Tuesday 31 May 2011

More Stress

When was the last time you bought a tyre?
How much did it cost?
Where did you buy it from?

Easy task, you've either answered a) it's a company car and I just booked it in the dealers, b) you can think for a few minutes c) don't have a car or d) my other half sorts those things out.

Last place I bought tyres from was near the fire station in Droitwich, cost £75 ish each.

So you pick up the phone directory, search for tyres or tires, look for the nearest garage to you, call round a few more to get a competitive price, maybe go in same day or they have to order them in for you...still with me...or you ask a colleague at work, a neighbour, your Dad...

What do you do when you don't know anyone?...a quick search on the internet tells me there are places near me, still struggling with accents, so visit in person...it appears there's no such thing as buying power here in South Africa, all tyres are the same price plus or minus R50-R100...

'Yep we can do that for you ma'am' 'how effing much?' 'R2000 if you want one today or R1,500 if you don't mind waiting a day or two'...wish me luck.

I've gone with the R1,500, refused to pay for it until it is fitted and now will wait for the phone to ring, maybe tomorrow, maybe sometime next week, maybe never...

Saturday 28 May 2011

You can't make this up

On Thursday I took a colleague of Peter's on Safari...we invited him to stay at our house while he was here with work. He's a good friend of Peters but I'd only met him the once in 2007.

We set off at 7am for a 2 hour journey to Pilensburg, we passed Sun City and got slightly lost, drove through a township and stopped for a document and vehicle check by the police..I asked 'why' they replied 'because we asked' 'OK' I explained I was English and would like this exp;aining and they were very helpful and polite and after checking our documents they gave us directions for the game reserve.

We had a good day, dfriving round the reserve looking for the elephants...I personally am of a mind that the elephants are either a) not real or b) 2ft tall and hidden in the grass...
but we did see Rhinos, Zebras, Giraffes and the best of all a Leopard.

We saw the majority of animals towards the end of the day as the sun was setting and they made their way towards the watering holes...the Leopard was just standing in the middle of the road, we were craning our necks looking for the elephants, it hung around long enough for us to lean out the car and take photos.

So slightly behind schedule we began our journey home...the gate ws locked we were no more than 10 minutes late..security indicated for us to step out of the car to inform us that they had no key, no radio and no mobile phone and we would just have to sit and wait till someone/anyone arrived...not impressed, there were wild dogs nearby plus you know lions etc...we sat, we waited, we laughed, we called home...'no really, we didn't do it on purpose'

35 mins later we were on our way home, 2 hours in the dark, the first part of the journey I was apprehesive, driving through built up areas on a singletrack road, but then we reached the N4 and I relaxed...N1....27kms to go, Peter is reheating tea..my guest informs me the car sounds a little funny and bang, at 120kms per hour in the outside of 3 lanes, my tyre blows, a controlled stop on the hard shoulder. The car stops we get out and quickly climb the barrier...the traffic is very fast...there's a break in the traffic so we grab food, blanket, personal items. We're near a toll booth, can't get through to OUTsurance so call Peter to explain...he sighs...and a few minutes later they call back.

'where are you Ma,am?'
'ermmmm I don't know,GPS says 27km north of home on N1 just past the 'What does it say on the toll Ma'am?'
I'm not a lot of use at this point and reply 'E Tag and Cash Only'
They finally establish where we are and reply 'a vehicle will be with you in 33 minutes'

We sit on the grass, the toll booth security check on us, OUTsurance call us, the tow truck company call to confirm they are on their way....

...and 17 hours after we set off, we arrive back home....still speaking, thankfully.

Oi...it's my car

It's my car
If I want things hanging from the mirror...what's it got to do with you?
It's not crap filling every compartment...it's my stuff
If I want the radio reprogramming...I'll do it
No I'm not too hot/cold...I've set the temperature like that for a reason
What rattle/noise...it's not interfering with my driving
How many times?...if you push the cigarette lighter in to hard, it will pop out, roll under your seat and I'll have to pull over to find it
Go drive your own car

It's not hot here

When I woke yesterday, there was a ground frost, all the neighbours have wrapped their shrubs, so I guess winter is here.

We've got underfloor heating and the air con has temperature settings up to 30c, but like most families it has to be sub zero for several months before my husband puts the heating on...it's not because he's from 'op north' and hardy, it's because he's from 'op north' and bloody tight.

So the winter duvets are on and the kids have extra blankets, the fluffy socks are out and being worn in bed.

The temperature in the evenings, after sun down are between 4 & 11c, in the day, although its autumn it actually feels like spring to me, there are flowers out and the tepmerature in the day rises into the mid 20c.

Several light layers of clothing are required, which are peeled off as the day goes on. I wear my winter boots in the morning and by the afternoon I change into sandals...

It's too chillyfor the pool now, but I'm still using the steam room.

We left the UK with a covering of snow on the ground. We had a proper white christmas spent in the Cotswolds with 8inches of snow and the temperature hadn't risen above freezing for several weeks.

We arrived in South Africa in the middle of summer with temperatures in the mid 30s.

When the weather starting to get chilly here, I was asked 'aren't you cold?' well no I wasn't, the people asking the question are wrapped up in hats, scarves and gloves, while I was peeling my cardi off...the kids are getting told off in school for not wearing their jumpers in the day as they are both too hot, while their class mates keeps their scarves on, cuddle their hot water bottles and sip hot drinks from their flask.....

I wonder how long it will be before we complain of being cold?

Now, it's cold now, the under floor heating doesn't work, we bought coal and chopped down a tree in the garden

Friday 27 May 2011

Do you ask people how they met?

Is it a conversation opener?...are they really interested, am I just plain rude when I don't ask them how they met?...or are they just bloody amazed that we are a couple and wondering how the hell those two people could ever meet?

...and then sound surprised that it's been 'that long' and we're actually married...

I'd love to hear your thoughts on it...

BTW Yes he's older than me and I was the baby sitter *exits stage right to leave you pondering on this one*

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Is it ever too much???????

We live almost in the middle of the security estate, the permimeter is 7km and we're a 2km drive from the main gate.

The main gate has swipe operated booms, security guards and CCTV. All visitors MUST enter and leave by the main gates...we have to call down to security, give them our name, address and a 5 digit PIN to identify ourselves, inform them eta and name of visitor...the visitor is given a plastic card, which the must hand back in when they leave.

The back gate is for residents only, we have a magnetic swipe key we use to operate the booms, there are armed guards and the back gates are locked every night at 6pm.

The estate has 24hr armed security, patrol cars and dogs...we pay a premium to live her, at least R7,000 (£650) per month extra compared to a similar property outside the estate...but we're safe...

It's quite a big deal to pack your family up and move to the other side of the world...and South Africa isn't exactally the safest of places to live...we're in Centurion approx 25 miles from Johannesburg and 10 miles from the capital Pretoria...you've all heard the stories of murder, car jacking etc...it DOES happen, so while we're adjusting to our new lives, we may as well be as safe as we can...

and yet...there have been several break ins at the security estate where we live. TV's, laptops, mobile phones etc have been taken...4 houses so far in our street, maybe 9 in total in the past 2 weeks...they think it's an inside job...bored, rich teens with a drug habit to feed...who knows?...

all I do know is, I listen to the news on the TV and Radio and I'm grateful for the premium...2 weeks ago a man was held at knife point in his own home, he was skyping with his son in NZ, who immediately called the SA Police...there was a gun fight...yes, the robbers stole a gun from the mans house and were taking pot shots at the police, in broad daylight, near a shopping centre outside the library, where I go twice a week, one robber was shot dead, no one else injured...then there was the cop firing out of a helicopter at a stolen car...

I've tweeted with people in the UK from South Africa who think I'm stir crazy for moving here and then people over here that have blocked me on twitter as they think I'm slagging this beautiful country off...I'm not I'm just telling it as it is...


...is our gardener, we had problems with the first one, he made me feel uncomfortable...another woman on the estate called me to say he'd been stealing from her, so after that it was easy to let him go...anyway Solomon was recommended to us by a neighbour who had employed Solomon for the last 9 years.

Solomon speaks English, but it's a slow process. Solomon also didn't attend school and this is evident, not by what he says but how he says things...He calls me 'Mamie'..I've only ever heard that in the old black and white films and it makes me smile...

I helped Solomon in the garden today, he told me what to do and how to do it...he also ordered me to fetch him tea and toast, mid morning and told me at 12.10pm I was 10 minutes late with his lunch...he's company for me, so I don't really mind, it's a language thing, he's not being rude...

I pay Solomon R150 per day (approx £14) I feel bad, he works hard, takes few breaks and arrives at 7.30am and leaves at 3pm...his wife works on the estate also as a housekeeper and he's finally realised why I do my own house work...he says 'Mamie, you must not work, you must rest, do what the other Mamie's do' ... I keep explaining to him that I have nothing else to do and it keeps me sane, hence why today I was working alongside him in the garden...'Mamie, come, work, garden, I show you what to do'... I love gardening and I played dumb, cringing as he told me to water the plants in the middle of the day, when the sun is shining brightly,I refained from saying 'but you'll scorch the leaves'...

Solomon asks me for a lift to the back gate, I tell him where the children's school is and ask if he'd like a lift to the station...I've given Solomon some Roses tea bags, a couple of packets of instant pasta and a packet of biscuits, he insists I write a letter to say I've given him these things, so the security guards don't accuse him of stealing...I tell him he's in my car, we will just drive out...he says 'No, Mamie, you must write it'...

I drop Solomon at the train station, he is very grateful...'I will get home early tonight Mamie, my wife will be very happy and when I give her the gifts she will smile'...

It takes Solomon 5 hours to get home, 2 trains, a bus and a 5 mile walk at the end of a 8 hour day and his travel costs????? half of what I pay him...

Thursday 5 May 2011

Pro's and Con's

Returning to the UK is NOT an option, Ok we've still got a house there, but that's it, just a house, not a home....home for me is where i am, where my husband and children are..it's sad that we've left 3 of them behind, but they'd already left home...so technically we didn't leave them anywhere.

So when asked to come up to South Africa....we didn't draw up a pro's and con's list....silly?...no not really as Peter had been asking work for a move abroad for a long time, egged on mainly by me, but what a fantastic opportunity it would be...new language, experiences, cultures, fantastic on the kids CV...but South Africa....OMG...we thought Europe, Denmark even...we never dreamed we would come here, it's not even a place we'd thought of for holidays (been to Tunisia and Egypt)......

So now we're here what are the pro's and con's?

Experience, weather, culture, fantastic people, safari's, lions, giraffes, (who stole the elephants?)
Private schools (not at our expense for a change), the house..WOW..it's huge we could never afford this in the UK, a pool, a steam room, seperate living area for the eldest and for visitors (when are you coming over), the food, the supermarkets, the malls, car insurance (it's so much cheaper), the medical facilities (however it would drop into con's if we didn't have med aid, the roads (round here anyway are fantastic)

We've acclimatised...25c is too cool to go for a swim (mind you pool is bath size so can't swim in it anyway...lol), shops shut early on weekends and no 24hr service, shoot outs in the streets (but we've not been involved and they're areas we wouldn't go to anyway, but its scary as a Brit to hear and read about it) robbery inside the estate (hey our neighbours were robbed prior to us coming out here), trying to get anything done (that's just the way things are here, you have to queue for everything, they even pay people to queue for them here) racism (one bad experience, unfortunatly the bloke was a twat and used me being English as an excuse to be an even bigger twat), pot holes (big buggers, they'd close the roads in the UK for ones that size)

So apart from all that, we can't complain....but we do..the reason we complain is 'we just don't know how to do things'....how do I know what I need to know unless someone tells me, I'm not thick, I've been doing all of this in the UK, yes there has still been problems, but I know what to do there, how the system works, friends, family, colleagues for guidance and support, to moan at, to phone up on my behalf...we struggle here because we do it alone....

So here is the breakdown..no not mine but why I feel like this?

September 2010

Do you want to move to South Africa?
...keep it quiet no one at works knows about it yet


Looks like it's going to happen
...tell kids, ask their dad his permission, tell eldest son who's not coming with us, tell parents, finally get hold of step son in Germany to tell him, keep it off facebook a bit longer


Hubby flies to South Africa
...told his secretary who is sworn to secrecy, start to tell a few trusted friends, get confirmation the move is going ahead, tell everyone, had in notice at work


Get decorators in, find agent to rent house, inform banks, Doctors, last visit to dentist, visas, chest xrays, police record checks, organise removal of furniture, say goodbyes, cry, scream, shout, sell stuff, goodbye parties, more goodbyes, more tears, think of everyone you need to inform, pension, child benefit agency, homeless for christmas, furniture removed 23rd Dec, kids at their dads, more tears, christmas with @mediocre_mum, @annieqpr, @cbolam and their families...new year with the neighbours....


Visas, more goodbyes, move to Manchester, Visas, back to London, say goodbye again to eldest, tears, Manchester, South Africa arriving on the 19th, heat, tears, WTF?,kids in school, buy uniform, apartment, no phone, sister in UK gives birth very poorly, safari, explore, no sat nav, find hospital, son in A&E no phone, get payg Sim, no car, walk, thunder and lightening storms, phonecalls on street corners, dark, scared, no sat nav, no money, cards frozen, get local bank account, all offers of help non exsistant, here you go, get on with it, storms, floods, hot,study, assignment, stress, kids, rows, I'm going home.


Find furniture, container lost, rent house, no phone, no sat nav no car, difficulties, get loan, get car, get insurance, get satnav, rent house, container still lost, visit customs, pay money, complete paperwork, container lost, safari, explore, study, stress.


Move, get eldest from airport, Durban, beach, switch off, shopping, no money, get electric and water put on, phone line, TV, get house insurance, report faults, queue, queue, queue, got money, swim, safari, golf, relax, study, stress, son returns, more upset, hubby back to UK, pays bills, sorts out going UK problems, visits family, visits friends, (yes that's you Linda and Chris), says goodbye, more upset, thunder, lightening, assignment, stress, mothers day.


Got money, no mobiles, no dog, can have dog, cant find dog we want, birthdays, unpaid bills in UK, court orders, we sorted this, FFS, fed ups, rows, tantrums, I'm going home, tears, stress, assignment, internet fails, no mobiles, repairs carried out on house, SAFA won't register son, tantrums, storms out of vodacom and not for the last time, chilly, golf, no swimming, nails, hair, shopping, glass panel falls from balcony, collect step son from airport, sun city, townships.


Cries, wants to go home, buys dining table, nails done, breaks down in school, golf, no mobile, storms out of another phone suppliers, more UK issues, FFS, email all UK companies with list of complaints, changes address to SIL, stress, shouts, football......

what next?


Mum and Dad for 3 weeks


MIL and SIL for 2 weeks


?????ex husband out see his kids, hubby and I to Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban


2 weeks in UK

Will you be my friend?

I'm not ill, or nor is anyone I know, no one has died....so why do I feel so sad and alone...he's been such a great experience moving to South Africa, the country side the people, the way of life, but it's fucking hard doing it on your own. I've really connected on twitter, facebook and through internet searches with some lovely, amazing, fantastic people who have provided great moral support and offered friendship, and even though it helps knowing there are other people in the same situation, each and everyone of us is different and we experience things in different ways......I haven't cried this much since my Gran died in 2005, my sister, my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins etc all had their own way of dealing with it and we all coped in different ways..I still cry now when I think of my gran, especially how much she'd love all of this, telling people about her granddaughter moving to the other side of the world. I cried when our furniture arrived and the first thing I unpacked was her tea set. They became nice tears, tears of happy times....

But I keep crying, it is gut wrenching, my nose snorts snot, I cry till I fall asleep, I keep disappearing into public loos cos I cry for no reason...I cry because there is a hole, and I don't know how to fill it....I attended parents evening and left after 3 minutes...'Hi, How are you?, are you settled now?' I cried..... 'I'm so alone here, I don't know how to use the internet, can't get a mobile phone, don't know how to pay the bills online so spend at least one day a week in a queue so long I'm starting to think about taking a picnic with me'....no it's not the same as the UK, it's not just the language, although everyone speaks English, the accents don't help I struggle to understand them as much as they struggle to understand me. The culture, the way of life, values, standards, expectations, obvious racism (this is rare, but so upsetting to witness) the poverty, the work conditions and pay for so many people...I've got to stop measuring it by UK standards, there's nothing wrong with the way things are done here, everything is relative and you can't change the world, but nevertheless some of it is distressing.

I've got no friends, no job and even had to pack my studies in...can't do the last year of a degree without any support at all....OK so see above, I'm safe, I'm not poor, I have my health, my husband, my children, but I've given up everything that makes me, me...don't feel sorry for me, that's not the point... @mediocre_mum suggested I take up knitting or have a baby..there's plenty of groups out there, she also recomends that you DON'T google 'lonely and bored in Pretoria' trust me I've ignored her advice before and been shocked....I know you mean well when you suggest I make an effort to get out there and meet people, join the gym, what about the neighbours.....I am a very sociable person....I had coffee with the woman who owns the hairdressers that I've only been to once, I was in a cafe taking to the waitress who was telling another member of staff...'she's English, she doesen't want any shite in her latte, she likes it week and don't put honey in it or she pulls a face' anyway the hairdresser woman came and said hi and I bought her a 'shite free' coffee. My first girlie chat in months...and I'm going out Monday night for a glass of wine with Dans teacher after she reduced me to tears with her earlier question and said 'what can I do to help?' I pathetically replied 'be my friend'

I would be lost without so many of you, but particulary @talloracle and @mulledred, vetrans of moving abroad with families, not working, leaving the UK behind, check out their tweets and blogs, then you'll see its not just the chicken having a moan, this is what it is like, the rest of you are fantastic also but I'm frightened if I name you all I'll miss someone out, but you know who you are keep the messages on facebook coming, the emails, the skype calls, the letters, the goodies and the parcels....but apart from you lot very, very sadly there are only a few 'real' people that are making the same effort...Hi Serena, if you're reading...you're one of them that keeps me going, just get yourself on facebook please. I think the novelty for many others has worn off by now..it started well, biut it's not the same..so thank you,you keep me going, although I've lost a few along the way, but that's their loss...i've got enough on my plate without their issues.

Tuesday 3 May 2011

Thank you everyone

Whether it's been tea bags, football programs, letters, tweets, emails, skype calls or messages of concern on Facebook, I seriously wouldn't be getting through this without it all and you. Keep up the good work, keep calm and carry on and thank you.