I lost a very important bag last week

Last week Friday; I left a bag in my Uber driver’s car. I *never* do this, but I was carrying my laptop bag, handbag and takeaway coffee. I also had my favourite white cotton / tote bag with me. It’s my favourite bag & so sentimental. Ben had made a drawing of him & I at his crèche when he was about 6. As a gift, his teacher had the drawing hand-stitched to a cotton tote bag and I’ve treasured it since. I mean, I look amazing.

Note: I was not pregnant at the time but okay thanks Ben. 

The bag was stuffed with things from the office but also contained brand-new pink cat-ear, light-up Bluetooth headphones that my boys got me for my last birthday. They’d even ordered them online for me!
I also treated myself to a pink lunchbox and bought myself a pink lipstick at Dis-Chem that day. Lots of other little things in the bag… all could have been replaced eventually.
I was so hurt about the bag. I contacted the Uber driver immediately but he wasn’t getting back to me and on the app, they have 24 hours to respond. I had asked him to drop me at a Pick n Pay, and then I walked home from there. I realised I didn’t have the bag as I was walking home and my. heart. stopped 🙁
I contacted Pick n Pay, but their safe was locked by then and they didn’t have access to it until the morning to check if my bag was handed in. I tried to reach Ben’s old teacher to have another bag made, but it looks like her little school has closed and I couldn’t find her online. I was so hurt. Ben was sad too.
Later that evening and after so many attempts to get hold of him; the Uber driver called me. I explained the whole situation to him and pleaded about the bag. He promised to message the 3 passengers he collected after my trip and enquire about the bag.
The next morning, I went to the Pick n Pay and spoke to the manager & security department. My bag wasn’t handed in and I begged them to check their security cameras. I wanted to narrow it down to where I had lost the bag. They promised to look at security footage, took my number and promised to call. That was Saturday morning. Today is Tuesday.
I still haven’t heard from them.
Later that afternoon, the Uber driver let me know that HE FOUND MY BAG. It seemed like nothing was touched, taken or tampered with. Not even my freakin apple. I’m really so grateful for the passenger’s honesty as well as the effort and honesty from the driver. I could see on his profile picture that he has a daughter around my kids’ ages, and I’m sure that she would have loved the headphones & make-up, but Morris ensured that I got everything back. He even drove all the way to my office this morning to give it all back to me. I gave him a little reward for this trouble, airtime & petrol etc to fix my OWN screw-up. Here’s what happened with my bag:
The world looks a little bit better today, doesn’t it?
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A quick story

Noah loves playing the piano, and he’s really good at it too. I bought him a pretty old, vintage-looking Beethoven piano about 6 years ago. Since then, he’s been thriving at it. He plays beautifully and does brilliantly in all his Trinity exams. I’m so proud of him. Here’s a quick clip. He composed his own bridge from “Ballad” to Vivaldi.

He has lessons twice a week at school, and is supposed to practice every day. Noah divides his time between my home and his dad, Graeme’s house. Graeme doesn’t have a piano and it’s not an easy thing to buy. They’re really expensive.

The school has been nagging us for 2 years to get a second piano or keyboard as Noah is falling behind and not reaching his full potential without regular practice. They tried to make a plan and placed a keyboard in a passageway at school so that he could practice during break times. This isn’t always possible as Noah needs to eat his lunch and play with the other kids. It’s also really cold and rainy these days, so sitting alone in a cold passage to practice isn’t ideal.

I knew that his piano at my house is very old, but I didn’t realise how old until I got a professional to tune it. About 2.5 years ago, I found a man named Keith who specialises in dealing and tuning pianos. He came to our home and took Noah’s whole piano apart. He discovered that Noah’s piano was made in around 1920. I had bought it from a man who was clearing out his grandmother’s storeroom, and she had been a piano teacher. It sounds really romantic, right? A piano from the roaring 20s. All jazz and The Great Gatsby. Beautiful.

Except that Keith said it was very bad news. The strings are old and rusted and built in a way that pianos aren’t made anymore. He can’t tune the piano to 100% as he can’t tune it too hard in case the strings snap (which he said they definitely would). There’s a bunch of other things about its age causing problems, and he very politely kind of told me to get rid of it. He can only tune it to about 70% and because of the wear-and-tear, it tunes out very quickly again. The biggest concern is that Noah can’t hear the notes properly which will hinder his progress and ‘musical ear’ so to speak. I don’t know the exact terminology.

So we are sitting with a piano that is basically ruining his life and the absence of a second piano which he needs for regular practice, AND his school music department giving us a bit of trouble about Noah’s lack of progress in relation to his ability. Over the past year, Noah has threatened to quit piano at least three times in frustration.

He loves his old, 20s jazz-era piano though. She’s a beauty and he said he would always keep it in his home one day as it was his first piano and he’s had it since he was about 9. He can tell the difference with the notes in comparison to his school’s piano and sometimes cringes and shrieks or laughs when his “old lady’ hits really bad notes. He still gets to practice his hands, so it’s good enough for now.

I asked Keith to tune Noah’s piano again last month. As I mentioned, the upkeep of a piano is expensive and a call-out for a professional tuner isn’t cheap. It takes about 3 hours to tune Noah’s piano. Over the past few years, I had sent Keith intermittent videos of Noah’s musical progress. He showed the videos around to colleagues and said that Noah is a very gifted musician. He plays songs by ear, memorises his sheet music and learned Vivaldi Four Seasons (Spring) in like 20 minutes all on his own. More than that, I think that Keith could see how passionate he is about piano.

So Keith came around at the beginning of April to tune the piano as much as he could. He’s a really nice guy and he and Noah spent some time together – playing for each other, gossiping about his piano and talking music in general. He’s a really, really nice guy. Keith was more ‘angry’ at the piano this time and told us that we seriously need to replace it for Noah. I thought maybe I looked like a neglectful mom, so I explained how we’d barely received an income over the past 1.5 years due to Covid, alcohol bans, lockdowns, losing clients and tourism. He said that the kind of piano Noah needs is in about the entry level price of R15 000. Entry level. Then I also need about another R5000 for a second-hand keyboard for Graeme’s house. His professional music / piano lessons aren’t cheap, not to mention all the books and fees for grading entries. Piano lessons are about R2500 a month – if you’re interested. It can be cheaper if you split with other kids, only do once a week or only do half-hour lessons. Noah has private lessons twice a week.

Anyway, I still asked Keith to keep a look-out if he saw a really good deal that we could maybe save up for. I made him some tea, Noah jumped on his (slightly) tuned piano and was really grateful that it sounded a bit better. I messaged Keith that afternoon to request his bank details for his services. He was at my house for about 3 hours and I know that he lives quite far away, so there was a “tuning” and “call-out” fee. He sent me a message saying: “I’m not charging this time.” I was blown away and so grateful for his kindness. We stayed in touch and I still sent him the odd video of Noah’s progress and thanked him each time for his generosity.

On Monday, I got an out-of-the-blue message from him. He had gone to see some lady (Anne), and he forwarded Anne’s message to me. I’ll share an extract of her message to Keith:

“I would like to go with the plan to gift my piano to that family in Claremont. The little boy seems so keen and I hope would get much pleasure playing it. I shall leave it to you to arrange it all and hope that you can arrange a free transfer. I should sometime like details of the family and would visit them. Very many thanks, Anne C.”

Keith explained that it was a John Broadwood piano with a lovely tone. He said it’s in great condition and that Noah will love it.

It was my first day at my new job and I was in-between meetings for my orientation. I had a quick cry alone in the boardroom as Keith was messaging me details on delivery and transfer (all free) and we were arranging how to get Noah’s new piano to him.

We decided to put Noah’s new piano at Graeme’s house so that Noah can (finally, for the first time) be able to practice every week. Every DAY if he wants to. It’s really hard keeping him off the piano! He can still practice on the “old lady” at our house until we can put her in storage for him and eventually invest in something better. Maybe for his 16th or something!

When I got home last night, Noah was in the bath and I ran in to tell him the great news. He pulled this crazy, shocked face and sunk his head in the water in disbelief. He is so grateful. He phoned Keith to thank him and sent Anne (a complete stranger) the sweetest voice note in gratitude. I must figure out how to post it here so we can keep it! See if the below plays for you?

 

 

Anne replied to him: “Thank you for your messages. It’s a special piano for you Noah so take care of it. I got it when I was 9 years old so it’s been a good friend of mine! I will speak to you soon and keep in touch. Anne.”

I wanted to share this because I’m so grateful and it really shows that there are still very good people around us, with kind hearts and generous spirits. That lady could have got a pretty penny for her piano but chose to gift it to a little boy she heard about – a young boy with a genuine passion for the piano who needed a bit of help.

It’s being delivered soon and Noah is so excited. We’re all so grateful and overwhelmed. The world looks beautiful today.

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Dear diary May 2021

I still can’t believe that Covid happened to the world. I can’t believe that my entire family got it. We know people who lost their lives to it, their jobs, their businesses. Everything has changed for most of us, and I still haven’t come to terms with it all. I remember that at this time last year, everyone was watching Tiger King and making banana bread. Cigarettes and alcohol was banned and everything was closed. I missed iced coffee the most. Any kind of takeaway coffee, really. I remember helping the boys with homeschooling, being really down and not even being allowed to walk my dogs. Sometimes we were allowed to walk them between like, 7 and 9am or something. I remember that their favourite park was so crowded that you couldn’t pass people and the dogs could hardly break a trot it was so busy.

At this time, Francois and I were both working mostly in tourism and hospitality. Him with his own business (a tour company) and me as mostly a freelancer. We also own and run a guesthouse in Stanford. I remember how ‘those’ calls and emails started trickling in… “The bookings have gone down” to “There are no bookings at all”. I remember my clients closing their doors – some temporarily, not knowing that they would never open again. I had a few months without any income at all, and then neither did Francois. But we still had to pay our rent (at our Claremont home) and put food on the table. We moved to our Stanford house for a few days which turned to weeks.

When we got Covid, we had to quarantine for 2 weeks so we went to our Stanford home where there’s a bigger garden for the dogs and more space in general. Stanford is a very quiet town. One day, after being stuck indoors for over 2 weeks, I pretty much lost it and grabbed the dogs and walked the few meters down to the river at the end of our street. I know full-well that the river is deserted during the week in the mid-mornings. I knew full-well that we would not be in contact with a single soul. I got out of home for 15 minutes and this lady in the village posted to a whole bunch of people about us breaking quarantine and “putting the whole village at risk”. I was so mad. I was so hurt. It’s been almost a year and I still think about how mean and unnecessary that was.

Then we thought: We just need to get through winter! Francois’ business relies 95% on international clients. He runs these super popular wine tours to Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. Some days, he’d have 5 busses of tourists out every day. They went from that to zero in a matter of days. “The tourists will come back soon, just wait for spring!” I’d tell him. That was 10 months ago. There still aren’t any tourists. Some things hit even harder, like the international news reporting that South Africa had developed a new strain of Covid, AND… with every alcohol ban, the wine industry shut down. I had clients who were restaurants and bars and they closed too. Then the big hotels closed.

Tour busses can seat 13 people, but those got banned at one point too. Then they said that like 70% capacity is ok, so even if you had a tour out – your profit got slashed.

We did a few clever things, though. I got involved and we created a super fun domestic campaign to encourage locals to take trips to the Karoo, Kruger & Matjiesfontein (also in his company’s portfolio). He was on TV and radio and all over websites. Then another alcohol ban came. It was like every time you tried to stand up, someone would take a baseball bat and hit you on your shins.

Things have been up and down. They go from better to worse every other week, but we’re holding on as tight as we can. We made a few clever moves (well, Francois did!) that really helped. We rented out our Stanford house on a long-term lease as nobody was traveling to guesthouses at that point. We saved a lot of money because we weren’t going out, eating out of traveling anymore.

Probably my core focus was protecting the boys from feeling any of it. I didn’t want them to know when we were stressed, or struggling. I didn’t want them to panic or worry or feel unstable in any way. I mean, their entire lives had changed, their routine was non-existent, they were trapped at home and seriously missing school and their friends. Keeping a straight face when things get tough is exactly what we did. Keep your chin up, put your shoulders back – and carry on!

Things seem to be changing again. We’re in a “good week” but you never know what’s waiting around the bend.

Another clever hack of ours, is that we’re part of two different “home exchange” type of groups. If you own a lodge / guesthouse / hotel you can be part of this group. It works on a point system, so you can use your points to stay somewhere as long as people can also use their points to stay at your place, etc. We had loads of people use their points at our guesthouse over the years, so we had accumulated a lot  of points;  which is how we managed our holiday to Mozambique. We also saved so much by flying instead of driving and thank goodness, because the land borders closed the week before our trip. We’re currently using our points here and there when we want to stretch our legs and try escape some of the stress we have to deal with sometimes.

Oh man, another awesome hack was that Francois’ business gives bank cards to the tour guides to fill up with petrol. For years! He’d earned so many eBucks (like points you can use at certain partners) that we used them on groceries for like 2 months. I could use my medical aid savings for basic medicines that we needed. Pick n Pay Smart Shopper points came in handy too. We also had this brand-spanking-new massive kennel that we’d bought for the dogs. They hated it and never set their paws in it, so we gave it back to the pet shop in exchange for store credit. I could get enough dog food for three dogs for two months out of that! It’s amazing how resourceful you can be when you really need to, and know how to.

Oh MAN, another thing we did! Haha. It was so funny. Francois had a whole storeroom full of ‘grape juice’ that was left over from a project, and that we couldn’t sell. Cases and cases of the stuff. During the first alcohol ban, we sold like, all of it. We made a pretty penny, too! There was this one couple who were in the process of emigrating. They gave us like, this really cool (brand new) printer in exchange for a box of it. I was thrilled as the boys really needed one for home-schooling. Some people traded us grape juice for other kinds of juices, like potato juice – which is my preferred one. We felt like the mafia! Within a week, that storeroom was empty.

We’ve learned so many lessons this past year. We found areas where we used to over-spend, hacks we weren’t using and tricks we didn’t know about. I made it a game with the boys when we went grocery shopping. I’d be like “If we buy this 150g product for R45 does it work out cheaper if we buy the 500g one for R87” and things like that. We’d make it this fun math game and they’d get so proud of their equations and how they were really ‘sticking it’ to the corporates who were trying to trick us into spending more money.

Not that Francois and I were ever flashy or spent a lot of money. We share a car that’s paid in full. We rent a tiny little house in the suburbs and don’t buy designer things or expensive clothes. We pretty much never eat out. We only ever really spent extra money on travel, because that was a priority for both of us. Why buy a R850 dress when that could be a train ticket from Rome to Venice? I guess that’s how we used to see things.

Now it’s a year later, and we’re about to go into winter again. We’re repeating all our re-assuring words to one another: “Just a few more months” and “This is almost over” followed by “We just have to make it through winter.”

I know that things have been hard on everyone and some people have lost everything including their lives or loved ones. I know this. I can only be grateful for what we’ve managed to hold on to and the lessons we’ve learned. Sometimes I just don’t know how much longer we can hold on for.

Amongst all of this, Francois’ old knee injury started acting up again. When your knee gives in, you walk a bit skew with a bit of a limp, so his lower back went into excruciating pain. I had never seen a grown man cry out and scream in pain like that. His Orthopaedic surgeon scheduled another knee op, which didn’t help. Eventually they booked him in for a knee replacement (after nothing else worked). When he went in for that, they found a big infection, so they closed him up and sent him home instead.

Francois has been in pain and on crutches for as long as I can remember at this point. As soon as he recovered from the one surgery, he was being booked in for the next. Of course I didn’t mind looking after him, but this meant that I was spending more time doing things on my own and had to run everything, look after the dogs, kids and house on my own. Some days, I didn’t make my deadlines at work and it was putting strain on my income.

In recovery (after his attempted knee replacement), his back got so bad that he could no longer make it to the bathroom. Without mobility, his neck started going into spasms and he could no longer lift his head to swallow pain tablets. When I say that my husband was in pain; he was in more pain than I’ve ever seen anyone in. I threatened getting an ambulance, taking him to hospital – anything to make him feel better. Francois hates a fuss and he’s quite stubborn. One morning I’d had enough of watching him suffer and called his surgeon. The doctor was like, omg he needs to get to hospital… but you can only take him in 4 days time when some really brilliant back doctor is on call. They made all the arrangements, Francois powered through and he was admitted to hospital for permanent care. They took X-rays of his back, booked him into theatre and injected cortisone directly into the inflammation. He spent a few more days in hospital. I think he was there for a week?

When he got home, his recovery continued and about a week later, he was booked in for his full knee replacement. I’m not going to lie, I was SO EXCITED for him to finally have the operation, knowing just how much pain he’d been in for so long. It’s now been about 3 weeks since his recovery and his mobility is much better. Some days he only uses one crutch and sometimes can walk around a bit and do basic things for himself like make a cup of tea. Last night, he even cooked dinner and I must admit it was so nice to get a tiny bit of help for one night and to see him be able to do a task again. While he was trying to keep his business open, he was also dealing with excruciating pain and recovering from major surgeries. That husband of mine is honestly impenetrable and so much stronger than I thought he was.

Probably the biggest factor is that we’re getting a lot less sleep. Francois is obviously very restless and uncomfortable at night. He struggles to sleep from the pain. I get up and try help him, or make him some tea or get his meds for him. Some nights he sneaks out and sits in the living room or kitchen from like 3am – 6am. Then I’m up at 6:30 to sort the boys out and do the morning run, which wakes him up again. Luckily the boys’ schedules and routine is exactly the same and they’re quite oblivious to anything but fishing, Minecraft, Fortnite and surfing. There’s been a lot more screen time around here lately and I couldn’t give a shit, honestly.

Today is a good day. There’s been some good news here and there. Two days ago I was jumping up and down from joy. Yesterday I burst out crying in a parking lot with my eldest in the car. Today, I’ve taken the day off. I mean I still have to do the basics but Francois is out at doctor and business appointments. The kids are at school. I got back into bed at 10am and decided to write a bit. To do something for myself.

It hasn’t been all bad. Francois and I are closer than ever. The boys are absolutely thriving at school. They have sports again and have joined a few clubs. They have play dates and sleepovers with their best friends again. I got super into gardening but then my asshole rabbits ate all my flowers.

I have a few squirrels now. I started feeding a squirrel that I saw in our garden. I called him Chip. Then he brought his friend, who I named Chappie. Then they brought two smaller squirrels with them, so now I have this little squirrel family that I’ve been feeding for about 3 weeks. I always take their peanuts to the edge of the garden and place them on top of a shelf. This is usually at about 8:30am when I’m home from dropping the boys and walking the dogs. This morning, I went to re-fill their bowl and Chip and Chappie came jumping down from the tree! They were a bit hesitant, but then they came RIGHT UP to me and nibbled their peanuts just above my eye-level, like 30cm from my face. I didn’t want to scare them, so I just stood completely still and watched them learn to trust me. These wild squirrels and me: their Peanut Lady. I don’t know why it made me so happy, but it felt really good. I feed them every morning, then I sit at our garden table, drink my tea and watch them have their breakfast. They’re really cool. You’d like them.

I have a bit of other updates and news to share, but I don’t feel like talking anymore. I think I’m going to make another cup of tea and maybe have a long bath, put on some nice clothes and maybe even a bit of makeup. Francois is so used to seeing me in sweats, tights and pyjamas. Anyway, I really think that today is going to be a good day. I hope so.

Thanks for listening x

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Book Review: The Glass Castle (Jeannette Walls)

I asked a few of my Instagram followers what their favourite book of ALL time is. I took the four books with the most recommendations, and added this to my list of ‘must reads’. These books are:

The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls | A man called Ove, Fredrik Backman | Educated, Tara Westover and American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins.

I finished The Glass Castle in three days, and I actually wasn’t very impressed. It’s a powerful memoir and really hard to put down, but I was disappointed by the ending. The book is also very monotone and unbiased – like the author is complaining about family members without badmouthing them throughout the entire book. I like that you are left to make your own assumptions and I love a good story, but it all fell really flat for me at the end. I wanted to know what happened to certain characters, I wanted to know what happened to the property and I need to understand a few things. I was super impressed and locked in at the beginning & middle and then a bit disappointed in the end.

Would I recommend this book to my friends? Sure. Is it one of The Best Books I’ve Ever Read? No.

It’s a woman’s account of her impoverished upbringing, weird mom and drunk dad. I can’t say much more without giving it all away, but maybe the point is that there isn’t actually much more to reveal.

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2021 Board

I’ve been really good at planning and organising things lately, so I wanted to put this ‘mood board’ together for everything that I want to transpire this year! My MAIN THEME is Italy. Francois bought us tickets to Italy for Christmas and it’s all I want! But with Covid and everything else going on, I’m not sure if we’re going to make it in June / July which is when our tickets are booked and paid for. Anyway, these are all the things that I have my eye on for this year.

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My ultimate skincare wish – list

These are all my absolute favourite skincare products that I have my eye on for my face’s future! Some of them are SUPER expensive and I can almost never afford them, but I just wanted to put this ‘online’ so I can reference it real quick when I can afford them!

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Going to Mozambique with kids

1. I love Bilene because it’s situated on a lagoon with no waves or strong currents. Perfect for little kids & water sports. The water is that gorgeous translucent turquoise, blue & green like you see in postcards. The water is shallow and refreshing and warm.
2. We booked & flew straight to Maputo via AirLink / Travelstart at about R2700 (from Cape Town) a flight. It’s about R2000 from Joburg. That seems steep but compare it to renting a 4X4 for your entire trip or even driving. Sometimes people wait up to 6 hours at the borders (without food, water or bathrooms), but the flight from JHB -> Maputo is 40 minutes. If traveling from Cape Town, pay special attention to layover times as  you’ll be flying Cape Town > JHB > Maputo.
3. We got a transfer from Maputo to Bilene with a tour company called Tours2Moz. They only operate on certain days so they referred us to a different company for our transfers.
4. In Bilene, we stayed  in a self-catering waterfront villa that sleeps 8 people. It’s called Villa’n Banga and it has its own on-site restaurant, bar, canoes, snorkeling, volleyball, pool table etc.
It’s currently R2000 a night. The villa is serviced daily (inclusive) and you can have your laundry done daily too. It’s SO much more relaxing being on holiday when your basic cleaning is done for you – especially with kids and a house that is covered in sandy towels & wet clothes half the time. Your kids will go through 3 outfits a day – easily!
5. We booked a boat via a man called Dercio who works at Villa n Banga. Our skipper was John. We booked the boat from 12 noon to about 7pm to go tubing, skiing, bar-hopping, exploring the town of Bilene & going shopping etc. They charged us +- R3000 for a family of 4 to use their services for like 7 hours.
John charges about R800 – R1000 an hour for tubing which my kids said was the highlight of their trip! Again, rates are always negotiable depending on duration.
6. My one son went on a fishing trip. We paid R2500 for him to go deep-sea fishing for about 8 hours. This included his rod, reel, bait, snacks, juice, water & a fishing coach & skipper. He also brought plenty of fish home for us to eat! We booked via Highlander Fishing Lodge. Piet junior & senior are SO great with kids. They loved Ben so much that they let him go on a second trip for free! Trust me, you will catch.
7. You can’t reach Villa n Banga without a 4X4. The owners (Lee & Anton) will gladly fetch you from Bilene at a small fee. I honestly wouldn’t rent a 4X4 for your trip if you’re flying in. Your car will just stand as everything you need is at the Villa.
8. If you need a transfer to Highlander Fishing Lodge or into the village for groceries, then Kobus is your guy. He’s a local with a 4X4 and he will take you on trips for a small fee. We only went into the village (Bilene) once for groceries. Your family won’t go hungry.. the restaurant (Babalaria) is a few metres from your villa and they even bring coffee, breakfast, food whatever to your house. John (boating guy) will also drop you at the village and walk with you to draw money / buy basics etc
9. Things to do in the area: Most family friendly is Nghunghwa Lodge with 2 pools & canoes for the kids. Don’t leave without trying their R&R slush puppies! We also loved the Flip-Flop bar! I recommend booking John for a day as he’ll scoot you from one place to the next and happily tube your kids along the lagoon right in front of you while you sip on your cocktails & demolish a prego roll (Flip-Flop Bar!) Don’t forget the R&R jello shots
(I HAVE to give a special mention to our new friend, Clint. I found him via the DriveMoz facebook group and he gave us all these great tips. The trip would not have been the same without his recommendations, which I’m now passing on to you!)
10. Activities at Villa n Banga include snorkeling (rent snorkels at the Babalaria bar). They also have a swimming pool, pool table & big screen with DSTV going for the kids. The bar is right on the lagoon. Your villa also has a huge outdoor braai & seating area. I most loved sitting on the balcony couches with a coffee or a drink and watching the water and the kids play.
You will need to stay in Maputo while you wait on your negative Covid result. We found a gorgeous, cheap & cheerful guesthouse called “Guesthouse 1109” with a pool, rooftop bar & air conditioning. You will find hundreds of places on Booking.com (where I always book) but Maputo can be quite dodgy and this place is central & safe (and walking distance to a Spar) 

1. All they need is a backpack with like 5 swimming costumes, a beach towel & 2 pairs of slops. Pack light. They will NOT wear all the clothes you want to pack. Also pack an activity book, pencil, their tech device & earphones. Just that 1 backpack. Don’t check any of your luggage in.
2. Draw cash at an ATM as soon as you land in Maputo. You have no idea how many times the kids will want a water / snack and the local stop won’t have card facilities.
3. Get a SIM CARD at the Maputo airport and load it with at least 5G data and airtime. The transfer to Bilene is 2.5 – 3 hours and you will save your soul by letting the kids use your hotspot and connect to your WiFi / data.
4. Download at least 5 new, free games that DON’T use data for their devices for actual emergencies (delayed flights / queues / transfers)
5. Have 1 travel envelope to keep all the passports, Covid tests & boarding passes in 1 place
6. If you fly AirLink, note that they do serve a light meal and beverages on all flights. But still carry snacks in your bag. Why do they always need snacks?
7. Pack a first aid kit. I don’t mean just burn shields & plasters. You MUST pack:
Allergex cream for insect bites
Swimmer’s Ear drops for sore / blocked ears
Allergex tablets
Panado
Valoid (for nausea)
A stick of Peaceful Sleep that you can easily rub & re-apply after swimming
Malanil malaria tablets
1. If you fly in via Maputo, you will ask your transfer company to stop at Baia Mall. Here you will buy the groceries & basics for your stay. If you have only packed hand luggage (and I recommend you do as you don’t need much and it makes the airport such a breeze) then you will need shampoo, conditioner etc. You will also need long life milk. A few loaves of sliced bread (I freeze the bread & pop slices in the toaster as needed). Lots of eggs, cheese, cold meats, firelighters, bottled water, snacks, cereal etc. With the kids, I found that those packets of ready-sliced cheese on toast went a long way! You will need lots of fruit juice and of course your alcohol (which you can buy at the GAME). Pro tip – there are bakeries in the mall that sell authentic Portuguese pasteis de nata. Do not miss out
2. Learn basic Portuguese phrases for hello, thank you, please etc. This goes a long way in how the locals treat you.
3. Join a Facebook group called DriveMoz. It has like 68 000 members and people post daily tips & questions re life and travel in Moz. They also have VERY handy printable documents & info on their website. Eg, if you’re divorced / traveling without the other parent – all the consent forms & info is there.
4. DriveMoz has an option where you can pre-order registered and loaded SIM cards, delivered to your door before your trip. Highly recommend!
5. The roads in Mozambique are mostly awful. After Maputo, you won’t easily (or at all) find any luxuries or even fresh milk. No fast food chains.
6. Bilene has a bottle store and a very, very basic shop and some fruit / veg vendors
7. The Mozambique ATMs will only allow you to draw 5000 meticals (about R1000) at a time, up to 3 or 4 times a day. Most places & suppliers accept rands, so have a backup stash of cash to tip people, pay for boat trips, drivers etc. Where possible – pay via EFT in advance.
8. You need at least 8 days in Bilene to truly get settled in and have enough time to relax. Then you need to add another 2 days in Maputo for your Covid tests & waiting on results
9. Take Malaria tablets. Malanin is expensive but great. You don’t need a script. A few pharmacies don’t have it so contact / order in time for them to get stock
10. Have fun. It’s a tiny mission / 2.5 hour transfer from Maputo to Bilene but once you’re there it’s absolute paradise!
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Stanford Cottage & Guesthouse

Francois and I have a cute & cheerful house in Stanford that we rent out as a little guesthouse. We have spent years renovating, decorating and loving this house. Sometimes we have friends or family who stay at the house, so I thought I’d do a little post on *everything* you need to know about Stanford to have a really good time here. Here is your Helpful Guide to Stanford for Beginners:

Stanford is about 15 minutes drive from Hermanus (quaint seaside town famous for whale-watching and popular with holiday-makers), so about 2.5 hours from Cape Town. It’s a tiny little country village situated on the Klein River. It’s surrounded by beautiful farms and mountains. It is very quiet and very safe. One of my favourite, favourite places in Stanford is a farm called Stanford Hills Estate. It’s so GREAT for kids and dogs.

Stanford Hills Estate is about 3km before Stanford. It has a restaurant called The Tasting Room that overlooks a sweet little dam with rowing boats. My kids (and dogs) love to swim in this dam. The estate also has putt-putt for the kids, lots of things to climb and play on and loads of room to run around. They also have horses and offer horse riding through the vineyards & farm. Also look out for little buck, sheep and the resident pig called Crackling. You will love spending loads of lazy afternoons here; sipping wine, having lunch and watching the kids play.

The estate also offers loads of accommodation on the property. From the big Manor House with swimming pool to the sweet cottages and the gorgeous Afri Camps camping sites. We have stayed at all their accommodation options over the years and love them. In fact, we love this farm so much that we got married here. Here are some pictures of their Afri Camps ‘glamping’ sites. Please note that the entire estate is dog friendly!

There are other super fun things that you can do inside Stanford Village. A few of my favourites definitely include booking a boat cruise on the African Queen! The boat can take loads of people (I had a birthday party on it) and they have a braai on-board. They also have tubes so you and your kids can swim, float & cruise along the river in style and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Just pack your meat, cooler box, a towel and drinks!

Other things that I really love in Stanford is that they have a Sunset Market on the Village Green on the last Friday of every month. They also have a little farmer’s market outside the Stanford Hotel every Saturday morning with fresh produce, pies, brownies, cheeses, meats and all sorts of delicious treats. I also really love riding my bicycle around the village and taking long walks along the river!

If you feel like taking a drive to Hermanus for lunch or an early dinner – there is a fantastic little restaurant there called Fick’s. It’s situated around Fick’s Pool – a famous tidal pool in Hermanus. It’s dog friendly and the kids can swim there too! Perfect for hot days. Unfortunately they don’t take reservations, so you might wait for a table. It’s totally worth it though!

Other things to do in Stanford: Eat Italian food at La Tattoria. Great Gelato bar next door, too! Have lunch, wine and chocolates at Oliilo Coco. Visit their only pub: Table 13 for great pizza, sport and sometimes live music. Find great coffee and pies at Ou Meul Bakery. If you love animals, you might want to venture out to Panthera Africa for a big cat experience. If you’re super adventurous, you can book Shark Cage Diving in Gansbaai around the corner. Marine Dynamics are the best and it’s actually a very kid-friendly activity! If you have kids who love gaming, you can drop them at Stuffed Creations for an hour or two while you explore the village. Stanford really has something for everyone.

If you’re looking for a dog and child-friendly guesthouse in Stanford, then you can even book our own house, The Dragonfly! It’s a 2.5 bedroom house with a big garden, kids play room and it’s dog friendly! You can mail info@stanfordcottage.co.za to find out about dates and rates! I’m really proud of this house because Francois and I decorated, furnished and renovated it together while we were still dating. Here are some pictures. 

 

 

 

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We got Covid and it sucked.

This year has been a nightmare for most of us, but especially over here at The Rabbit Haus. My husband, Francois works in tourism and owns a well established tour company called Wine Flies Tours. It relies mostly (and I mean 95%) on international tourists. In season, he has 5 or more tour busses out into the winelands every day. Above this, they also do private tours, Kruger Safaris and helicopter tours. When we hit lockdown, his business closed completely. He didn’t earn an income for almost 6 months and had a whole team of staff and tour guides to try support. I do marketing and PR for mostly the hospitality industry and I also write for a few other companies – mostly content and blog posts. I lost 80% of my clients during lockdown and the clients I did have, decreased their services to a minimum. The schools closed. The kids were adapting to home schooling and everything changed in what felt like seconds.

My dad (who I am extremely close to) let me know that he was leaving the country. For good. He lived in KZN, in my same childhood home. I quickly bought flights for him to come and say goodbye to us in Cape Town. I hadn’t seen my dad in over a year and all I wanted was a last hug, dinner, cup of tea and for him to see his only grandchildren before he left South Africa. A few days before his arrival, he caught wind that the airports were going to close and they had to move their UK flights forward. Immediately. I got a frantic voice note and my dad got on a plane to the United Kingdom that same day. I didn’t get to say goodbye. Out of all the ways that Covid affected me personally, that remains the worst.

Fast forward a few months and Francois and I completely restructured our businesses. I stepped in as the Marketing Manager of Wine Flies Tours, I started teaching again and I put my writing career in children’s books on hold. We launched an extensive PR campaign for local travel and got great coverage on television, radio and online media. Francois got bored and started making biltong fun fun, which quickly turned into a little business and he is now stocked at quite a few places around Cape Town. I picked up a few new additional clients, the kids were finding their groove at school and getting ready for their final exams. We booked a holiday to Mozambique  and JUST as everything seemed to be going better… We all got Covid.

Monday, 23 November

Francois’ birthday was on Monday, 23 November. He woke up saying that he felt tired and that his body was sore, but we put it off to him being very tired. It’s the end of the year, we had been on holiday in Stanford for our wedding anniversary and had many late nights and far too many drinks. I genuinely thought he just had a 2-day hangover (which you know, is a thing). We even stopped to visit his dad in the morning (a diabetic) and I had arranged a little surprise party for him: A full day in the winelands with some of his best friends. We spent that Monday with at least 20 of our friends – eating, drinking and travelling together until at least 10pm that night. We had no idea. We did take Francois’ temperature on Monday morning just to be sure, and it was completely normal. Also – the tour bus we were in was seated according to Covid regulations, eg the bus can normally take 13 passengers, but we were at capacity of 9 passengers according to Covid regulations. The bus had also been fogged, sterilized and all passengers were checked for temperatures, hands sanitized etc. This is important later.

Tuesday, 24 November

On Tuesday morning, the kids came back home from a week with their dad. Noah was at school for an exam and Ben was just hanging at home with us. Francois felt bad, but still not like – “flu bad”. He said he felt like his body was really sore and he was feeling chills like hot and cold vibes. Not like a fever. He had no cough, no sore throat. Not even a sneeze. No temperature. I on the other hand started coughing a dry cough and also started feeling the chills. The worst was definitely the lethargy. I felt like even walking to the bathroom was impossible, but I had the kids and everything else to take care of.

Wednesday, 25 November

Our nanny came into work. Ben started getting cold symptoms so I kept him home from school just in case. I still honestly thought that we were just tired and probably just had a hangover from Francois’ all-day party on Monday. We had scares before. I have gotten sick with colds this year and so has Ben. We had been for Covid tests earlier this year which were negative. Not wanting to take a chance, Francois went for a test and by now we were letting the friends from Monday’s party know that three of us were sick. I got hit with the worst case of lethargy I had ever felt and I am counting having raised 2 newborns. I got into bed that afternoon and could not move. Francois and I were just like, critically exhausted. My cough was getting a bit worse but not bad – just the odd wet cough. No other symptoms except a really sore body and absolute exhaustion. Francois and I dragged ourselves to Lancet for his test. I stocked up on all the flu meds I always use: Corenza C, Myprodol, Vitamin C and Zinc for us. For the kids, I got Corenza C paediatric syrup and Stilpane syrup. If you’re a parent, you may know that Stilpane knocks a kid out like a sleeping pill, and I knew that Ben needed to sleep to help his body heal. My son Ben is asthmatic and is on chronic medication. He has been hospitalised a handful of times, making him high risk for Covid. Things were starting to get real very quickly at this point. I pulled the kids from school and told our nanny not to come in anymore. I still didn’t think that we had it, but I was just being safe.

Thursday, 26 November

I woke up feeling like I could never get out of bed again in my life. I almost wet the bed because walking the 2 meters to our en-suite bathroom seemed impossible. Francois was literally just groaning next to me. I checked on the kids, gave them more meds and got straight back into bed. At this point, I told Francois “This isn’t flu. Something is wrong.” The only thing that really set up alarm bells was the total exhaustion and inability to move, stand or walk. Francois and I felt really, really dizzy and spaced out. I slept in for a bit and got out of bed at lunch time. I still had to look after the kids, make sure they were studying, eating and sorting out their odd squabbles. I had a few urgent work matters and had to clean the house and still walk and take care of the dogs, rabbits and our cat. We survived on take-aways and lets just say that my kids ate a LOT of cereal.

Later that afternoon, Francois got the text. He was positive. By now my denial had disappeared and I went into full-on panic mode. We had to contact everyone we saw that Monday. We saw his dad who is high risk. All our closest friends. Our nanny had been in. The kids had been at school. I felt this feeling of total guilt and almost like, grief? I had to contact the school, pull the boys out of exams. At the same time it hit me that Ben is extremely high risk. The kid has ended up in hospital with a cold before. Asthma attacks are scary. We put ourselves in total lockdown. Obviously.

Friday, 27 November 

All I could think about was monitoring Ben. The doctors wouldn’t see him and I was too scared to take him for a Covid test. It was very clear that we all had it. My other son, Noah absolutely NEVER gets sick. He had a headache for like 2 hours that week and that was it. Also, note that I started dosing Noah with all the same meds as soon as Ben got sick, so I think that definitely helped. We got a peak-flow meter (From Wynberg Pharmacy) which is a device that measures your lung capacity. I was advised to get Ben to blow into the device every 2 hours to see if his numbers were decreasing. I also got his emergency asthma meds (a strong cortisone called Aspelone) to boost his lungs above and beyond his regular meds. By the time I noticed a decline, I called our doctor who referred me to a Paediatrician who admitted Ben straight to the Paediatric Ward at our nearest hospital. By now, I was slowly getting my energy back but I was probably just running on adrenaline. We had run out of food at home and Francois was still very sick. He definitely got it the worst out of all of us. I had to leave Francois and Noah at home alone and stay over with Ben in isolation at the hospital.

They tested me and Ben straight away. The test itself is really sucky. We got swabbed around our tonsils which makes you want to hurl. I would much have preferred a blood test, to be honest. It seems like a stupid thing to even mention, but a lot of people ask what the test is like.

Ben was put on a nebuliser. This was Friday. Ben’s 10th birthday was on the upcoming Sunday and it looked like he was going to spend it in hospital.

The nurses couldn’t really come into our room because they had to put on like a dozen garments to even enter our ward. This meant that most of his medication was dropped at a table outside our room, which I would administer to Ben. I had to run his nebs and turn them off. I slept on a chair next to his bed and he struggled to sleep. His lung capacity wasn’t coming back up fast enough and would just drop every 2 hours again.

Saturday 28 November

If you’ve ever been in hospital with your kid, then you know that they wake you up at 5:30am. I was feeling super sick at this point and in my rush, hadn’t packed my own meds, toothbrush or even a change of clothes for myself. Obviously Ben had everything he needed because this is just how parents operate, right? The doctor came to check on Ben and didn’t want to discharge him as she felt that we would just come back again later. Knowing that it was Ben’s birthday the following day, she let us leave on condition that we purchase our own Nebulizer for at home, which we did. We ordered some groceries online and all of us literally just slept for what felt like a hundred years.

Sunday 29 November

Ben woke up feeling so much better. I actually felt 80% fine and Francois too. We had a cute little drive-by party and all the family dropped off cakes and presents for Ben. He really got spoiled rotten and was off his nebs by Sunday evening.

The following week…

We had another week of isolation to get through and were all feeling the cabin fever really badly. Luckily, we have a house in Stanford to we packed the family in the car to go isolate there. Our Stanford house has a big, beautiful garden so at least the kids and dogs would have more space to play and be active. We left on Monday and I asked my nanny to go to the house on Wednesday / Thursday to check on the cat and bunnies. She is a single lady living with another family, so she often stays over when we travel. Our Stanford house is my sanctuary.

On Wednesday our nanny told us that she was feeling sick. On Thursday her chest was severely tight. By Thursday evening she was taken to hospital for medication and a Covid test. I felt so helpless being all the way in Stanford, so I ordered groceries online for her to be delivered to the house. She had medicine and everything else she needed. By Friday she had tested positive. This meant that she had to stay at our house and was officially in quarantine. This also meant… that we could not go home. Apparently you can get Covid twice and if we went home and lived with her, we would need to go right back into isolation.

We would have just stayed in Stanford, but I had a meeting in Cape Town on Tuesday and the boys were also seriously missing their dad who they hadn’t seen in two weeks. We ended our quarantine, drove back to Cape Town, gave the kids to Graeme and then Francois and I had to check into a hotel. We stayed on Long Street for a week before we could come home on Friday afternoon.

Only 1 of our friends also tested positive for Covid. One who was at Francois’ birthday party that first Monday. Out of the other 20+ people we were with that day, everyone else was luckily fine.

Our nanny went home yesterday and she is feeling absolutely fine now. We are all 100% recovered. We did miss our holiday to Mozambique (you need a negative Covid test to get through the border) and the boys missed their final exams, class picnics and everything else. It’s the 12th of December and I haven’t even put up the damn Christmas Tree. We’re still tired. I spent all of today in bed, watching Greys Anatomy re-runs. I still feel exhausted and like I could just fall asleep anywhere, at any time. And (because I hate myself) I got on the scale this afternoon. Three weeks of no exercise and trying to “eat for energy” has really, really taken it’s toll on my body. I must have gained about 7kg but even worse is that I just feel horrible. Tired, gross, unhealthy and dehydrated. I feel like I need to run 10km and eat 10 salads and drink 20l of water to just feel normal again and I will. As soon as I can get out of bed again.

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Bunny fishing banana

I feel like I need to walk around here with a feather duster and dust all the cobwebs off of this blog! It’s been so long, and I’ve missed being here. I really love keeping all my memories in one place and having a little online journal! How I’ve missed writing.

Today I want to talk about Benjamin Nicholas Clark! He is the sweetest little guy that you’ve ever met in your life, and he loves nothing more than fishing. He started when he was about 2 years old and he’s NINE now. He’s caught more fish than anyone else I know and he’s really, really good at it. I don’t know what attracts people to fishing, but whatever it is – it literally has Ben hooked!

My boys each have their own hobbies, talents and interests. Benjamin is all about fishing and art. He loves to draw and sketch and has built up a gorgeous portfolio of pieces. I think that I help out more on the art side and his dad is also a passionate fisherman. They spend hours at the local dam or on a kayak pulling bass out. Once, when we were in Paternoster – I organised for him to go deep-sea fishing with a family friend. He pulled out the biggest fish out of all the grown men and was in his element. They caught Hotentots and that night Ben helped scale, prep and braai his very own catch. It was such a lovely moment to be a part of. He was SO PROUD.

Anyway, I need to keep all these pictures together for him, because it’s so nice to watch him grow through the years and develop into a proper little fisherman. I always wonder if he’d want to join a fishing club or go professional in some way one day. I love that fishing gets him out the house and into the outdoors, and that his best friend (James) is also a major fishing enthusiast. When Ben has a great catch, he immediately wants to call James on the phone and tell him all about it. Here’s a look at Ben’s fishing trips and catches throughout the years. What a great little man! I love you Ben.

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