Tuesday, 29 November 2011

The Elephants at Pilanesburg

So that's it for me....The Big five, all done and dusted, big tick on my list of things to do. The Big Five is a term to describe the hardest 5 and most dangerous animals to hunt on foot.

The elephants are amazing. Pilanesburg is a two hour drive from Pretoria to the north west, near Sun City (avoid the Rustenburg route) people have lived there since the Middle Stone Age, the Europeans arrived in 1829. Pilanesburg is the nearest 'open' reserve to view elephants, and costs only R80 (£7 ish) compared the private reserves which average around R500

Pilanesburg is situated inside an extinct volcano and is a malaria free area. In 1984 it was declared a national park and was the first protected area in Africa to be developed not only for conservation purposes but also with the specific intent of generating socio-economic benefits. The old court house (built in 1936) in the centre is the only visible sign that people used to live there and it has been turned into a cafe with gift stores (reasonably priced)

6,000 animals were released into the park. Predators were later added to restore the ecological process and now the game in the park contains the abundance that was recorded in 1836 by the hunter/explorer William Cornwallis-Harris.

The park is 212 square miles and the plan over the next 15 years is to change the land use from cattle farming of an area some 250,000 ha. to expand the park.

We'll take all our visitors there for a day trip, or if that want to stay longer, there are several lodges around the park on the external boundry where you can stay over night, a camp site and organised game tours, but I prefer the self drive, you can stop for as long as you like, take a picnic (security fences keep the animals out) sit in your car and stare at the hippo basking in the sun in the middle of the day or opt to drive to the highest point for the most spectacular of views.

Christmas letter

First there was the individual letters...52 of them sent in March, which prompted an initial response from less than half the people I sent them to, some replied on face book, some sent emails and a few sent letters. (postal system is a bit crap here, so I gave many the benefit of the doubt) then there was the request on twitter for pen pals and the response was brilliant. Letters started coming in and were coveted, re read and replied to immediately.

I boycotted face book for a few weeks and sent everyone an email to say that I found facebook not to be personal enough and while it's great everyone loves to hear about what we're up to, the point was TELL ME, not other people. That's why I love twitter, you get a response, you chat with someone about anything and everything, you DM, you move to email, you get requests from people to add more to the blog. I love how interactive it is.

Well the response I got from the email was mainly limited in relpy to friends off twitter, a few other 'old' friends responded to the email, but they were the ones that had written back in the first place.

So my last option is the round robin letter in the christmas card, another 52, I shall personalise them of course, ask questions about work, children and family life so there is something to reply to and this afternoon I'm off to get the annual family picture developed to include in each and every card.

I'm desperate for communication from 'home' it is often the highlight of our week to receive a letter even if it just says, 'nothing much doing here' it shows they care, we are missed and my efforts are appreciated.

So no response to my efforts, means there will be no further effort from me and I'll leave them behind, even if they are family.

December 2011 A A year on, wow, it has gone really fast, both the boys have now completed their first school year in South Africa, with Dan going into Matric in January, this is Grade 11 & 12, equivalent to A levels, but instead of 4 subjects he continues with all his options and grading for university has already started. Alex moves into senior school (for the second time, it’s graded differently here) and is looking forward to some of the more practical lessons, stage production, CAD, music technology. Peter is settled with his job and travelling as much as usual, no longer far flung places but only 2-3 hours by air.
It is most peculiar to be sat writing a letter dated in December and thinking about Christmas in 30c, wearing shorts and t shirts and even more strange to see all the Christmas decorations up in the shops and malls and all the same as the UK, snow scenes, Christmas trees with tinsel and baubles and hundreds of fairy lights, I had hoped for something different, but not sure what really.
I’m now working, voluntarily at a home for abused children under 4 and I’ve been collecting and handing out with Santa Shoebox for children who are orphaned and disadvantaged, all those years we donated boxes to various schools in the UK and now I’m actually getting to hand them out to these kids in Africa, it is actually a very humbling experience.
I’m back in the UK now with the boys for 3 weeks, we return to South Africa on the 20th December, finances, time and transport is limited, if I don’t get to visit this trip there is July and August next year.
The postal system isn’t the best here, in fact not a lot gets past customs, unless it is sent via recorded delivery or is in a A4 envelope marked ‘printed papers’ with a return address on the back. And that is both ways. So please drop me an email, if you have sent a letter or anything else to us that we haven’t acknowledged you for, it may be we just haven’t got it yet.
Hope you have a fab Christmas and look forward to hearing from you in the New Year. Kids want me to cook a traditional dinner but in this heat I think their luck is out.
Love Suzanne, Peter, Dan and Alex.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Santa Shoe box Celebration day, PACSEN, Pretoria

Unfortunately I have had to remove the photos from this blog as Permission had not been obtained from the schools to use these pictures. Despite there being an official photographer on site and the organisers being aware photos were being taken and me saying to them I would be putting them on the face book page, no one thought it necessary to actually tell me, that permission would be sought, in retrospect, only after I had posted them.

Today I thought my heart was going to break. At a school in Pretoria, several schools attended for their Celebration day to receive their Santa Shoe boxes, donated by the people of South Africa. It was a wonderful, heart breaking, experience to be part of something so very magical. PACSEN supports Parents and Children with Special Education Needs, financially and emotionally where their education, equipment, clothing, nappies. You name it, these kids need it. http://www.firechildren.org/index2.asp?include=pacsen.htm&catID=5

There was entertainment with a clown and bouncy castles and The Lions of Pretoria did the catering.

The children were happiest with the simplest of things that we take for granted, such as bars of soap, a pink toothbrush and strawberry flavoured toothpaste, their clothing was perfect for each child, they hugged their teddy bears, started their colouring and ate their sweets. We stayed till the last child went and it made me cry to say goodbye to one of the little boys, who doesn't interact, make eye contact or speak, he clung to me and had to be prised away when it was time to leave....We were thanked by the staff for sharing and giving our love.

I am handing out awards today to very special bloggers.

Liebster is a German word meaning dearest, and the award is given to up-and-coming bloggers with less than 200 followers who deserve a lot more.

If you receive the award, you should:

1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.

2. Reveal your top five picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.

3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.

4. Hope that the people you’ve sent the award to forward it to their five favourite bloggers and keep it going!’

Thank you to Kate http://kateonthinice.wordpress.com/ for the Liebster award. I met Kate over on twitter as @netcurtains, I'm not sure how we met or through who, let me know if you can remember. i've not been keen on interacting with the blogging world, just writing my own blog, if you read it great, if not.... *not bothered face*
Kate inspired me with her #groovingmums blog (open to all) and for the past 8 weeks, Kate has been inspiring me and others to recover our grove. I lost my groove after emigrating to South Africa in january this year.....check out Kates blog for her story and that of many others.

As I'm new to this blogging community I so far only follow the other grooving mums and therefore am unable to recommend 5 I'm also blogging via my phone as the interent here is crap and it's difficult to see what I'm doing.

I'm taking part though to say thanks to Kate and when I become a bit more savvy with this blogging lark, I'll update this page.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

kate's weekly challenges on #groovingmums

Here they are, I've given them some thought and then thought that it sounds pretenious so rather than looking for things to do to meet the challenges I'll write about what I've done since my last post thats meets them.

1. Winter Warmth – how can you treat yourself to something that keeps you warm in this wintry weather. A new hat, scarf or pair of gloves? A pampering session involving heat? A hot chocolate every night for a week? Whatever warmth means to you.

Well its the middle of summer here, temps up to 44c in the day, rarely below 17c at night. So no hot food, drinks, blankets, snuggling, in fact holding hands is too hot. But I am back in the UK a week tomorrow and I've packed all my winter woolies, it feels really strange doing so, I've been getting hot thinking about it, but I know I'm going to need them all. I left my ski gear (never skied) in the UK at my mums and she's taken it down from the attic, aired it and is no doubt thinking about the use she'll get out of it when I leave.

2. Money – is it time you thought about your finances? This will mean different things to different people. Do you have debts to sort out? Do you need advice on benefits? Is it worth joining an credit union as a way to build up savings and with access to credit? Is it time you set a budget for Christmas and stuck to it? It is absolutely up to you how you interpret this one.

Arrrggghhhh big issue, we have none, well we do but not as much as we would like. We used up most of our UK money on moving here and after 9 months, hubbies salary is still hand to mouth as we start all over again, need now to get money from here back to UK to cover mortgage payments and some issues the tenents require us to see to, but the exchange rate is not in our favour and it costs so much to transfer.

3. Art – How much do you know about art? Would you like to share a favourite painting with us and tell us why it appeals to you? Do you create things yourself that you would like to promote? Would you like to learn more about art and how might you do that?

I know a Van Gough from a Da Vinci and that's about that. I'm making xmas decorations, traditional african style to take back to the UK, card making starts on the weekend (will post pics when they're finished)

4. Blogging Fun – How about taking part in Magpie Monday where bloggers celebrate bargain pre-owned finds whether located in charity shops, car boot sales, Christmas fairs, Ebay or whatever? You will find details with the lovely Liz over on the Me and My Shadow blog.

I have found one charity shop over the road in a secure compound where I buy all my books from and bought a pair of tatty curtains that I've washed and I'm going to turn into a table cloth and a few cushion covers that I'm using for my arts and crafts.




Remember your host is NOT on holidayPay your way, buy coffees and insist on taking everyone out for a meal at least once. DISAPPEARS WHEN THE BILL COMES

Don't buy your own goodies and hide them in your room, remember you're eating the food they paid for. 24 CANS OF COKE HAVE APPEARED IN THE RECYCLING BIN, TAKES ONE TO THE TABLE AT EACH MEAL TIME, EMPTY BOTTLE OF RUM (AFTER 5 DAYS) ENDLESS SWEET AND CRISP WRAPPERS LYING AROUND

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. COMPLAINS ABOUT EVERY MEAL, CONSTANTLY ASKS FOR EXTRA STUFF, WILL FILL UP ON BREAD

If you have food preferences or allergies it is YOUR responsibility to inform your host BEFORE you arrive. DESPITE TELLING THEM WHAT IS FOR TEA AND WE WILL ONLY BE HAVING A SNACK AT LUNCH TIME, BUYS PIZZA, BURGERS TO EAT DURING THE DAY (GOES OFF ALONE TO DO SO)

If you detect tension,take your book to your room, walk their dog (if they have one) or take the kids to the park. THEY ARE CAUSING THE TENSION

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 they’re not. HAS TAKEN OVER THE DOWNSTAIRS LOUNGE, HENCE FORCING YOUNGEST CHILD TO DOMINATE THE UPSTAIRS ONE


Meeting men in speedos

I love people watching, I eye up other women for what they are wearing, does it look good on them? Would it look better on me? I smile polietly when someone tells me they've spent all day getting ready and I think I took 5 mins and feel better than you look. It is human nature, we all do it...be honest.

But do men do it? I asked hubby and he said, if a woman really looks a mess it's only because she looks so bad that he has noticed and he usually replies to my comments of 'what a mess' with 'she's made an effort.

But what about men with other men? Do they look at another man and think 'where did he get that shirt? those shoes? that tie?'

Since joining the gym I've come to the conclusion that men do look at other men and aspire to be like them. They all arrive in the morning, mostly with designer bags, shirt on a clothes hanger, wearing the latest gym gear to pump their artificial upper body muscles up higher while their legs remain skinny. but is that just me making an assumption, that they happen to all want to look and act the same?

Well here's my evidence.

I usually have the pool to myself when I go at 8am, but the last few mornings I've been in the water by 7am. Take your average male swimmer, mainly in their mid 30's to mid 40's. Tight speedos snapped into place, snug fitting swim cap and OMG all the equipment they bring with them, flippers, face masks, snorkels, paddles and they pick the middle two lanes as the outside ones have a current. They flex on the side of the pool, adjust their googles, preen themselves and off they go...super warp factor speed, powering up and down the pool, most of them have very good strokes but don't seem to know how to use their legs for swimming. I plod along same speed, breast stroke, up and down, no stopping until I've completed my mile and often swimming two. They stop every 4 lengths to adjust their goggles and flex a bit more.

Now I'm a smoker, I find aerobic exercise difficult, get out of breath and really struggle to swim front crawl, besides my fag would get wet. Now swimming breast stroke my head pops out the water and I can see what is going on in the pool. Today in came 'adonis' no older than 25, red speedos with white flowers on, a swim hat and goggles, he flexed and fiddled with his goggles. And out of the corner of my eye I see the guy in the next lane looking at him, the guy then powers off for 4 lengths front crawl, sips out of his water bottle and 'adonis' guy, lowered himself into the pool and swam 8 continious lengths of butterfly, the hardest stroke known to man, he then swam another 8 of breast stroke, followed by back stroke then front crawl, without once stopping. Guy in the other lane, in his early 40's wasn't going to be outdone and powered himself up and down the lane glancing at 'adonis'. Now this guy had only been in the water for 5 minutes before 'adonis' got in and I'm sure he had a routine he wanted to stick to, he hadn't used his floats or his face mask.

I swam my last 2 lengths and as always, despite being a smoker, I also swim length 64 underwater, so I didn't see the guy climb out the pool and collapse/sit on the end gasping for breath, so as I reached the end of the lane, I pop up above the water and nearly bloody chocked...the guy is sitting their legs in the water, wide apart and I'm stood there staring at eye level with his crotch scrunched up in his speedos....'adonis' is unaware of the competition he has sparked and carries on with his swim.

Monday, 21 November 2011

A round robin to get the ball started

Just thought I’d send an email, rather than a letter as they don’t seem to be getting past customs, either way at the moment.
I’ve given up on face book for the time being, I find it’s not really that interactive. At the end of the day, we are just living here, the excitement of it being new and interesting has become part of our normal day now and it’s always lovely to hear what everyone else is getting up to, even if you consider it boring, it’s not for us, what we’re doing is boring. Peter’s job is taking him all over sub sahara, Dan and Alex are writing papers at the moment, exams, and I’m still adapting to being a SAHM, cook, cleaner and bottle washer, the best thing, because of the security round here is that I’m no longer Mum’s taxi as both boys have friends on the estate and all their additional activities take place during school time. So come 4pm nearly every evening we are all safe at home, using the pool or trying to eek out the last bit of shade.
At 30c most days, with little rain, it is ideal conditions for a two week holiday, but not a lot else. Good for getting the washing dry. Mind you the temps this week have reached 44c and we’ve seen the most amazing thunderstorms. It is very strange seeing Christmas decorations up in the sun especially as they try to recreate the northern hemisphere snow scenes.
I’ve found it quite a lonely existence to date, I didn’t realise how hard it was to make friends when you aren’t working, studying or hanging around the school playground. My online twitter friends have been amazing. I tweet a problem, they are mostly back in the UK, they google or put me in touch with a South African and I get an almost instant answer. I’ve also met some lovely people online that are part of a really large expat community and I’ve been to a few functions. I’m also doing some voluntary work with The baby house, a home for abused children under 4 and I’ve been helping with the collection for Santas shoeboxes and their distribution to disadvantaged children.
The photos of the elephants are from Pilanesburg we were very lucky to see the hippo on land during the day and the elephants were amazing.
Anyway enough from me, let me know your news. Enjoy the pictures and if I don’t get to see you on this visit, Dec 1st-20th, I’ll get round to you next year or you could always come out here.
Love Suzanne

Dancing and Poetry on #groovingmums


Week 8, this feels like a pregnancy, when do we start counting in months?
Kate issued 2 challenges this week for #groovingmums, involving poetry and dancing.
The only thing that sprung to mind was Keats’s ‘Seasons of mist and mellow fruitfulness.’ My Gran had this on her biscuit tin and I’ve always wondered how the rest of it goes. It is one of my earliest childhood memories, so this week my personal challenge is to seek it out and learn some more.
About 4 weeks ago I started swimming again; apart from holidays the last time I swam I was 16 for a local club. I competed in competitions all over the UK and had time trials on a regular basis at the Olympic pool in Coventry. I have 2 particular memories from then, the first was the Olympic diving board, how we all bravely climbed to the top and stood there, daring one another to jump. OMG, I hit the water with such force and speed that by the time I surfaced from the bottom I was gasping for breath and as I tried to haul myself out the side of the pool, my hands were red raw from the force of hitting the water and had to crawl back to my towel as I could hardly walk. The second memory of the time trials in Coventry was sneaking out during a break to the bombed cathedral where they were filming swop shop and I met Keith Chegwin and Maggie Philbin and got their autographs. We were told off for both; I was around 13 at the time. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed swimming, I’m not fast (anymore) but I’m a strong and steady swimming, having qualified as a life guard about 7 years ago and actually having rescued my teenage son from the Atlantic ocean nr Bordeaux after he got caught in a rip tide, having ignored ALL the advice about not going in past his knees. Anyway I now swim a minimum of a mile a day at the local gym. I find I swim faster when I’m in a foul mood or I’m angry and I count the number of lengths I swim. I now know that I can swim the mile just under 40 minutes so to make it more fun, this week I’ve been reciting Dr Zeuss ‘The cat in the hat’ ‘I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them Sam I am?’ I find I’m actually making most of it up as I go along and it makes it more fun in the pool.
Challenge number 2. Dancing.
Tonight I was supposed to be going to the Cuban and Havana bar in Hatfield, near Pretoria. It’s a once a month meet up for expats. I’ve been 3 times so far and although it’s been great to meet other English people, they haven’t been in the same situation as me and it’s been hard work. Lots of air kissing, too much cleavage on show, talk about work and travels. They are mostly single women, mid 40’s, no children and over on a 2 year contract, they have a house provided, car and cell phone on arrival. But tonight I would’ve had the opportunity to dance, so as I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather this week and my step son is visiting. I opted to have a boogie in Pick n Pay this morning instead, suitably embarrassing the kids in the process.

Normal tweets will resume as soon as possible

My step son is visiting from Germany for 10 days, I’ve stocked up on Rum, and I’ll be fine. We have a difficult relationship. I’ve been ‘Mum’ for 12 years, although his mum is still around, she has not taken an active role in life for some time. In fact I was alarmed to hear that the last time he spoke with her was in August, but at 22 I can’t force him, only advice. We get on brilliantly over the internet, Skype, face book, emails...but there it stops, you see face to face it takes less than 90 minutes for him to wind me up and every time I believe things will be different this time, they’re not. So I told hubby he must take some time off work to spend with his son, in fact he must take time off for all family visitors, which means that they are coming out at the rate of twice a year, my parents, his mum and sister, plus colleagues from work/friends and 2 of the 3 adult children, it means hubby has no leave left for us to go anywhere. (Money is a bit tight at the moment so it’s irrelevant and he gets to travel all over with his job which he loves) But he’s gone and taken the full 10 days off and now at day 4 it is rather getting on my nerves.
I love visitors and I want everyone to come and visit us, I want/need the company, but it’s hard work. 2 sometimes 3 weeks with the same person can be very frustrating, for them as well. I thrive on routine, I need a purpose to get going some days and in this heat I need to stop work by a certain time. By 9am on weekdays I’m down the gym in the pool, the kids are in school, I’ve prepared tonight’s tea, put the washing on, emptied the dish washer and swept and mopped the floor. I stay out for a coffee, I come home with the shopping, read or do some arts and crafts (xmas decorations exchange an idea by @tattooed_mummy) sort through photos and write letters or my blog. Then when everyone is home from school/work we can relax in the pool, watch the TV, eat dinner, drink wine or go for a stroll around the golf course. But when visitors come that all goes to pot and I get agitated as I can’t just watch the TV when I like, sit down when I like and I never seem to get to rest.
I wrote this guide to being ‘a good guest’ when my mother came to visit in June, with her help and when I get home today I’m going to print and laminate it and hang it in the guest room.
Remember your host is NOT on holidayPay your way, buy coffees and insist on taking everyone out for a meal at least onceDon't buy your own goodies and hide them in your room, remember you're eating the food they paid forDon't take the last, or use the last of anythingIf your host offers toast and cereals for breakfast, don't go asking for a bacon sandwichIf you have food preferences or allergies it is YOUR responsibility to inform your host BEFORE you arriveIf you detect tension,take your book to your room, walk their dog (if they have one) or take the kids to the parkAllow 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 they’re notTidy up after yourself, your host ISN'T your Mother and even if she is, you've left home now

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Shhhhhhh keep this one to yourself

I don't seek approval from my hubby before blogging. All he asks is I keep the name of the company out of my blogs, don't reveal our surname and I'm on my own if I blog about anyone and they don't like it.

We've not had an easy time of settling into our life in South Africa, his job is going very well and he gets to travel and see new place, the kids settled into school within 48hrs and on one occassion when I said I wanted to return to the UK the kids begged me to stay here, with their new friends, school and opportunities they never had in the UK.

But my whole life changed, no work, no studies, no friends, I was lonely (still am a little) nothing to do, no where to go and no money to spend anyway.

If you've been reading the rest of my blog you can see all the issues/problems we've had. South Africa is a beautiful country, I love the climate, the people, the countryside, the animals, but I don't love the violence, the fear of crime. It's difficult to explain, but the fear of crime is far greater than I could ever have imagined.

It is this fear of crime, this different culture that has stopped me just getting out there and on with things.

I certainly recommend you come here for a holiday, it is safe, as long as you plan your routes, avoid townships, don't drive alone at night, but trying to live here is hard, having to go to places off the tourist route to register your car, pay your bills, and I can't just go for a drive to explore and to find new places.

But this week, the boss is over from Europe, we made a formal complaint about how we were struggling finacially with the rent, a car loan, loss of my salary, big deal you may think, but the point was, we didn't come here on an inflated salary, we came here with the promise to be helped out, made to feel safe and we were let down badly. Not just by the company but by the UK side of things, their lack of interest once they'd recieved their payment. The removal company who were unobtainable for 3 working days when customs here demanded more money, then lost our container for 2 days. The UK bank who failed to inform us that all the benefits of the account didn't actually apply as they don't have a branch here, so we had to take local finance, transfer money from the UK for huge deposits, high interest rates and a car loan that has to be repaid in 2 years because of our visa.

It's been me sorting it all out, walking around with large sums of cash to purchase a car, driving on my own to places to set up utility bills and having to return with more documents...on my own, lonely, tired, upset and depressed, but I've donr it, I've managed, I've screamed and shouted and thrown things.

The company can't undo the past, although dismissing the HR woman who cocked up did help, but not replacing her for the past 7 months hasn't helped. Some compensation is good, help finding a cheaper place to live, with the same level of security is good. Although I'm not accepting help on the that, I've informed them and they've accepted they must find me several places to view and pay for removal costs plus packing and unpacking.

I now know what I need to do, where I need to do it and how to do it comes to renewing car insurance and registration, utility bills, medical aid, tv licence but I'm going to claim ignorance and I now know who to ask to get them to do it for me....

Teenagers and alcohol

My son has reached another developmental stage in his life...alcohol.

For me this is the 3rd time as a parent, I've been through this and as a teen myself previously and 14 years as a Youth Worker...I know the excuses, the cover ups, the stories....

So I thought I'd share with you what my kids experiences of alcohol...I'll not publish any of the excuses I've used as the kids have access to my blog and I don't want to give them any ideas.

Eldest child, now 22, arrived home at 2am when he was 17, his Dad was away for the night, I was awake, I was angry as he'd said he'd be home by 10pm, I'd told him if he wanted to be later that was fine with me, just call and let me know so I can lock up, leave a key for you and go to sleep.

2am door bell rings, I open door, he is soaking wet, it's not been raining and he stinks of booze... 'I fell in the fountain in town, it's chlorine you can smell' I hadn't uttered a word.

He took himself to bed, making excuses, me still silent....and I went to bed also.

At 7am I woke him, loudly, informed him I'd emailled college to say he was coming in, wasn't ill, just a hangover and they weren't to let him go early, he got home at 5pm after a 2hr bus journey, due to an accident, as white as a ghost and he was marched upstairs to collect his wet clothes from the night before, strip his bedding as he had slept in his wet clothes, wash, dry and iron and clean his room.

Lesson learnt?....No he did the same 2 weeks later, but this time I didn't open the door for him, he slept in the shed till I woke him at 7am, called college etc.

Next son just never came home when he had been drinking, he stayed at a mates over night, I knew he was drinking under age as friends of his, his brothers and my friends told me, but never any trouble.

The latest is the 16 year old...he had a dodgy pizza a few weeks back...yeah right, it didn't smell like Pizza when I went downstairs to strip the beds after a sleep over. The boys had left early before I was awake, the youngest saw them go. Refused to answer mobile phones, so called one of the other parents, told her what had happened, boys arrived, sheepishly, 20 minutes later, expecting a bollocking to be told, beds need stripping, carpet and matresses need washing as do all the sheets, floor will need hoovering and I passed them the bucket and cleaning materials...I inspected the job, then I allowed them to go.

The youngest asked me the other day, why I didn't shout, tell them off, issue punishments?

I told him, kids drink, we all did and you probably will also. I need to know they are safe, I need to know they will come home, I need to know where they are and what they are doing. If I shout and issue punishments that aren't relevant, they'll take it under ground and I need to know they are safe.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

reasons to be cheerful...one...two...three...

I'm new to all this blog hopping...still not really sure what I'm supposed to be doing so excuse me if I get it wrong.

Today's blog hop is again with @netcurtains over on http://kateonthinice.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/do-you-have-any-reasons-to-be-cheerful-share-them-here/

Do You Have Any Reasons To Be Cheerful? Share Them Here.

Do you have any reasons for cheerfulness this week? How about sharing them with us?
Every week, the lovely Mich over at Mummy from the Heart hostesses a lovely blog hop where we are encouraged to focus on the positives, even the little ones, in our lives. It is a great way to meet some very wonderful bloggers and to share in each others joys.
It is great to do on the weeks where you want to shout your happinesses from the rooftops and equally good when you really need to remind yourself that there is sunshine amongst the clouds. I (Kate is) hostessing for Mich this week.

The sun shines every day in South Africa, despite complaining that it is too hot to do anything in between 1pm and sundown everyday, it is wonderful, especially as I don't have to do anything so for that readon today I am grateful my visa says 'visitor'

My children are happy, despite leaving the 3 adult children behind (2 in the UK and 1 in Germany) they are settled in their home, work and lives and this pleases me that we did such a good job of leaving them to fend for themselves. The 2 children with have with us, settled very quickly making new friends much quicker than we anticipated.

Me and the 2 boys are back in the UK in December to spend time with 2 of our adult children (the 1 in Germany is visiting here next week) and I get to catch up with all my family, friends and twitter mates.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

I've been tagged

Question Time – 10 Things You Want To Know About Me ChickenRuby aka Suzanne

I've been tagged by @netcurtains

These are the rules of the game.
1) Answer the 10 questions
2) Tag someone to do the same
3) Come back to my original blog post and comment that you have done so in order for us to find out who has been tagged and therefore find out more about our fellow bloggers!

1: Describe yourself in seven words:
Lover, Wife, Mum, Moody, stroppy, generous, resourceful

2: What keeps you awake at night?
Hubbies snoring, light peeping through the curtains, migraines and waiting for the teenager to come home

3. Who would you like to be?
A calmer less stroppy version of who I am now

4: What are you wearing now?
A tankini and Birkenstocks (kindly donated by @annieqpr, I bought my own tankini)

5: What scares you?
Being on my own

6: What is the best and the worst thing about blogging?
The best thing about blogging is that it helps me assemble my thoughts. I'm not very articulate with the spoken word, I jumble up what I'm wanting to say, I hate being interrupted and the subject being changed, with blogging I can freely write about my feelings. The worse bit about blogging, is being found, found by people who don't agree with what I say, or how I feel and judging me.

7: What was the last website you looked at?
QPR web site for the game on December 3rd that the lovely @annieqpr is taking me to when I come back to England. Oh how I've missed my football.

8: If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
My temper

9: Slankets Yes or No!?
Oh yes please, I have a lovely cow print (think there is a reference in there somewhere) that @mediocre_mum sent over from the UK for my 40th Birthday in June which is now in the middle of winter

10: Tell us something about the person who tagged you?
@Netcurtains has inspired me to recover my groove over on http://kateonthinice.wordpress.com/

So who am I going to tag? Well it has to be @annieqpr for the football and @mediocre_mum for the cow reference

Let me know what you think about my answers, I'm sure the two I've tagged will have their own thoughts

I'm really grooving now

#groovingmums is the inspiration of @netcurtains over on Kateonthinice.

This blog hop is in it's 7th week and there are a whole lot of people sharing their stories of why they need to get their groove back and what they are doing to find it.

Kate sets a task/challenge to do something new each week. I'm limited with my access to the interent and can't always complete the challenges.

This weeks challenges are Body art - do something different, paint your nails, get your hair done, wear make up and embrace your spiritual side. I'm also going to meet a previous challenge by the posting of the above picture.

I lost my groove 9 months ago when I left the UK with 2 of our children and my hubby to live in South Africa, it is challenging, it is lonely and it is my first experience of living abroad so I have nothing to compare it with. I have alot of spare time now, more time than I know what to do with myself since I gave up work and studies to move here. Most days I change the polish on my toe nails, file my finger nails, do my hair and apply make up. At first it was such a luxury to have the time to do all of this, but since joining the gym, I've given up with it now unless I'm going somewhere and letting my skin rest during the day when I'm at the gym or home. The picture above is just me, plain old me. I've never been too bothered if I've needed to pop to the shops or get out the car at school or even go to work without make up, but after all this time of applying it every morning it does feel a little strange to be bare faced again.

My spiritual side is a little more difficult to locate, I'm not a church goer any more. As a child I was sent to a Methodist church and I loved it, as a young adult I went to a baptist church as it was within walking distance of where I lived in the middle of nowhere and as a grown up Mother I attended a C of E church. Up until I met my husband 12 years ago, who as the Father of a disabled child, had experienced many comments from religious people how God had rewarded them with a perfect, healthy child as they were free from sin. I sort of lost faith after hearing that myself many times and I lapsed. I was however confirmed about 13 years ago and I do take communion and have been a witness at Adult and Child baptisims and 1st Communions. South Africa is a very religious country and as an inquisitive person I do ask people about their faith/retreats/religion.

Anyway, back to getting my groove back....by having a routine.

I'm timetabled, hubby did it....

he looked at what I needed to do for the week, bank, post office, driving licence and tyre pressure valve and using the family planner he jotted them down in no particular order and made sure I planned a trip to the gym every day for what has become my daily mile swim. I feel now I have a purpose to my day, he brings me a cup of tea in the morning, the kids get themselves ready for school, I chuck on some clothes over my swimming costume, clean my teeth and head out for my swim, I spend half hour in the sauna, I shower and if I don't look too haggard I leave the make up off, sit down for a latte in the cafe and use their computers for playing on the internet, a luxury we no longer have at home.

The best thing for me joining #groovingmums is I've found some great bloggers, I read a blog posting every day, have subscribed via email, where available, can't always comment, don't always want to and discovered a whole new group of people struggling/suceeding with daily life.

I was going to give up blogging, I cleared my timeline of sponsored bloggers, nearly did a Stephen Fry and jacked it all in, but instead got rid of tweeters that judged, that tried to offer guidance (often misjudged) on a variety of subjects such as co-sleeping, breast feeding etc, all stuff I'd out grown, with little knowledge or referencing. I want to hear how you actually over come a problem, I want to hear that I'm normal, not a super mummy, not a yummy mummy, although have been called a MILF before and was rather flattered.

I've now accepted a challenge from @netcurtains '10 things about me' which I'm off to do now.

Monday, 7 November 2011

To whom it may concern

Dear South Africans and expats where ever you may be....

I'm not unhappy, I'm not complaining, I'm just over whelmed and under supported.
it's a hard enough decision to move with kids away from family and friends and familiarity, to find work, to organise removal firms, change of address, set up new utilities, find new schools etc, within the UK, been there and done that. I've also helped and supported more family and friends than I care to remember when they've done the same.

But this is slightly different. I've moved to the bottom of the earth. I talk to expats on twitter, via email and even face to face at various expat get togethers I've found either on the net or been invited to join via other tweeters and everyone and I mean everyone is appalled at the lack of help and support from my husbands company, despite what we were promised assistance with.

When you move north to south, east to west of vice versa, within your own country, everything is still the same, you know the names of the insurance companies, you have your mobile phone, access to interent, you transfer your services, contracts etc with you. You know there is a post office, you know it is still called a post office, you know the person you'll stop and ask in the street can give you directions to the post office.

But when you move to another country everything is different. We've been fortunate that English is commonly spoken here, but WTF is a robot and when someone says Now, now, at the robot, what do they mean?

I love South Africa, the climate, OK it's taking a little to get used to the constant heat, but we'll get there and winter was a surprise with frozen water pipes. I love the scenery, the animals, the people, but they just don't understand how hard/difficult it is for us....I know from talking to South Africans that everything is painful and drawn out, but for someone who comes from a different culture it's twice as hard.

I'm not asking for help, you can't stand in the queue for me and get the information I need as you're not me. You'll not understand what it is like until you decide to move abroad, lock, stock and barrell and alone.

And as for the rest of you, you have been great twitter, just remember we're not on one long holiday, we'll not gain from the experiences here until we return to the UK and compare the good and the bad and I love to hear about your boring, normal routines as after all after 10 months here, life is just a routine for us also.

Letting go of the past

My husband says I have hindsight, I don’t agree. I always say at the time, if something isn’t right or I want to do something different, but I don’t get chance to stand still long enough to think of another option before a decision is made. I go along with decisions, I say ‘OK’ let’s do it your way’ and I try to make the best of the situation, I’m disappointed, I’m upset, I say so, but I go along with it.
When I pull up in a car park in a new place for the first time or visit a different country, I like to stand still and get my bearings, I like to see what is around the corner, I like to discover new things and places, but I need time to ‘ground’ myself first. I want to speak to people, find out their opinions, their mistakes and when I’m in full possession of all the facts, I may still turn left instead of the advice of turning right, but it’s a well thought out decision. My husband has fixed ideas of do’s and don’ts and when he decides he wants to do something or even not do something, it’s fixed and no amount of discussion will get this changed.
He is a thinker; he mulls things over in his head and then tells me what decision he has made. I don’t think that’s fair, it doesn’t allow for a conversation, persuasion, or give me any insight into how he has reached this decision. He’s not mean, he genuinely feels that the decision he has made is in the best interests of all involved. But, when it goes wrong, when it means I’m the one left to sort out the mess, he always says ‘hindsight is a wonderful thing, easy to say that now’ but I’m not saying it now, I said it at the time, I argued, fought and cried to get him to change his mind, but he stood firm.
Ok we all make mistakes, but it always seems to me that is left to sort them out, my trouble is I lecture too much with the ‘I told you so' and he just switches off, and I achieve nothing except for an opportunity to rant and rave, which never actually makes me feel better.
So the time has come to say ‘No’ these are the reasons I want/don’t want to do something and if you are going to refuse to compromise with me then we will just take longer to do everything/anything, whether it is exploring the beach in different directions or choosing a removal firm or buying a house, I can’t do these things financially without him and he can’t do them without my physical help.
But it is time now for me to be more assertive, in a nice way. But the first thing I have to do is to let go of the past, all the things he has chosen to do, all the things I’ve been left sorting out. All the times I’ve been disappointed because I haven’t got my own way and stop dragging them up every time we face a new situation...I can’t have a future if I won’t let go of the past.

Just another aspect of my changing life

Driving....I used to drive for bloody miles, I’d think nothing of meeting my son off the train in Droitwich after a day at work and drive to Wembley to watch England play, drive home and go to work the following day. Mid week fixtures at St Andrews in all weathers and I was in the car and off.
I’d stop and ask for directions, pull over at the services for a stretch, coffee and smoke to keep me going or even a short kip in the car.
My work in child protection would see me attending meetings, god knows where all over Worcestershire, a club house, a church hall, a pub all in the middle of nowhere, all at night and the bloody sat nav was useless. So armed with a rough direction, someone’s number should I not be able to find ‘the third track’ on the right, just past the field with cows, I’d head off into the darkness, alone for maybe a 1 hour meeting and then try to find my way home again.
We’d get in the car on weekends and drive to the coast, having only made the decision and decided to go at 1pm, we’d get distracted on route and end up at an English heritage site, where we’d picnic and walk, especially if it rained, we’d leave the children behind, once the eldest hit 18 he’d babysit our then 8 year old and we’d always be back before 10pm.
We’d load up the car and go camping or a last minute trip to France on a Friday night on an overnight ferry, returning Sunday lunch time.
I can’t do that anymore and it makes me sad, another aspect of my freedom gone. I do drive at night, but never after 8pm, if hubby is away and the kids have something on at school I organise a lift home for them. I have to plan trips in advance so I can have the sat nav (maybe it’s time we invested in another) I have to know where I am going, when I will be back and what the alternative routes are in advance. I have to make sure my phone is fully charged; avoid the townships (once I’ve worked out where they are)
There are a few townships I drive past on some of my more regular routes and I prefer heading north towards Pretoria rather than south towards Johannesburg. I’m constantly scanning the road ahead and behind me, I can’t pull over to let a vehicle past, I need to keep on going, I stop at lights and check my mirrors constantly, I never leave anything in my car other than maybe my hat on the back seat, I have to have my passport and driving licence on me at all times then I panic if I get mugged I’ll lose everything, as I can’t leave it in my car as that may get stolen.
I made a rooky mistake in my thought that I wouldn’t get car jacked if I was in a busy place as they wouldn’t be able to drive the car off anywhere, but then realised I was just a sitting target to be robbed even in broad daylight, so now I ensure I leave a big enough gap from the vehicle in front of me so I can just drive off if necessary, but the bloody taxi drivers just fill that gap anyway.

Car park attendents

There is at least one in every car park, I think they are self appointed, as you indicate into a space they spring out of nowhere and point at the space you are already turning into, they hover by your car as you get out, greet you and are waiting for you when you return, they want payment for looking after your car...I’m in a security car park...go away and leave me alone.
But what is worse, is leaving the car park, especially if you are reversing, check your mirrors, check your blind spot and the second you start to move they leap out behind your car, waving you back. I’ve lost count of the number I’ve nearly run over. But they wave you back in a straight line, all of a sudden they tap the back of your car, you are more than halfway out the space and they tell another vehicle to carry on and squeeze past you, the other vehicle ignores them and gestures for you to carry on, they then tell the other car to stop and for you to keep coming straight back, leaving you nowhere to go other than forward again. It’s not always easy to turn your wheel to get the right angle as they turn their back on you; you nearly run them over as they dash off to help someone with their trolley in hope of a better payment.

They want everything and you can't say NO

Losing our identity
Not just how life is changing for us since moving here, but the amount of personal information we have to give away to do anything on a daily basis.
Proof of address
Pay slip (rules me out of doing everything)
Copy of contract of employment (26 pages)
All in triplicate, all stamped and signed by the Sergeant at the local police station who reads his job title off his badge (FFS) all handed over with the original to compare, they keep the stamped copies and off you go, usually to fetch more bloody personal information, vial of kids blood etc.
But now it’s gone a step too far, we’ve been finger printed to access and egress the security estate on which we live, because people were selling their tags to dubious others who then used armed force to break into 9 houses in a 3 month period earlier on this year.
Now any single person who works on the security estate has all the information they need to be me and there is nothing I can do about it.

Thinking of emigrating? Here’s my advice

Visit the country your company want you to move to and make sure your partner gets to go also.
Before you go get the company/agency to line up viewings for houses, within your budget and make appointments at several schools. Ask the rental agents what the deposits are and what kind of service you can expect from them in case of any faults when you move in. Check with the school their timescale for admittance, additional fees and hidden costs and ask for a contact person so you can pre order uniform and equipment (do they have a second hand shop) full costs etc all in advance of the children starting school. Visit the local supermarkets, to see how much things cost before deciding on what you are getting rid of or bringing with you. Find out about TV licences, car insurance, bank accounts, utility accounts and make sure there is a phone line up and running before you step on the plane.
Chose your removal firm carefully, ensure you have out of office number in case of emergency i.e. customs loose your container and then want to charge you additional fees to ‘find’ it for you. Find out who the contact person is in advance and get in touch with them via email to find out what they actually do and not what the UK side say they will do. Don’t pay the final balance until your furniture has arrived and is unpacked. They can’t ship your furniture till they have your visa, be warned, ours didn’t tell us that till 2 days before Christmas as they were emptying our house out and charging us additional storage.
Get involved more with your Visa, don’t assume that the agents/company are actually doing anything in your best interest, it will be in theirs, you can always get the visa, but you don’t have to travel the day it is issued, if you haven’t got tenants in your house yet, sort that out first, it’s very expensive having your house empty and trying to transfer money overseas to pay the mortgage.
When you arrive at your destination, demand you are given your medical aid details, a list of doctors and dentists, an appointment with the said med aid so you know how it works, a map of the nearest hospital (we had a visit to A&E within 10 days, it then took 4 months to sort all the payments out) Sim cards for each family member (get your phones unlocked before you leave the UK). All your paperwork, copies of contract, facilities to copy passport and visa, directions and info on nearest police station to get copies certified the initial apartment in your name so you have proof of residency or transfer it over as soon as you arrive.
Ask for email evidence of everything you have been offered/promised...’we’ll get your visa changed when you get here, no problem with your studies that can go on as normal’
I’m not being demanding/difficult or stroppy, I believed the professionals ‘Don’t worry Suzanne we’ll sort it all out for you when you get here’
All I had to do was worry about settling my kids into a new life at the bottom of the world, deal with a different culture, language, being on my own all day while hubby and kids still had the routine of work and school and people to talk to, without having to sort out everyone else’s bloody mess. Oh and don’t forget to add to the mix....we now live in one of the most dangerous countries in the world.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Yummy mummy....are you one?

I'm prepared to be shot down for this blog.

A yummy mummy doesn't have to be a SAHM, nor does she need to run her own business, or make cards and jewelery in her spare time, or blog or cook.

A yummy mummy is someone whose voice has to be heard above others, who sits on the table next to you in the cafe, or behind you on the bus or at the swings in the park, who over praises their obnoxious child for absolutely everything and intersperses every sentence with 'oh darling'

I came across one today and she rather spoiled my child free outing for lunch.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

A step too far

I pay the gardener peanuts, not literally but it is very little, it is however the going rate, so I make up for it in other ways. I feed him, I give him stuff for his children, but no more.
He phoned me, yes he has a cell phone, on monday demanding payment. I had paid him, I always pay him on the last friday of every month, I checked my account, I had paid him.
I was out today so I left his lunch in a cool box with ice blocks and plenty of drink.
I got home as he was leaving. He told me I must pay him again, I said no and showed him proof of payment, he told me I must leave him more food, I said no there was more than enough for him. He stood there looking at me and said again there wasnt enough food. I said what about the cakes I made for your children? He replied he had eaten them. There were 30 iced halloween cakes.
When I'm at home I make tea at 8am when he arrives, I give him a 2 litre bottle of squash, I give him soup or a bacon butty or cake at 10am, I cook him a lunch and give him fruit, crisps, chocolate and dessert. At 2pm I give him tea and biscuits and at the end of the day I give him either a packet of cigarettes, food to take home, clothing or extra cash. I have to write a note saying I have given this stuff to him so the guards let him take it out the gate.
Today I wrote please take these cakes for your children and left them in the box with 2 ham, cheese, pickle and salad sandwiches, 2 bags of crisps, 2 packets of biscuits, 2 yogurts, 3 pieces of fruit and a chocolate bar.
I was warned by my neighbour that if I give him stuff he will just ask for more and more, but im struggling with this one.

The Baby House

Please welcome this gorgeous 4 week old girl, she is the first of many babies to seek refuge at The Baby House, who officially opened their doors last night upon her arrival.

Another fantastic project, opening this week in Lonehill, just outside Johannesburg. The Baby House will provide interim care for children under the age of 4 who have been abused and/or abandoned.

Still waiting for final certificates then they can take up to 6 children, with longer term plans for expansion, including a foster unit, as children stay in care here in South Africa until they are 21.

You can follow them on face book http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/The-Baby-house/145724245476524 or twitter @thebabyhouse and I shall be updating this blog with information, progress and pictures.

They really need pyjamas, underwear and summer clothing for 2-4 year olds boys and girls, can you help?

Santa Shoe Box

WOW what a fab few days that was.

It was exhausting

It was frustrating

It was a laugh

It brought us close to tears

The generosity of some people was over whelming.

Some shoe boxes were filled to capacity, with brand new clothing, watches, gift vouchers, packed with sweets, toys and educational items.

Some boxes were nearly empty with half a bar of soap and second hand toys, but these boxes meant the most to me, these boxes were donated by children who have very little but were prepared to give half of what they did have, inc half a bag of chips/sweets, to children less fortunate than themselves.

It was the least I could do, to give 4 days of my time to receive, check, amend and pack the shoe boxes ready for distribution at the celebration days to follow.

I've met some wonderful people, I've created a face book page that I hope you will all like and I've been asked to get more involved next year.


Celebration days to hand out the shoe boxes to be announced soon

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

In the words of James Brown.....I feel good

Well I do and I don't.....

This weeks 'inspired' by Kate on thin ice, #grooving mums is all about 'Getting out there'

There will come a time when I don't feel the need to say 'since moving to South Africa' but at the moment I feel the need to keep saying it to explain why I lost my groove.

40 years of friendships, family, familiarity went over night, in fact the night of the 18th January 2011 when we flew to Johannesburg.

Yes it's fun and exciting, no the weather doesn't help, believe it or not we had burst water pipes in July when the temperature dropped to -5c and right now temps of 30c+ is too much for me. I don't know what to expect of the seasons, but right now living in these temperatures is very different from 2 weeks holidays. Anyway I digress.....

My groove is coming back. I've joined a gym. http://www.chickenruby.com/2011/11/blogging-from-gym.html

I've been volunteering with @santashoebox http://www.chickenruby.com/2011/11/baby-house.html

I'm also volunteering with The Baby House http://www.chickenruby.com/2011/11/baby-house.html

So I'm getting there and #groovingmums is helping, it is making me focus on a task each week and to do something about it, I can't follow some of the challenges that are set, for example going to the library, I went to go last week, but there was a shooting.

I do talk to strangers, but this isn't a country where people sit bump into one another in a cafe and strike up a conversation, the school run is just that. I've turned into a 4x4 school run mum. I had a 4x4 in the UK but my kids walked, cycled or caught the bus to school, here I arrive at the gate in my 4x4, sunglasses and *Radley handbag, stop long enough for the kids to chuck their bags into the boot and we're off.

The internet is crap here, as in on or off and very, v e r y, slow, uploading pics is a night mare, as I'm using the computer in the gym I'll have to add some pictures when my lap top has been fixed.

I was forced to go up to see a neighbour last night after tea, hubby said 'just go, you never used to be in' and I had a fab hour up there drinking wine and gossiping, nattering, god how I miss that, just being able to chat with someone without having to time the phone calls or skype with the time difference.

I have dates for coffee and lunch that I've initiated and an all day party at some botanical gardens end of November, my step son is coming out for 10 days, then me and the boys fly back to the UK for the first 3 weeks of December, they haven't seen their dad for a year, then my Mother in Law is out for January.

It all looks good fun and busy, but it's been a long and difficult battle and all of the lovely things coming up do leave me rather flat when life goes on as normal, as I don't do normal, I don't do hours in my own company day after day. I need things to level out to stop the ups and downs.

I guess it took me 40 years to get where I was and I was happy, I was going somewhere, I had independence, freedom, a career, family, friends and now I've just got to start again...time to reinvent myself, take on new challenges, have new experiences...I just need a bit of help to get going and #groovingmums is giving me that.

*Radley handbag...small and compact, can be worn over the shoulder and tucked under the car seat, feel much safer with it than a larger bag.

Blogging from the Gym

I joined a gym. Not just any Gym, but a Virgin Active Gym. I'm not getting paid for this blog, nor I have I received any incentives, I just Love this gym.

I needed to get out more and especially to exercise. In the 9 months since we've been in South Africa I have put on nearly a stone in extra weight and at 40 I could do without it spreading further.

The only exercise I've been doing is sweeping and mopping the wooden floors, I tried a keep fit DVD but there is always someone in our house or in the garden, unannounced, fixing, gardening or cleaning the pool. I started jogging, but that was rather pathetic and by the time I'd dragged myself half way round the estate the golfers had tee'd off and I was dodging the balls.

We are with Discovery for our medical aid and as a vitality member I paid R735 as a one off fee and got a Virgin Active bag, I then pay R89.90 a month to use the pool, the gym, saunas, aqua room and access to all the classes. I only have to book for a spinning class as they seem to be the most popular.

At the moment I swim, I love swimming and used to swim at County level. I started off last week with 10 lengths, the following day 20, then 30 and then swam a mile 3 days in a row, my best time so far is under 40 minutes.

The kids have joined me and they go after school, sometimes I'm there twice a day. It cost R90 for each child as a one off fee and they can use the same facilities as I can at no extra charge.

The changing rooms are spotless, fantastic hot water in the showers and plenty of lockers.

I'm not a big fan of these communal changing rooms and the 12 year old comes out in fits of hysterics at the 'old' men and their dangly bits everywhere and I although I'm not shy, I really didn't appreciate the woman opposite me who, stark naked, lifted her foot onto the bench and proceeded to rub cream onto her inner thigh, I was sitting down at the time and it really wasn't a pretty sight.

The eldest is working out right now, I have a headache/migraine and really didn't feel like swimming at the moment, so I'm sat in the cafe with a latte, using the computers and the internet.