sized pools. The other estate which we all preferred has a perimeter fence which is manned, but far nicer houses and bigger gardens with pools you can actually swim in.
Back to the mall, the driving is confusing me, we are on the opposite side of the world, 12 hours away by plane and they drive on the left, even so I keep trying to get in the wrong side of the car and panic slightly at junctions….I keep assuming they should be on the opposite side of the road. We purchased pay as you go cell phones as we need 3 months of SA bank statements and proof of residency to enter into a contract and I bought a SIM card for the dongle, which doesn’t work.
The evening was spent drinking wine on the patio, while Dan and I sorted out our phones and sent texts to one another to check they worked, Alex and Pete watched a DVD. Kids were very tired and went to bed early so we watched the end of Desperate Housewives and an episode of CSI Vegas whilst eating marmite on toast…nomm nomm.


Passport control was a breeze, collected 3 trolleys, free of charge, 5 cases came off together and the other 4 weren’t far behind, straight through customs and greeted by HR. It was bloody hot out there and by now we were all a little smelly. A car had been hired us, with a boot big enough for hand luggage only, Peter was given instructions on where to meet us and he drove off with the boys, HR and I took the cases to her car, one slight mishap with the lifts with her going up and down floors several times while I waited for the next lift. Loaded the car drove to Peter then whisked off to Centurion via Wimpey’s for a food stop and several drinks before driving past the boys new school to our apartment, 3 beds, (1 en suite) bathroom and open plan kitchen, dining room and lounge and outdoor space, nicely decorated. A house keeper comes Monday and Thursday am to clean, change the bedding and towels. We were left alone and the tears came again…WTF are we doing? But we’re here now.
Decided to head to Centurion Mall to purchase some food and have a mooch round, we enquired about internet and mobile phones to discover we need 3 months bank statements, not to worry HR is sorting out the finance for us tomorrow. The woman at the internet store asked for our address so she could check coverage, I replied ‘No 60’, she said ‘No. 60 where?’ I don’t know…I know how to get there….lol.
So many things the same and so many are different, there’s Woolworths, more M&S quality, Body care, Fossil, Birthday’s the card shop and their own version of Primark called Mr Price. Culturally we text, a lift isn’t called an elevator and the sense of humour is good, customer service so far is far higher than the UK. Food in the super market is much higher than back home with a box of cereal costing £4 and toiletries are almost double, but then fuel is only 70p (ish) a litre. Why isn’t the word ‘ish’ in the English language dictionary yet?
We came back to the apartment, I drove, HR came round as Peter was preparing a salad and set up her laptop with the internet so the boys could face book and I sneaked in a quick tweet or two.
We drank wine, I sat in the garden and smoked looking at the moon, trying to work out which way is North so I could give you all a little wave. Kids settled into bed well, they have school tomorrow and we’re off to sort banks, phones and a car for me.
I’m now lying in bed, having unpacked and for the first time in over a month we’re not living out of suitcases. But this place is only temporary and next week I’m off house hunting so we’ll have to pack up again and move on.


I’ve blogged before about body scanners at airports and I don’t have a problem with them at all, and we were all quite disappointed on this occasion not to pass through them, Alex and I set the alarm off, and we were’ wanded’ and patted down....I had to give permission for Alex, he had a £1 coin in his pocket, I had metal studs on my boots, Dan sailed through and Peter, who sets the scanners off every bloody flight, passed through without incident only to be told we search people randomly and today we choose you.
We had a piece of hand luggage each and 4 laptops, an Xbox, a stereo, a hand help computer, various articles of clothing and even a cuddly toy on the conveyor took bloody ages to repack.

The flight with Air France was fantastic, we had wine and snacks, arrived at Charles de Gaulle and found a pod I could go and have a smoke in...before I lit up I inhaled at least 1 cigarette from the last visitor in there.
We flew on the airbus, on the lower deck and the flight was almost empty, we spread ourselves out and managed to lie down across the seats and get a decent kip, this was after the glass of champagne and dinner washed down with yet more wine and a movie.
Dan and I kept looking at one another and taking it in turns to cry, with relief that we were finally going, the family we will miss, then bursting into giggles at the thought of what we were doing...moving to the other side of the world to a country we’d never even visited.

Bloody Check in

Checked in online...follow the instructions on the screen to print your boarding cards, pay for extra luggage and select your seats.....easy? managed to print the boarding passes for Manchester to Paris.....trip to the airport...I explained my problem and was told to come back at check in.....No, I would like to know now how much our 5 extra bags are as I don’t want to be in for a surprise later.....
Well Christine from Air France was not the most helpful person even when I explained it’s a one way trip with husband and 2 kids and I could really do without the hassle later home I went, repacked and checked the weight of our 9 suitcases, went to the post office, handed in a lost wallet at the police station, tidied the flat and hung around till 4pm.....
Taxi (small transit arrived) straight forward trip to the airport, three trolleys, no rows, off to Costa for coffee, no queue at check in....extra bags....£45 each, bit of a palaver as the girls tried to work out who to assign the additional cases too....1 extra case per person, no probs...but the 5th extra case £175....I hit the roof, well actually, I thanked the girls for their assistance and we took our 5 cases to the Air France desk to pay for them before they could go in the hold and hit the roof there.
I calmly explained to the woman that I had come to the airport this morning to sort this all out as I’d had the option of Peter’s company sending a case out for us, but the office was now shut. It was suggested I repacked in the airport, but as I explained still calmly ‘what would I do with the excess luggage?’ as 9 cases will not pack into 8 and 4 cases had already been sent off down the conveyor belt. The woman at the desk looked at me blankly, offered no suggestions other than keep repeating the company policy to I cried and spoke fairly loudly to explain (again) this is the exact reason I came to the airport this morning to avoid this stress...we are on a one way trip and I don’t need the hassle...she picked up the phone, muttered something and put me onto the supervisor at KLM.
I repeated the whole saga, for the millionth time, she explained she wasn’t able to override the computer system, agreed that Christine on the desk this morning should’ve have been able to answer my questions and give me the information I requested and said the matter would be dealt with, she then provided me with the address to make a complaint, took £292 off us, which included a 20% discount that we would have received if the online service had been working....I snarled at the woman on the counter and off we went.

Saying good bye

Can’t stand this hanging around, it’s driving me mad. The four of us moved out of a 6 bed house last week and came to Manchester to a 2 bed flat, the kids are sharing a bed, they are 15 & 11, we have 1 TV and 2 bathrooms, we are all getting on one another’s nerves, there’s no bloody internet, mobile phone reception is poor and I have to keep going outside to smoke, down two flights of stairs, spend more time out than in.
Bloody removal firm said they would be very busy after Christmas so needed to empty house so they could ship our stuff out in the New Year...then informed us...they can’t ship it out till they get our visas....FFS.
After spending the week driving round the UK, some very painful farewells for the kids, dropping off additional forms then finally collecting the visas...we were driving back to Manchester Friday evening when the phone rang from SA, ‘we’ve hired a car for you, you do have International driving licences, don’t you?’
Please stop making us jump through hoops...can’t wait to get out there now and start the next chapter.

Adventures of an English/Welsh family in South Africa

Mid September Peter was approached by his company to transfer to South Africa to work, it was a topic we had discussed for a long time, the opportunity to live and work abroad. Our family motto should be...’yeah go on then, why not?’ We think nothing of getting in the car and driving for several hours just to ‘pop somewhere’ and return in the same day. Most of our family and friends need a lot more planning time than us and would probably stay overnight if they travelled to London or Manchester to a football match. So to us a move to South Africa was just another ‘day out’. Nobody took any convincing of moving out, with the internet for face book and mine and Dan’s beloved twitter and of course Skype it wouldn’t be a problem.
We arrived in South Africa on the 19th January 2011.

Friday, 14 January 2011

We're Off-after our tour of the UK

Sunday moved into company flat in Manchester.
Tuesday night stayed in Elstree, London at Premier Inn, ready to submit paperwork to High Commission.
Wednesday night stayed at Travel Lodge, Reading, spent time with son before leaving.
Thursday night stayed in Bath,with MIL, via Malvern to check on house and collect post.
Friday-Monday back in Manchester, via another trip to the High Commission to collect the visas.
Tuesday South Africa.

Monday, 10 January 2011

An update on the update of the update

For those of you that read 'An update of the update on the move to South Africa' last week, this is what we're doing now.

Left the house yesterday and now staying in company flat in Manchester, it's a two bed and the kids are not only sharing a room, which is alien to them, they are also sharing a bed.

Some major tears last night and the boys, Dan aged 15 and Alex aged 11, sat and cuddled on the sofa for most of the evening as they had said goodbye to their dad and blamed me as he drove away.

Normal service soon resumed and kids were arguing, then Alex disappeared and refused to come from under the bed. A bit of furniture moving followed and I managed to find a BT hot spot, internet connected, text to dad to tell him to go on skype and for the next hour Alex giggled away, then went to bed happily.

Hubby is in Dublin today with work and the boys and I are off to the Trafford Centre today. We are anxiously waiting the email which says Alex has passed his exam and we can formally offer you a school place in the year above, they are full in his school year, as/when that happens we drive to London on Wednesday present our final documentation and they then tell us when the visas are ready. Maybe in a few hours, maybe the following day, maybe next week. Then it's book the flights and off we go.

If we don't get the school place we have some back up plans, get a place at another school that has space for him, no exam required, go to London and follow as above.

Will keep you all posted.

Friday, 7 January 2011

An update on the update to South Africa

We took all our documentation to the High Commission in December, we used an agency as we were getting nowhere on our own.
We had chest x-rays and police checks to check we were clear of TB and didn't have a criminal record. Bit of an effing cheek if you ask me, considering where we are going. We did a last minute dash the night before, armed with a bottle of Whiskey to our friends who is a Doctor to sign a form we forgot to say we were of sound mind and body, made applications and paid deposits to the new school and were told to come back today on the 7th January to collect the visas.

All our furniture was removed from the house on Christmas eve, we've been living with decorators ready to rent the house out, had gas and electricity safety checks carried out and the window cleaners, house and carpet cleaners are booked to come in next week, and my oven looks better than new.

We had a tenant lined up for January the 14th, 6 months deposit paid up front and by the way can we move in our 5 cats and 1 dog, oh and can we can't pay the 6 months up front now....agents checked with previous landlord and although they cleared credit checks, they had been given notice to quit their previous place. So we said no thanks. But then she came back with 'can I put the tenancy agreement in my Mother and Sisters name?' looks like they were subletting. It was Husband and wife plus 2 kids, plus mother and sister and boyfriend with 5 cats and 1 dog...lucky now back looking for new tenants.

Oh and don't forget the saga of the car. Only £1,000 to take it. Came back to us on Tuesday to say actually it's £1,500 then let us know yesterday that we need export and import certificates, vehicle has to have certificate of steam cleaning, 3 independent valuations, original receipt for purchase...Fuck too much to do so on Sunday I will take the car to my parents and they can sell the dam thing for me.

Despite paying the deposits and 2 years school fees up front, the school, which was closed from 4th January till yesterday came back to say we have a place for Dan but not Alex, so can he sit an exam to see if he'll cope moving up a year, doubtful, he's dyslexic and it affects reading, writing and comprehension. Kids aren't in school at the moment so contacted his old school which doesn't go back till Monday and they arranged for him to sit the exam today and emailed it back to South Africa, which will be marked on Monday.

So, when do we get our visas?

We go to the High Commission on Wednesday with the paperwork, assuming he passes the exam (had a quick sneak at the paper, it was testing his literacy and numeracy, we ignored the Afrikaans bit, I'm fairly sure he'll pass) And we wait....maybe 4 hrs, maybe the following day, maybe a week or more, but at least we'll know for defiant when the visa is ready for collection.

In the meantime, I have one more trip to the tip, neighbour has taken the rest of the stuff for charity, valet the car, pick Steph up for one last visit and meet Hubby in Bath to see MIL, as friends are taking the dining room table and chairs back to her. Sunday off to my parents with the car then we drive in convoy (ex husband is bringing the kids and their luggage) to the company flat in Manchester, hubby is off to Dublin for 2 days with work and we have a hotel booked in Reading where my son works so we can have one last visit with him after we've been to the High Commission, then back to Manchester maybe for a week, maybe just one night.

I promise as soon as we get those bloody visas, I shall be telling the world in one simple tweet.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

South Africa

Email recieved from the agency this morning in response to our question...'What else do we need to do to get our Visas.'

We have sent emails and attempted to get hold of the High Commission telephonically and the phones simply go to voice mail. I cannot assure you that the permits will be ready on Friday as the application will not be processed without the outstanding documentation.

We are continuing our effects to get hold of the High Commission.

So there you go....we know no more now than we did 5 minutes ago

Why do I blog?

I tend to blog when I post a tweet and get several replies and it's easier to blog than it is to reply to everyone. I also tend blog when things are getting me down and I need to get stuff off my chest.

What do I like about a blog?

I don't read alot of blogs these days, to be honest they infuriate me. Been there, done that. 'My child isn't sleeping' 'I co-sleep do you?' 'at what age should I allow my child to watch TV?' then there's all the 'my child is so...funny/clever/talented' yuk yuk yuk. This is just my opinion and whether you agree with the statements above or not I'm not really see, wait till your kids get older and become teens, but until that happens you'll read my posts and say 'I won't let that happen' or 'I will raise my kids better than that so they don't behave that way'

So what do I want?

I want to read honest posts, no holding back, can't abide those tweets that read 'need inspiration for a blog post'

So if you feel like me or think you have something I might like to read then do let me know.