Friday, February 17, 2017

This week.....in Singapore

This visit I am doing different things - I am saving the usual sightseeing things I want to do again from previous visits until Julia arrives and we can do them together. So for now I am taking the route less travelled.
Today I went to the Mustafa Centre - - Mr Mustafa must be like Mr Selfridge on steroids. A cross between a labyrinth and a department store , open 24 hours a day, in two buildings on opposite sides of the road, on four floors! It sells anything and everything from fresh fruit to shampoo to gold jewelry to fabric softener to souvenirs. Without Nadine I would still be wandering around lost! The aisles are so narrow that there is hardly room to walk and there must be 300 people in there at any given time. Shopping chaos!
The Mustafa Centre is in the middle of 'Little India' - there is nothing small about Little India.  In the centre of wide roads, constant traffic, high-rise apartments are narrow alleys and the traditional old shop houses and the most beautiful temples. We visited one - it was a colourful, calm and shady oasis! It was a blessing to take my shoes off to walk around it.


Yesterday was a quiet day for my - I chose to chill a little and catch up on some work and reading while Katherine went to her playgroup in the morning and her ComandoKids in the afternoon. I just joined in for a quick visit to the 2$ store and bought a load of stuff  I didnt know I needed and saw a heap more that I didnt know anyone needed - chair socks included!
Wednesday morning we explored the Arab Quarter and took the scenic route past some really interesting buildings - I love the contrast between modern and ancient!


Then after lunch we took Adam and Katherine to a fabulous play area called Pollywogs - A fabulous padded cell for children equippd with everything a child wants to climb, slide, twiddle, throw and slide on ,,,,,,which they can do without hurting themselves. The photos I too aren't great because they were on the go and never still long enough for me to catch them - exactly as it should be in such an exciting place! I crawled around for 2 hours trying to keep up with them - #Fail!

So all in all a brilliant and busy week - my first one over and I know time will fly by. When I saw this sign I was tempted - I really was....... then I saw that I had missed the boat! Next time maybe I will Meet, Mingle and Meditate in Little India :-)




Sunday, February 12, 2017

Singapore - I have arrived!

I have arrived and Sean and Nadine's new apartment is lovely - right on the river its like a painting that changes with the drifting clouds. Water traffic includes amphibian boats that emerge from the water on wheels and a whole range of man powered vessels from Dragon Boats, double skulls to 'eights' with a cox giving enthusiastic encouragement. In the evening the skyline comes alive and is a wonderful backdrop - like your own living wallpaper twinkling away in the lounge.
Saturday evening we went to the Chingay Parade - an annual event but I like to think it was held in my honour this year! What a spectacle! A procession of vehicles lit in rainbow colours interspersed with dancers, singers, acrobats, ballerina's, Chinese dragons, high kicking karate, stilt walkers, ten foot rotating princesses and and and - all led by the current president of Singapore and concluded by a firework display. Everything a parade should be and delivered in the precision expected of Singapore. Incidentally - its a parade to build unity amongst citizens and is totally staffed and performed by volunteers. The mantra is "We are one." which we were encouraged to chant at intervals while waving our golden pompoms and blue star light sticks. Its almost like a communist May Day Parade with a Bollywood twist!
Day 2 and a trip on the Marina Bay Shopping Mall where Dolce & Gabana are neighbours to Chanel and Gucci. The store windows full of glittering purchases shouting 'buy me" Alas the prices are not for the faint hearted and their calls fell on deaf ears and my empty pocket.
What was free and fabulous was the view of the inverted water fountain or Rain Occulus designed by Ned Khan - I was lucky to see it in action as it doesn't always have water in it but this was a rainy day. You can ride on a Gondola around the lower floor of the shopping mall and a few passengers got wet as the Occulus rained down on them - all intentional and much enjoyed.

Our reason for being at the Marina Bay Mall was lunch! Sean had reserved a table at Gordon Ramsay's Bread Street Kitchen - check it out here. The family wanted Sunday roast with Yorkshire pud and that is what they got.......at a price. I had cod which was delicious .....and also not the cheapest or even value for money. All the time I was eating I half expected the master chef himself to come out of the kitchen and "F%&* us up." We didn't complain ,,,,,LOL.
Singapore is a city of contrast and today we went to Everton Street in one of the older suburbs. we went to look at some street art, which I was busy admiring when I bumped into Mavis who shared with us that the best mural was a little further in and around the corner before she went on her way.

We made our way there after taking photos of the first two murals and who do we literally trip over - Mavis - turns out she is a cat feeder and feeds 23 stray cats in this area. 'My mother was a cat feeder before me", she told me," there is a real cat problem here - its out of control and a lot of my cats are old, have dementia and some no teeth.' I told her she was a cat angel - she laughed at that thought but she really is.

Back to our mission which is to explore the murals of Everton Street murals - beautifully painted by Yip Yew Chong. They depict street life from a bygone age and reminded me of  the artwork for the Hummel figurines that I remembered from my childhood - whimsical and endearing in ice cream colours. This is my 3rd visit to Singapore and there is still much that I haven't seen - more importantly for me is that each visit to a country, you drill down a little deeper and seek out the hidden away places behind the scenes and meet everyday heroes like Mavis and THAT is what I always enjoy the most!


Monday, January 9, 2017

Be a Voice and not an echo

My first blog post of 2017 and I am still looking backwards and not forwards like most people are around this time. Odd for me as I am usually first out of the starting gate galloping through life and clearing the high jumps! AS I write this I am waiting near the car wash while my son's car is being valeted - a real luxury in my eyes as my own little run about is washed fortnightly with two bowls of water, a sponge and some newspapers! But this is a BIG car and its WHITE and he kindly borrowed it to me to take the visiting UK family to Addo so its good that I am here :-)  I got to the car wash early but there is already a queue of cars and I am given a ticket and told 2 hours - so here I sit in Dulcies with my book scribbling away while enjoying a pensioner breakfast!
There is a description of a dress in the book which reminds me that I am gifted with being able remember what I was wearing on any memorable occasion. Today I am wearing soft blue and cream pants and a blue draped top - and when I put them on I immediately was transported to the last time I wore them - Thailand - on a day when we went island hopping. Dim Sum for breakfast and then a day of welcome, cool, soft, damp spray as we bumped through the Gulf of Siam.
I have a dress in my wardrobe that I am unable to part with - Its black with a wide white satin collar - Seventeen years ago I wore it on the eve of the millennium and felt like a movie star as I swanned into the Marine Hotel where we attended a masked ball. We watched fireworks at midnight, partied till dawn and then walked home after celebrating the dawn of a new century with the dolphins at Hobie Beach.
 Then there is  my red dress - that dress is so red it should have a PULSE! A secret that I kept when I made an impromptu decision to have something made for a wedding when I learned the bride's colours were green and silver. I had planned to wear a green dress  # Great fashion tip - Never dress in the same colour as the  table overlays!! I ran into Fudge Classics and tried a dusty pink number on which did nothing for my skin tone but then I saw the red!! Tony stood all ready and waiting for me in his suit checking his phone and when he looked up as I passed him - he did a double take that almost put his neck out. WOW and a low wold whistle followed - He was impressed and from that day it was known as my whiplash dress and when I wear it I am reminded that I once - not that long ago - turned heads!

I still have my size 10 jeans that I arrived in PE in 33 years ago and I swear that they would hardly fit one leg today. Looking at them I find it incredible that after bearing four strapping sons - the youngest then 18 months old - that I sashayed into my new life here. They remind me that I was a 'Yummy Mummy' before the term was invented.
I have a favourite skirt that I will never part with. Its burgundy silk with a band of hand painted flowers down the front in cerise, peach and yellow. When I wear it and yes, I still do when I can find an occasion worthy to do it justice, I feel like an exotic flower. I have worn it to a garden wedding and a couple of years ago to Madam Zingaras. I suppose you could call it vintage.
There is a part of me that is drawn to wear beige and shades of sludge but there is a voice within that shouts, 'Hey look at me!' that sometimes demands that I listen.
I was reminded of this when my three year granddaughter was visiting over December - she has a princess dress for everyday of the week and skips around in  rainbow velvet and gauzy net, sparkling and leaving glitter and magic everywhere she treads. I think how I would be if that boring beige voice did not get the better of me.
Today I was inspired by Meryl Street who used her voice at the Golden Globes to speak up against Trump's disrespect for people who are different. I love her courage and integrity.  While shopping with my sister - I found a top that says - "Be a voice and not an echo" and so I have been given my mission this year. LISTEN TO THAT BOLD VOICE WITHIN AND LIVE 2017 IN FULL COLOUR.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Balls, IT and Heroes!

Its been a while.....I couldn't get to my G Spot! I know it sounds bad and it was - I have had problems with IT. The joys of technology :-( My laptop just died on me and I had to get a new one and just logging into everything was problematic. But here I am so what can I tell you?
Where have I been?
Well, I have been gallivanting again. This time up the Wild Coast which I love and we stayed at Umngazi near Port St Johns and it was great. Its one of those old family resorts where generations of families have holidayed since forever. Children's, children's children are now holidaying there and it is an amazing place to park up, relax and let the kids run wild. Thankfully we went during school terms so there weren't that many (and please friends with children don't be offended - we love kids but appreciate some quiet adult time) and I can image in school holidays that Umngazi is wall to wall or should I say dune to dune - kids! The drive through the old Transkei was as eventful as ever with mad drivers, mad cows, mad goats, and a mad horse that refused to budge from the middle of the N2. But we arrived in one piece and enjoyed a long weekend in addition to the wonderful scenery and watching the comerants fish on the sunset cruise,  the highlight was the seafood buffet on Saturday night followed by the entertainment. One minute we were being served by elegant waitrons and the next they were drumming up a storm and dancing in traditional dress - I have to say they did the latter far more energetically! I did a bit of dancing myself last week too.
Who have I met?
I have met Ryk Neethling the Olympic swimmer at a very la-a-a-rney occasion - the Ighazi Ball - which is THE highlight of PEs social calendar. Jason Kriek showcased his magnificent fashions, Ian Von Memety showcased his amazing talent and all of PEs glitterari were there including our new mayor. We all put on our best frocks, our best faces and our best smiles (I have a niece who calls this grin-fu****g which I think best describes that sort of polite nodding grin we exchange at functions). Everyone looked splendid and I must say PE knows how to put on a party! Ryk was very dashing and patient as every woman in the room wanted a photo with him but I could see his grin was fading towards the end of the evening - he just wasn't smiling with his eyes anymore. To me the real celebrities of the night are the courageous cancer survivors who are living life thanks to the work of the doctors and nurses who care for them in Provincial and St Georges and GVI oncology. Two beautiful women in particular, who went through the same treatment at the same time and are now proud ambassadors of survival.
I have also met the editor of Glamour magazine - Pnina Fenster - again at a breakfast to support cancer patients and she is such a wonderful speaker - I cant remember a thing she said lol - but I remember thinking what a great speaker she is - and what a gorgeous. glamourous lady!  I have also met numerous learners and adults travelling on this life-long journey of learning who never cease to impress me with their enthusiasm to share what they know and what they hope to know. I learn as much from them as they from me and that is why I love my work!
What I have learned?
I have learned that those exotic blooms,  orchids, are cheaper than flowers in the long run. Mine are now flowering for a third time and that R200 splurge has brought 6 months of gorgeous prettiness to my home. I have learned that getting dressed up and going to a ball is worth the effort and the reward is feeling glam and special with or without glass slippers (I opted for comfort). That goes for life too - it's very tempting to come home and loll in front of the TV but it will get you nowhere, so its worth the effort to dress up and show up and so I have been doing that at every opportunity! I have also learned that eating spaghetti bolognaise the day after the ball in your PJs is a very acceptable way to relax and recover.
Finally - BACK UP YOUR COMPUTER DAILY SUSAN :-)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Wild Thing 2



When you put a bunch of strangers together for four days - you never know what the result is going to be and I always applaud myself on my courage to venture off into the unknown as a solo traveller joining a group. Driving to Pumba was no different - I was excited by the prospect of three days of wildlife, nature and photography - my biggest concern were the other animals I may meet - the human ones! Experience and my work has taught me a lot about group dynamics and we were a text book case of Brian Tuckman's four stage theory of group development - Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing!

We all arrived quite promptly on Thursday and sat down to lunch where we ate and engaged in polite small talk with one another - exchanging basic information and sharing travel experiences. We were a group of 6 - five females and one male - plus our ranger/host/photography expert and so the day panned out and more pleasantries were exchanged during the game drive and over dinner that evening. We were all on time the next morning and out again at sun up. We were forming!
There was a little bit of storming the following day as I sensed tension between two of the ladies - nothing major but definitely some eye rolling and a pursing of lips and the odd sigh of irritation. It all started with an empty dish of baby marrows - a large serving spoon - an embarrassing comment and all of a sudden there was an elephant in the room!
By that afternoon, though we were back on track literally -  sharing funny stories, fleecy beanies, alcohol laden coffee and even the odd jelly baby. On that particular drive I disclosed that in all my time in Africa I had never seen a leopard, truly in the wild - the depressed leopard that I once saw in an enclosure at Pumba several years ago didn't count. I then endured several leopard sighting stories and promptly declared that if we spotted a leopard (excuse the pun) then I would arrive for dinner that evening in my leopard print pyjamas. That exciting prospect fuelled by the alcohol laden coffee suddenly set off a flurry of leopard spotting (again sorry). "Oh look there's one by the watering hole with her cubs." "If you look in that tree right over there - there's one - posing in the branches looking straight at us!" The only problem was I couldn't see any of them ........some desperate people will say anything to see me in my pajamas!! I had to add a codicil to my promise that stated that photographic evidence must be supplied. I enjoyed supper in my jersey and jeans. We were norming!
The next morning though I decided that I had been on  my best behaviour long enough and appeared for the morning drive in fleecy leopard jammies to a round of applause and one cat whistle! It was a lovely morning - crisp and clear as the bush calling birds welcomed the day. The horizon was green - fifty shades of green topped with some purple capped hills and all of a sudden in the foreground one bright cerise pink bush! "What is that and how did it get there?" asked Ms Baby Marrow. The ranger pulled over and we all admired this splash of  random pink. "I am not sure." he said. "I know", I heard myself saying as 6 heads turned my way to witness my floral expertise. The ranger looked worried as I started to explain,"As you know, I came here several years ago and if my memory serves me right this is the location we stopped on a game drive back then - I needed the loo and this is the exact spot where I relieved myself," I continued. "Usually an English rose in pink flourishes on the spot when that happens, but the night before I was drinking local wine, so obviously this beautiful pink indigenous bush was the result!" The bush resonated with the sound of humans laughing like hyenas - the ranger shook his head. Even if I say it myself - it was funny!!!! "OK lets get on with our photography," he said. " Last night we did the light metering module - set your camera on IS01600 and point your camera at Sue's bush!" More laughter and several camera clicks in my direction and I had to issue a strict warning that if anyone posted photos of my bush on the Internet then I would sue. More hyena laughing - we were in hysterics - we were performing,
Another day and we would have been a real team but that was our last drive and it was back to the lodge for breakfast and goodbyes. I brought back some wonderful photos of the weekend but just as important for me was the laughter and just recalling these special moments brings a big smile to my face and my heart is laughing like a hyena!


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Wild Thing!

If I were to list my favourite things the top ten would contain nature, animals sunshine, flowers, birdsong, photography and last weekend I experienced all of this together with good food, good company and good fun.  A while back I saw an advert - I think in the Go magazine - for Pangolin Photographic Tours when I was planning my Chobe trip and I inquired but the dates didn't work for me. However I kept in touch and when I saw that they had a similar trip planned for Pumba, I thought that I just had to go. I thought hard because its not cheap, but I had wanted to go to Namibia this year and Vs illness prevented that so that is how I justified it to myself. So from Thursday to Sunday I was in for a treat!
Pumba is only an hour away and its easy to get there. We were accommodated at Gameston Lodge in the reserve which is very comfortable and perfect for our small group. We gathered on the deck at lunchtime - six of us and enjoyed our lunch and some polite conversation before our host/teacher/ranger/wildlife photographer took us through the basics. We were issued with a Canon 7D camera and a very powerful lens and, as we were all used to SLR cameras, we just needed to familiarize ourselves with the features of this newer model. Our first game drive and the fun began!!
What can you say about the special privilege of being in this game reserve - wall to wall buck, wildebeest, zebra and their signature warthogs - aka Pumba - from the Lion King! On that first drive we also saw a family of rhino - all fully horned and looking really healthy - in fact all Pumba's animals do! Elephants were feeding right next to us including the herd's latest addition - a three week old baby running in between the legs of his mom as her family closed in protectively. Driving back at sunset we caught the golden glow behind the crest of the hill and I took some wonderful silhouettes.
What a great start! We all excitedly up-loaded our photos compared and celebrated our best before tucking into supper.
The next two days were filled with photographic tips, lessons and Q&A sessions, game drives, shared travel experiences, warm beanies and liquor filled coffee! We had many close encounters but the most special were the ones with the white lion. We found them on the morning drive of day two - a proud male and two females but the following afternoon that we heard that one of the younger females had strayed away from the pride and was alone, hungry and distressed - we set off in the direction of her calls and there she was quite restless and calling to the wild in the hope of being heard by her family. I have seldom heard such a pitiful call and she looked so sad. We hung around a while taking photos and hoping that we would see her reunited with her brother and sister when the radio crackled and we were told that there was another lion in the area heading towards her. We waited.......eventually he came into sight - not who she was hoping for - it was a male from another pride - her uncle, but at least she wasn't alone now and we were reassured that the group would follow and she would at least get to eat soon (she was too young to hunt alone).  We started the return to base happy and excited with our days 'takings'. A glass of warming red wide and the coals were ready for the braai when we got back but later in bed I couldn't help but think of that lonely lioness our there and I hoped that she had also feasted that night.  The next morning we were off again and heard that she had in fact been reunited with the rest of her group and they had hunted down a red hartebeest - they were still busy breakfasting when we found them - a happy ending after all.
In addition to our lion sightings, we were treated to an hour watching the cheetahs play - they like to hang around the west boundary of the property and I was surprised to hear that they use the boundary fence when chasing down their prey. We saw numerous black backed jackal lone creatures - and they didn't hang around to make friends - they were up and off as soon as they caught wind of us. We crept up on the hippo on the banks of the river where they fed for a while before sliding off making their deep guttural grunts before submerging.
 The bird life was amazing too - I am not at all good at remembering their names or identifying their calls but I recognised the kingfisher and managed to get some good pics of him.
So all in all a great experience and worth every cent - I haven't had enough spare time to really go through all of my photos but I will spend a day doing just that soon.

Thanks Pumba, Thanks Pangolin and Thanks to Neale Howarth our teacher and ranger!

Ps - this is the official record of my weekend which was not without special "Sue" moments - I will write of those this coming week :-)



Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Spring is in the air and our minds turn to summer and enjoying the outdoors, fun in the sun and here in sunny South Africa - the beach! If you are in Europe and are now feeling a little envious - DON'T! The pressure is huge,,,,,, it may be lovely and warm here but it means that we wear less clothes - we cant wear a baggy jumper and a long coat on the beach there is no place for our cellulite to hide!!So right now all over SA we are bracing ourselves to put more of us on display - we are shaving, waxing, exfoliating, scrubbing, clipping, painting and slathering ourselves. What's more we are regretting the pies and puds we ate during winter and have just a few weeks to lose zillions of kgs. When it gets really warm I am also limited to the amount of clothes that I can remove without it getting a little scary so clever dressing is required and a visit to the mall for lightweight clothes with sleeves, preferable that make a size 16 look like a size 10!
That's where it gets really depressing - the fitting room "Mirror mirror cold and flat - how dare you say I look like that?" If you are shuffling out of the fitting room and shoving an armful of hangers at the assistant muttering that - then you have been in Truworths! I chatted to Karel - if you live in PE and you don't know Karel then you don't get out much! Karel was installed in Truworths with the shop fittings and is an expert on what not to wear. I bumped into him and mentioned that I thought that there was another woman with a huge bottom in the fitting room with me ........and then I realised it was my rear view reflection. He has a way of making you feel fabulous and offered consolation telling me that even Miss Universe (Michelle McClean - who Karel has worked with often - Karel is also a name dropper of note) anyway, Miss Universe has to turn her back to the mirror when trying on clothes so she doesn't see her btm  -can you believe it?? That made me feel a whole lot better Karel!
I have read that 'overseas' which in SA means in a first world country that is far more civilised, intelligent, trendy and modern than ours - overseas, they are experimenting with fitting rooms without mirrors - research is showing that 7 out of 10 women who try clothes on don't buy them. Really??? For a glorious day dreaming moment, I thought that maybe this was the beginning of an age where women don't care if they look 'sexy' or 'trendy' or  'cool' or 'frumpy' or any of the other labels we add to the labels that we are trying on! I thought we may be heading towards an era where we start buying clothes based on comfort or what they smell like or how cool they really are. No - the psychology behind this decision is that we will buy it - try it on at home - shove it to the back of our cupboard for a time when we are thinner, younger or prettier or forget to return it!
I think rather they should plough their research money into designing a fitting room that makes us feel great. Get rid of those cramped sweaty boxes with strip lighting and flimsy curtains and create fitting rooms with soft lights - calm neutral walls - lots of space so we feel small, red carpets, chandeliers and a video screen with George Clooney with that questioning, sort of shy admiring, beckoning type of look on face that says - "Gee if I was 20 years younger....!" There would be a gentle breeze wafting through our hair and an arm would offer us a glass of bubbly and a fat free canape and we would leave that fitting room with the magic dress over our arm and head straight to the till!
OK - till that happens its back to scrubbing, starving and slathering and online shopping for the perfect look!