Thursday 23 June 2011

My letter to OUTsurance

I object to your rejection letter for a claim for a camera and GPS stolen from my vehicle.

I acknowledge there was no visable sign of break in to the vehicle, this is because I was stood at the boot of the vehicle loading shopping when someone entered the car via the front door and removed the items from the centre console. I was not threatened either, but I was informed that if I had the items next to me on a cafe table and someone walked past and picked them up I would have been covered as there may be CCTV to evidence this.

To unlock my boot I am required to press the button twice which then unlocks all the doors. How I am supposed to take any other action to protect the contents of my vehicle when I am stood there?

Are you seriously suggesting that I challenge anyone that wants to take any thing from me and risk having a gun drawn to my head? Should I next time ask the peron who is stealing my personal items if they wouldn't mind smashing the glass next time so I can make a claim?

i don't want to recieve a cut and paste terms and conditions of policy as a standard reply. I would like a full explanation as to what you expect me to do in a situation like this or I cannot see the need for having contents insurance with you.

Living in Utopia...Part Two

There’s been a spate of burglaries in the security estate, an inside job, someone renting a property just to ‘case’ the joint or a member of the golf club...They stole the next door neighbours was concreted into the wall, they must have brought heavy equipment...we never heard a bloody thing...they broke into one house and stole 1,000s of £££’s of designer clothing, handbags and shoes and 7 other houses. The Home Owner Association sent out regular emails in regards to these ‘incidents’ warning us to take extra security measures.
Two days after my parents arrived, I received another email telling me of another ‘incident’ popping off to the neighbours house at the end of the street, I discover 3 Protea coin security guards stood outside their house, I enter, there’s a birthday party going on, Alex is there playing pool and being fed, as happens every weekend and the owners are drinking wine. I’m offered a drink, I decline...pleasantries are exchanged, I’ve not met them numbers swopped...questions about why we are in SA and are we liking it...then...
...I’m told how the maid answered the door at 11am, she was pushed down the stairs, she grabbed the phone, she was hit on the head with the butt of a gun, rolled up in a carpet and held at gun point for 90mins till the burglars had emptied the took them that long to force them out of the concrete walls and break them open...they stole the keys for the Ferrari and Lamborghini, weren’t able to actually steal them as there was a BMW X5 blocking the way out of the garage (I’m serious)..The maid had kept hold of the phone and hit redial, managing to say what had happened, the owner hearing this call, knew something was wrong, drove 15kms home, he called Estate security on his way, but arrived before security bothered to turn up...the gates hadn’t been closed so the armed robbers were able to get away...the maid was treated in hospital at the expense of the owner and is being taken to trauma counselling...the security firm were replaced the following day for their negligence and the number plate of the vehicle was taken and the police caught them two days later and were able to link them to the other ‘incidents’ that took place...he had obtained/found/bought the magnetic swipe for the estate from a golfing member who has since been banned from the estate for their negligence also...
But what alarms me the most...there was no crime tape, and the owners, although very upset about what had happened to the maid, weren’t upset, not in the way you’d expect them to be in the UK...this would be a major news story, there wasn’t a sign of a media van..just the three additional security guards hired for the rest of the owners life at their own expense...
Do you know what my neighbour said when I told him this, when I explained what the reaction would be in the UK?
Suzanne...This is Africa

Living in Utopia...part one

The house is fantastic, ok it’s costing us a fortune in rent, but we ‘need’ the security and as I can’t work, why not live in a beautiful setting on a 18 hole golf course, where I can go for a walk in complete safety. I ‘need’ the pool (more of a big bath really) and the steam room and all this space...we could never afford this standard of living in the UK and why not?...we may be here forever, we may decide to go home, we may move somewhere else in a few years...who knows?

We live a 10 minute drive from Rietvlei, a small game reserve by South African standards, more of a park really, but bigger than Longleat and it’s not manmade, it’s the animal’s natural habitat. There are Lions, Rhinos and Zebras as well as the Sneezy things, as my son named them when he came to visit, seems like they’re all allergic to the grass...think they’re called Spring Boks.

45 Minutes further down the road is Krugersdorp Game Reserve and the Lion Park go there on Sunday mornings as that’s when they feed the lions. They have Elands and similar animals that have died of natural causes chained to a post to stop the Lions dragging their food away so the tourists can see and take photos. The Lions are docile after feeding but if they do approach your car you need to keep moving as they have a habit of chewing your tyres and you don’t want to be changing a wheel out there.

Pilanesberg Game reserve is a 2 hour drive away north west of Pretoria, that’s where you get to see all the ‘big 5’
The Elephants were amazing, a herd of approximately 20, stood no further away than the length of a football pitch, unfortunately one of them decided it liked the look of our car and started to approach us on the road...there was nothing we could do...we couldn’t go forwards as the elephant was blocking our view, so we indicated to the car behind to reverse, who indicated to the car behind him, who indicated to the car behind him and so took ages before we were able to reverse away, to discover that the end car about 7 back was in fact actually a car and not a 4x4 like the rest of us and the road was actually a track full of deep holes and they had trouble getting out...a fair amount of panic from parents but I’m quite calm in these types of situations as is Peter...we had no control over the situation.

Two weeks earlier I spotted a Leopard at dusk and despite the warnings, yes, I sort of got out the car to take a photo and get a better look...good job its mate didn’t sneak up behind me...he was less than 20ft away.

The remaining two animals are the Rhino and Buffalo and I’ve seen them many times, in fact in each park on every occasion in the case of the rhino.

I could get used to this...I am used to this... there’s another weekend ahead and the picnic will be made and the camping stove with tea and coffee facilities will be packed and off we go...

Do you know what my neighbour said when I told him that I’d seen the ‘big 5’ in 3 separate visits within 5 months?...
Suzanne...This is Africa

Wednesday 22 June 2011

You haven't changed a bit

I’m 40 on what? begins at 40...actually I think that depends what side of 40 one
‘Oh you don’t look a day over......’ ‘why thank you’...liar...I don’t need to feel better....I have no thoughts of being 40...well maybe I feel a bit of a grown up now, but then I’ve had 3 kids leave home...’oh you don’t look old enough’ I’m not
I was asked on twitter this evening if I had any nice plans...and as it happens, Yes, I do...however my family have other ideas, I NEED banners and balloons, a big cake with 40 on it, a nice quiet meal at the golf club and I’ve already had my presents....I bought my own (get what I want that way)
So I’m going to let them put the banners up, I’ll laugh at the ‘old age’ cards, I’ll smile, I’ll stuff my face with cake...

The computer says NO

I’m getting things done, but it takes forever. I’m not South African, I don’t understand the culture, I don’t know the procedures and I’ve got no-one to ask for help from.
I’ve met a couple of people that look like they’re going to be good friends, but I’m too scared I’ll frighten them off. I can’t ask them to take contracts out in their names, I don’t know them well enough or them me, plus I’ll never get a credit history that way.
Also everyone tells me, yes everything takes longer here, but trust me as soon as you produce a non south African ID and a 2 year visitor stops..that’s it nothing...
Twice now we’ve been refused a mobile phone contract with Vodacom and so far no one will tell us why, just not enough paperwork...WTF? tell me what additional paperwork I need and I’ll bloody well go and get it..FFS
Complain, told to call customer Services who promptly tell me the store has the info...
So if anyone has any advice or is a non south African on a 2 year visa and has a mobile phone contract please get in touch and let me know how

Car tax/Vehicle licence disc

‘You need to bring your car in for an AA pre sale safety check’ or something like that...’OK’
In the meantime I’m trying to renew my yearly little disc that goes in the front window of the car, I assume it’s the same as the car tax in the UK but costs far less than the UK and it’s renewed every year.
So I go to the post office, explain, get given form and that’s that....
Return with form complete..VIN number required plus loads of other stuff I don’t understand, ask at the local cafe, ask the garage, ask the neighbour..but I don’t have a form like that, where do I get that info from..return with forms and cash (they don’t take card payments) verified copy of Peters passport, stamped and in triplicate (I’m learning fast)..but the passport number didn’t fit the ID box so turned away...’we need more info’...someone anyone please tell me what info
Contact the garage...we don’t have the paperwork from the bank about the loan we took out for part payment of the car....’oh that’s cos your husband has only just provided us with the paperwork to prove he’s eligible to buy a car’ yeah 3 months after you sold us the bloody thing and no one told us, so garage hand over bank paperwork.
Then there’s something about a safety check certificate..arhhh suddenly making sense now.
So I arrive at the garage on Friday, I ask to speak to the manager, I explain what has happened, how cross I am, that they let me take a vehicle without the correct safety checks and documentation and they take the car to The AA for the checks, the paperwork and the tax thingy and call me today to tell me the disc the paperwork etc etc is waiting for me to collect them first thing in the morning.

Life can be quite boring sometimes

My day
Alarm 5.30am stay in bed till hubby yells ‘where would you like your tea?
Stand in kitchen, drinking tea
Yell instructions to kids while drinking tea
Hand kids lunch boxes after locating football boots, grey socks, homework
Kids to school via hubby on his way to work
Put washing machine/dish washer on
Jog/Walk/Exercise DVD
Twiddle thumbs till 4pm school collection (tweet, blog, shop, clean, drink coffee)
And then everything comes at once and I don’t sit down till 9pm

It’s all coming together

Can’t say too much but things here are going to get better.
Company will help with mobiles...won’t pay it or take it out in their name but can act as guarantor to enable us to get contracts. I’ve had a chance to off load which makes me feel better...The word sorry really does help.
But 2 weeks on..nothing has happened....ok I need to find out what Vodacom actually want from us, they’ve had all the documents they’ve requested and I even offered to take a vial of the kids blood in with me. Also all the ‘other stuff’ that we raised was going to be investigated so going to have to chase that up.
SAFA’s local office were refusing to register Dan as he is a foreigner, I asked for an explanation and as some of you know I ‘KNOW’ my stuff when it comes to football and Child Welfare. I was shouted at...I was told ‘I’m not registering him as I don’t like you’ OK mate you’ll like me even less in a minute. I called SAFA, they emailed the info I needed, I gave it to TUK’s, who were very grateful for my intervention and I informed SAFA if I don’t get either a) my son registered to play non league football or b) a full and legal explanation I shall be going to FIFA and both the English and South African Media with my story of discrimination.
2 weeks ago we also finally got a refund for a dining room table we bought that they failed to deliver, it took 4 weeks again of threats of legal action before the money was refunded...but the biggest shock came when I ordered and paid for a table the same day and it was delivered only half hour late 3 days later...what then followed was storms and freezing was here I’ve told has said that is ‘unheard of’
The medical aid is now sorted...tah dah...however we’re nearly at our self payment gap as we weren’t told that if we’d kept Dan in hospital overnight, all the scans and xrays wouldn’t have been charged to our account...ffs..I’ve managed the dentists so far but still have to register with a Doctor and it’s not as easy as it sounds.
I’ve been promised a change to my visa, I’ve found a really good charity shop near by, I’ve made friends with a woman from Peters work, I’ve met the daughter of a bloke my father used to work with when he was over here and I’m off for coffee/wine at the neighbours house next week...
...but this will only all get done, if I keep nagging, threatening, making an effort, contacting, getting out there, researching, pushing...but I’m bloody good at stuff like that...I’ve got us this far after

Why would you do that to me?

I’ve got no problem with anyone looking at any photos I post on the internet. I am aware how it all works, they get retweeted, downloaded, printed out...I lose the ownership of it etc etc and I CBA to put a watermark or a line through them...but I do have a problem and this is it...
...if I don’t like you on twitter I can block you, If I don’t like you on facebook I can unfriend you...others wouldn’t know unless I tell them...but when you know I don’t get on with someone or you are aware there have been some serious difficulties with another person why would you show them my pictures, my tweets, my status updates...why would you do that?

I CBA any more

I’ve moaned and groaned about the post here, or rather the lack of it...I know we chose to leave the UK...but I’ve made more than an effort. I wrote/printed out 52 round robin letters and personalised each and every one of them...and what? Approximately 15 replies.
The internet is wonderful, lots of people are enjoying my photos and updates on facebook, when asked, but they’re not commenting or clicking ‘like’ so how the hell am I supposed to know.....some feedback is...’it’s great hearing what Suzanne is up to, but we're not doing anything of interest to tell her.
That’s not the point.....2 aunts have written a few lines to say...’we lead boring lives and have nothing to tell you’ but it was great to have the letter in the box and was an excellent prompt for me to write back.
I reply to each and every letter I receive...but from now on, unless we chat daily on twitter or you write/email/like on facebook I shan’t be don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from me...
...guess what?...I can’t be arsed either.

Sunday 19 June 2011


Driving past Soweto (South West Township)...WTF? I blogged before about how weird the school run is when I follow signs home to Johannesburg, still struggling to get my head round it...I used to spend my evenings at Saltleys, Old Sihillians and Wast Hills training ground while Daniel trained with Birmingham City, now I sit in a car park at Pretoria University in the evenings, reading my book, tweeting and using my little stove to brew cups of tea, same shit, different car parks...but this time instead of following the M5 into Worcestershire and off at Junction 7 to Malvern its the N1 south to Jo’burg..Dan and I struggle to get our heads round it.

On Monday Dan is off on a school trip to Soweto, the letter home read and I quote ‘If I did not think this place was safe, I would not be taking your child there. In all the years I have taken students on a history trip to Soweto, there’s has not been a single incident where a child has been harmed’...
I am NOT alarmed, I signed the form.

We drove past Soweto a few weeks ago to go to Heaven on Vaal for a works outing. We were told DO NOT follow the GPS as it takes you through Jo’burg and Soweto itself. So we did as we were told and drove along side Soweto on the N1 south. I was apprehensive, the closer we got the more dangers there were, but these came from dogs sauntering across the road and people, people crossing the 3 lanes of traffic, standing on the white lines of the outside lane waiting for cars at 120km/hr to pass. We narrowly missed a dog and a car that swerved violently to avoid a cow...the N1 is equivalent to a UK motorway.

We’ve passed many townships and even drove through one in Rustenburg on our way back from Sun City, don’t trust the GPS here. But Soweto is huge, it stretches for miles..the iconic landmarks of the World Cup remain the concrete towers highly decorated.

It saddens me to see people live like this and it’s not through choices they’ve made. In the UK a homeless person has the option of help and rehabilitation and are usually homeless through choices they’ve made...good or bad...but here, it’s all so different....the townships look like allotments, patches of lad with a small shed sized building with a tin roof, goats and chickens, rubbish piled up everywhere, some have electricity and sanitation, others nothing.

You see patches of the Highveld mowed and kids barefoot playing football, women carrying bags of food, clothing on their heads and everywhere you look people are busy, doing something, fixing roofs, tending the land, returning from work or from looking for work.

The robots are out in Bryanston

He robots* are out in Bryanston, that’s what we hear nearly every day on the travel news on Highveld 94.7fm, it’s quite often the only piece of travel news, and all is well in the world.....

You see when the robots are out it’s due to a power cut or more likely cable or transformer theft.

Power cuts are often and many and last for days even a week on one occasion. We have a generator at our property, it fires up once a week to check itself and the floors vibrate but it’s proven to be invaluable. You can’t hear the TV over it. After making many requests for operating instructions and how and when to refuel we finally have an answer we’re happy with...the first suggestion was I put my hand in the tank and guessed how much diesel there was as there as there isn’t a gauge, but we’ve since been informed that it transmits a message to the contractor who comes out and refuels when needed.

Enough of the generator, back to the power cuts...2 days before U2 played at the Coca Cola dome in Jo’burg, a team of people climbed down a man hole and stripped the stadium bare of its electricity cables. In March a nearby transformer was stolen and power wasn’t restored for over a week, this was due to the fact that the transformer had to be ordered and made in Cape Town. They prioritised the return of power, most houses had power returned within 24 hours by tapping into another transformer, businesses after that and the robots were the last to be turned on over a week later.

At the moment there are major roadwork’s off the N1 junction with the M18 Botha Ave and workmen have severed the electricity supply, the robots now work as a 4 way stop system and everyone is very good at taking turns.

Can you imagine the horror in the UK, the stories in the media of the plight of the British and individual stories of ‘human suffering’ (tongue in cheek) they just get on with it here; they still complain but most just accept it.

*Robots=Traffic Lights

Saturday 18 June 2011


Recycling in the UK is wheelie bins like ornaments on the drive, different coloured bins or bags for paper, plastics, garden waste and glass....recycling bins in supermarket car parks and shopping centres and bins for drinks bottles and paper waste in high streets and festival grounds and heavy fines for disobeying.

Here in South Africa it’s a different story...the security estate we live in has black wheelie bins collected every Tuesday, they don’t mind if the lid is open or bags are piled up by the side and they don’t fine you if you put garden waste in or plastic bottles, it’s a private company and gets taken to landfill. There’s also a paper collection that you put out in orange bags on the 2nd and 4th Friday of the month and that’s about it, although I’ve heard rumours of a plastics collection but I haven’t sussed out what day yet.

Pick ‘n’ Pay hyper markets have a row of coloured wheelie bins inside the main door and a few of the smaller shops collect batteries and ink cartridges but they are hard to find.

I use PLANTLAND, a chain of garden centres; the one in Irene, nr Centurion has a collection of coloured oil drums for items for recycling. It is collected by a local charity and sold with the money raised going to the Mentally Handicapped (yep, still called that here and not Learning Disabled). The other option is to hand any bottles to the men that stand at the robots at the Atterbury Junction near Menlyn off the N1, as they collect rubbish in exchange for a small donation (20p or so) and they sell the plastic on.

How to be the perfect guest

Remember your host is NOT on holiday

Pay your way, buy coffees and insist on taking everyone out for a meal at least once

Don't buy your own goodies and hide them in your room, remember you're eating the food they paid for

Don't take the last, or use the last of anything

If your host offers toast and cereals for breakfast, don't go asking for a bacon sandwich

If you have food preferences or allergies it is YOUR responsibility to inform your host BEFORE you arrive

If you detect tension, take your book to your room, walk their dog (if they have one) or the kids to the park

Allow your hosts a bit of space, remember one or both may still be going to work daily and running around after kids etc, again you're on holiday their not

Tidy up after yourself, your host ISN'T your Mother and even if she is, you've left home now

Monday 6 June 2011

He holds my hand

I've been depressed...I moved to the other side of the what did you expect to hear?...I felt I had nothing to give and wasn't husband threw himself into his new job, new people, new opportunities and new places to travel, Cape Town in the 3rd week we were here and Europe and back to the UK within 3 months...the kids started school 48hrs after we arrived and joined all the sports teams and made friends really quickly, especially with their 'English' accents...

...and me?...I should be happy that I raised 2 kids that can cope with anything tha is thrown at them, 2 kids that apart from saying the goodbyes and a few tears for their Dad, family and friends in the UK, 2 kids that took to living in a new country like a duck to water...I am proud, I proud of the way they handled it all, I'm proud of the children, all grown up now that didn't come with us...and I'm proud of my husband for being offered such a wonderful position within his company...

But I've been down, miserable, depressed and when that happens I get angry, I push those nearest and dearest to me away...and it's made me realise how much my husband 'puts up' with me...or his words...'how much he loves me'

It's not just been moving here that's caused the depression, it's happened many a time when life has just been over whelming, this time it was losing my identity, who I was, what I did and how I did things, it wasn't just a move it was a whole new way of living. In the past it was triggered by being a single mum, getting married and then divorced, going through my husbands divorce with him, which just has to be the messiest thing I've ever seen and lasted for 3 years, (we were both seperated when we met)...

...and yet? I've never sought medical intervention, I've never given in to it...I've cried, I've screamed, I've run away, I've contemplated all sorts of things...thought about suicide, not actually doing it, but how it would affect my husband and my children, thought about a new identity...but would that be worse on the kids and my husband? the not knowing?'s that moment when you stand on a bridge, car keys in hand, sunglasses on your head and you lean over and at the last second you remember your sunglasses and grab them, but now you have your keys in your hand and you wonder what would happen if you just let go of them? know the inconvienence it would cause, you know the trouble you'd be in, you'd know the disapproving looks your partner would give you don't do it...

...but when faced with that moment what do you do?...well i tell my husband, my friend, my confident, I tell him I'm unhappy, I tell him I'm hurting...

...and he takes the car keys from my hand and the sunglasses off the top of my head and he lets me lean over the bridge, holding my hand...and he keeps me safe.

how much more?

Are you a giver or a taker?

I'm a giver...not just of gifts, money or time...but of myself....

I'm a yes person, 'if you want something done ask a busy person' if I want something done, I do it myself.

Sometimes my thoughts and actions hurt people, but I am aware of this and I always do my best to rectify the problem, even when my thoughts and actions come about after reaching the stage of having had enough of the other person or situation...

What am I then?...Well, I always say yes, but then they want it done all on their terms and if I offer a suggestion it's wrong, interferring or worse I'm showing off, showing them up for their inadequecies...WTF? I can't do right for doing wrong...

There comes a time when I have to stop giving...I'm tired, I'm hurting...and if I complain then I'm a selfish, sensitive cow...

Anyone else find themselves hitting their head against a brick wall?

Sorry goes a long way

I've been up since 3am this morning, you know how it is?...your head is spinning...

So I got up...I'm not angry, I'm disappointed, we made so much effort prior to moving to South Africa to ensure that when we got here, the UK side of things would run itself and the bits we'd put into place would ensure a smooth transistion...we were wrong.

The bank let us down, the agent let us down, the removal firm let us down, the electric and gas company let us down, the insurance companies let us down and certain people let us down...

It was difficult to get hold of these people, get them to reply to emails, an automated response was easy enough 'we will reply to your email in the next two working days' in most cases I had to re email them to remind them, spend a fortune on hold or listening to music at a UK call centre (probably cheaper if I'd just called India direct)

I notified ALL the UK companies of our move to South Africa and requested all urgent communication was made via email. I have an acknowledgement letter or email off each and every one...

So what happens?

Threats of Court Orders and bailiffs, (for small sums of money in total no more than £300) lost furniture, cancelled bank name it we've had it and as a result I now have had to inform EVERYONE of change of address (again)...

And not one person or company has said 'sorry'