Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Cup of Kindness....

Ten pm and I am in bed - So what you may think....but this is 31 December and the rest of the world are attending a big party! Life is different - I am different and its a wonderful feeling when you take the pressure off yourself to conform and just do what you really want to.
Christmas was also different this year and it was the most relaxed that I have had since I was a child when all the grown ups did the work and the kids just enjoyed. I was up in Natal having bought and wrapped the gifts for the family before I left so it was just a couple of hours of shopping left to do up there. Granted I worked quite hard decorating the Christmas Trees at the Lodge but I enjoyed it - I kept it simple and took my time.
We went out for Christmas Lunch to Lythwood Lodge here so there was no rushing around at the last minute looking for Brussels sprouts, cranberries or for jelly. One year I started to gather my ingredients together to make a trifle and some mince pies only to discover that Tony had emptied the cupboard and taken it all  to EP Children's Home causing panic and a near divorce!  Of course I missed seeing family and friends but I had Skype time and was able to see and hear all that Father Christmas had bought for the grandies. I thought that Christmas lunch out would be a soulless affair but at Lythwood the Christmas decor was festive, there were Christmas crackers on the table, we were surrounded by happy families and the food also great - I was pleasantly surprised by it all and best news was there was no washing up. After lunch we languished on a shady stoep drinking in the view and some chilled something - it was incredibly hot, 38C and I was so relieved that I hadn't had to do the cooking.
V was supposed to be here with me for 'twixmas' and New Year but things didn't worked out as they should have. I spent some catchup time with friends and family and of course a sleepover with the little people in my life - I cancelled my Plett plans when the weather didn't look like improving and got stuck into chores here. there is something therapeutic about cleaning and de-cluttering on 31 December - almost like wiping the slate clean.
So last night it was me and my photographs. Scrap booking, Fireworks on TV - a short messenger chat with my Singapore son at 6pm our time - midnight there - and a longer chat with my man in Natal. So ended the year - quietly, peacefully. No Okey Kokey! No Knees Up Mother Brown! The year just fizzled out and 2015 crept in quietly.
Long may this simple life last - T'is my resolution for 2015 - Don't sweat the small stuff ...... or any stuff for that matter, Keep it Simple. Be Kind, Give thanks for small mercies and Embrace change - There will be a lot of it in 2015.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

I started this blog two weeks ago so I will finish it in true Sue style - I like closure!!

Well a whole month has gone - Swoosh - at the speed of light November came and went so I can't do my regular 'Peek at my Week' more like a run down of the run up to December!
Where I have been?
I have been dashing around at the speed of lightening and clocked up about 4000kms! I had the privilige to go back up to Vredendal for work and this time V came with me. We drove and the ten hour journey was a doddle after our trips up and down to Natal - and the scenery on the Langkloof lovely. We resisted stopping in at Ronnie's Sex Shop and made our way through Worcester and  Citrusdale. Our B&B in Vredendal was a quaint farm to V's delight with a view of the long rail bridge that spans the valley to Saldana. We were booked into the Vry-Kamer (Kissing Room) - a huge joke as we passed out after an early start, a long drive and pizza for a hasty supper - Dining out in Vredendal is not just limited but none existent on a Sunday night!
As we left we popped into Clan William, a historic little town where people settled in 1725. Nothing much seems to have changed since then! It was named after the Earl of Clanwilliam and is one of the ten oldest towns in South Africa. We enjoyed lunch there and explored the High Street in ten minutes flat before we departed for Saldana Bay for the second part of my work. We then had a night in Paternoster and an overnight stay with Vs daughter in Cape Town and arrived back on Saturday to pack again - V for Natal and me for East London. PHEW!
Who I have met?
More lovely learners in Vredendal and Saldanah who have valiantly made their way through a leadership programme. One in particular stood out for me - I could see he had had a hard life, apart from the fact that his skin was the colour of Namaqualand earth - he had the look of a person who knew what it was to survive against the odds, and when he gave his presentation he told me that he had been working on the mines for 20 years (he is now 35) and learning in a group situation for him didn't come easy. He had lived on his wits since he could remember and the only thing he had of value was what he knew about his job and about mining, and it didn't come easy to him to share the only wealthy that he had. His knowledge was his only currency and he had learned to protect it. What a lot of us take for granted, he had fought hard for.
I met Vs young grandsons again for the second time and we had some fun time in front of my camera. We also bumped into the lovely Austrian owner of Ilse du Paine in Knysna as we passed through. Sadly he was locking up as we called for coffee and we had to go elsewhere but I had a bread making lesson with this lovely man a few years ago and remember his passion for his craft so well. He truly believes in our daily bread and he speaks knowledgeably about today's allergies and gluten intolerance and blames it on poor quality, over processed flour and ingredients and he reminded me again to be mindful of what and how we eat.
What I have bought?
I bought a heart made of shells from a young boy on the beach in Paternoster, as he walked and threaded small shells on a piece of strong wire - he spoke no English - only Afrikaans - and V translated as he answered my questions. He told me it was R30 and that he would give the money to his family to buy bread. He was 9 years old and didn't go to school  - he obviously lived in the cottages where the fishing families live and I wondered sadly what his future held. I also stocked up with my usual collection of marmalade, rusks and home made goodies on route including a lovely rose scented candle that can make me feel as if I am in a summer garden in the UK when I close my eyes!
What I have learned?
Not a new lesson but a repeat of an old one - I have learned how when the end of November comes, I am so so ready for a holiday as I have given everything to my learners and these weeks ahead are about giving back to me if I am to be of any use next year. I have again learned that the universe provides what I need and has its own plan for me - we think we are in control of our lives but we are not! The sun sets everyday whether you want it to or not! I have also learned that I can make a Christmas type fruit cake surprisingly easily out of what lies in my food cupboard - and that V can demolish it overnight! I have again realised that V and I travel easily together - Long distances in a car often challenge a relationship - they seem to build ours! I am looking forward to the road ahead.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Shopping madness

While I was in the shops today I remembered this..... It's an excerpt from a talk I did for retired people on the joys of being a parent of adult children!
"One Saturday morning in December – THE Saturday morning when no sane person leaves their home – I find myself gridlocked on route to Greenacres. My Christmas gifts were bought, wrapped, ribboned and ready. “MOM the bright cheery voice says – you have to help me or there will be a divorce." That sort of limits your options to refuse – they know this! "I’ve bought her Xmas gift but I haven’t got the other stuff – I looked under the tree this morning and she has got me all these little things! And I haven’t got those for her and I’m working." "Stocking fillers," I reply. "Please Ma – I need some you know - girls stuff".Unfortunately I do know – I have been rescuing my sons since their teens and have bought more “girls stuff’ than I care to remember!I even got a call the day before my youngest got married (no – not the ring that was taken care of) I answered the phone to a cheery “Hello mom and was immediately suspicious! "I haven’t got a tie for tomorrow.""But it’s your wedding day – how can you forget to get a tie!" 
"I am running around today doing all sorts – she’s given me a list! Mom will you get me a tie?" I sighed,"What colour?" "Blue!" came the reply.
"What shade – light, dark, medium". "THAT blue – the same shade as her bridesmaids are wearing." I haven’t seen the bridesmaids dresses! "Oh mom you know - THAT blue that she loves …its sort of a bluey blue."Three hours later I am stood in the queue at WW with half a dozen ties in my hand in various shades of blue – I am three from the front – I can see the cashier – I can taste the coffee that I am going to have then I get out of this madness – the phone rings! “MOM – have you got the tie yet – I am in the queue paying I say – "Oh thank goodness – because I need 2 the same – My best man needs one too!!" I need wine not coffee!I believe I cured my youngest of his shopping laziness the following year – I got the usual request to get the ”girls stuff” on 24th December when the shops were mad busy and took a deep breath and went off to Walmer Park – fighting my way through the queue in woollies with a silk nightie and some smellies in my hand – I had a brainwave. I popped into cardies on the way out with a little something to pop into the parcel.When we arrived on Xmas morning – I smuggled the gift in – he whipped it off into the bedroom to write on the card and sneaked it under the tree.After Christmas dinner – we opened our gifts. All eyes were on my daughter in law as she opened hers – A range of bath goodies, a lovely silky nightie – and ......a pair of black furry handcuffs. Her face showed surprise – her parents looked horrified – my son's face – PRICELESS!
I haven't been asked to shop for him since - lol!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Losing yourself and Finding yourself - Life is a journey!

Many people have commented recently about how happy that I look and that I am 'glowing' and I have been journalling about the reasons for this. I am a generally optimistic and positive person and I know I have a good sense of humour and enjoy fun so nothing changed there. I am so lucky to be in a relationship - now marriage - with a man who loves me and whom I love more - he is heaven sent. However I am used to being cherished, anyone who knows my late husband will tell you that he loved to tell people about his lovely wife and I was blessed to have had him, and his love in my life for forty odd years. So what is it??
Well, its no secret that Tony suffered from depression and had had several major episodes of deep depression over the last ten years of his life and I hadn't realised the many ways that this affected me and had perhaps underestimated the effect on my well being. Anyone who is in a relationship with a person who has a debilitating or terminal illness will tell you how it takes its toll on them physically and mentally and depression is no different -  its just as hard being with a person who is mentally unwell and perhaps even more.
My love for Tony made it easy for me to be supportive - I so wanted him to be well and experience joy again. When Tony was well he was functionally well but I now realise that he never really was the same person after his first major depression and the 'black dog' was never far from his side casting a shadow on his life ....and our life. My role as his wife was now more complex and I became his unofficial psychologist as I tried to help him make sense of why he was so unhappy when by his own admission, he had a lovely life. I was his pharmacist as I  made sure he took his anti depressants and sometimes they came to work with me if I sensed that he may be tempted to misuse them. I was his health guru as we looked for more natural ways of supporting his nervous system, his coach, his cheerleader and his protector.
I fought hard to separate his illness from him but depression is an illness that affects thinking and behaviour and many times I was frustrated, angry, impatient and despondent. One of the reasons I married Tony was because he made me laugh and for over a decade life was, at times, no laughing matter. Depression is such a difficult illness spoken about in hushed tones, bringing embarrassment and awkwardness into conversations. For me it was just awful to witness my competent, capable and intelligent husband become paralysed with fear - unjustified imaginary fear! This was a man who had flown around the world, dealing with multi million rand projects, managing a company - not only respected by the people who worked there but by most of the engineering community - and he was genuinely liked by them. Overnight he lost all confidence in his ability, struggled to make decisions, and battled to look forward to anything. He fought so hard and so bravely to regain his belief in himself with therapy and medication. I  know my story is familiar to many and I know that our society is stressed, struggling and sick - every psychiatrist in town has a long waiting list and our medical aids are bogged down with the cost of medication. Its predicted that depression will be the number 2 cause of death by 2020.  The "Working Wounded". We sympathise with people who are physically ill and understand that they cannot help it but somehow believe that mental illness is a choice. Its not.
Tony's illness cost him his life and it cost me and his children - and those who loved him -  a lot of heartache, It is only now in retrospect that I can say that it cost me a lot more than grief - I invested a great deal of energy in protecting, supporting and trying desperately to hold him... and us ....and our family together. I spent a decade fighting for his life and we both lost that battle. I still have the greatest admiration for Tony and I know how hard he tried to be well. I am glad that he finally found escape from the torment of depression and anxiety and that he is at peace.

Life is a journey to becoming who you were designed to be, Now, I think, what you are seeing and experiencing is ME - my fun loving, enthusiastic and positive self - enjoying life and investing all my energy in being who I was designed to be.
I have so much empathy with those of us who love and support partners who are fighting this dreadful illness and I pray that one day there will be a cure - not temporary relief. I salute you and urge you to not forget who you are to take care of and give generously to yourself while you are supporting your loved ones. My battle is over and I can live again.
Thank You my family and friends for walking this journey with me 
 I could not have done it without you!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Spending :-)

Happy Halloween! I enjoy fun in any form and Halloween brings back lovely memories of us 'Van Schaick' children terrorising the neighbourhood in old sheets with cut out holes for eyes - witches hats made out of black card and turnip Jack'o lanterns - anything that we could muster from around us - we used our imaginations and made things from nothing. Unlike Halloween today which has become a consumer frenzy and I am sure the Chinese are laughing all the way to HSBC.
Its nice to have money to spend but although spending may be good for the economy its not such great news for the environment or our individual levels of satisfaction. Consumerism is a preoccupation with getting and spending, leading to insatiable wants. Its underpinned by a belief that economic and social prosperity depends on growth in consumer spending and that's why so much of our economic policy supports consumerism (so says Dr Miriam Tatzel). But there are drawbacks......Consumer appetites are draining our planet. The production of all that bling and electronics (and plastic skeletons) that we demand is leading to a degradation of natural resources, global warming, increased pollution and even worse exploitation of cheap labour. And its an appetite that is never satisfied - despite what you may think, all of that spending is not making us happy!

Happiness doesn't come from having more money to buy possessions, living in luxury or being admired by others for the car that you drive. Instead research has shown that the factors that lead to human happiness  are ........ Competence, autonomy, meaning, pleasure, engagement and relationships and none of these is fuelled by money or materialism. In fact if you want to be happy you need to have a low level of materialism, as materialism undermines  your wellness. Once you are on the hedonistic treadmill - the human tendency to get used to what we have no matter how nice it is and strive for more - its hard to get off. It has been proven that getting more doesn't meet our needs or sustain our happiness and less materialistic people are happier and more satisfied with life.
The larger the gap between what one wants and what one has, the greater the dissatisfaction - Less materialism equals more happiness says Dr Tatzel.
Happiness comes from 'doing' rather than 'having'. This is great news to me as I am 'doing' a lot more and 'having' a lot less lately! People have been commenting that I look happier and I can honestly say that I am. When I have spare cash - I spend it on experiences and not things - the effect of investing in experiences lasts a lot longer as they are relived in our memory and the stories they create,  than the money spent on a new pair of shoes, a new kitchen appliance or a new Halloween outfit! They are also easier on our earth's resources and they make us interested and interesting.

So, I shall enjoy Halloween especially the biodegradable pumpkin lanterns that Helen (my daughter in law) has carved, the pumpkin pie, the recycled witches hat that I have borrowed and the simple trick or treating that the grandies will do ..... but please leave the decorations in the shops and send them back to China where the peasant, who works a 12 hour shift for next to nothing who made them, doesn't even know what Halloween is. Same goes for Christmas.......Less equals more. Be Happy!

Friday, October 17, 2014

A peek at my week!

Where I have been
I have spent most of this week in the Western Cape where I visited Vredendal - a little dorpe  in Namaqualand where everyone seems so friendly, happy and positive. Saldanah which is an industrial and industrious place and now PaterNosta. V was supposed to travel with me but couldn't at the last minute so I was on the road alone driving an unfamiliar car down unknown roads. Vines, Valleys, Mountain ranges, Rivers, Dams, Acres of wheat, Shades of blue on a horizon that I never arrive at - Daring Greatly!

Who I have met
Twenty five learners who did presentations - salt of the earth people - all were interesting, some gave excellent presentations, some were OK and one stood at the front of a boardroom of his managers in his red Tshirt and green overall pants and cried with fear. Guess who my heart went out to? He composed himself and carried on to complete his presentation and his managers (all male) were so supportive and kind and it really touched me. Like he fell off his horse on the corporate battlefield and they helped him back on, slapped its backside and he was off again! I may forget what the others spoke about but I won't forget him or his courage!  I also met assorted managers and HR people - always friendly, a facilitator like me - always the nicest people, and a Namaqua man - a man of the land born and raised on a farm, the youngest of ten children whose father born in the late 1800s and was 70 when his youngest was born - Namaqua-Man had a handshake like Namaqua granite and a face full of stories and he bore a remarkable resemblance to V which automatically made me fall a little in love with him!

What I have bought
Two packets of peanuts from the bar fridge in the B&B - after a 7 hour journey - the last five hours driving in the dark over mountain passes with road works and arriving in a two horse town were everything was closed - those peanuts tasted like caviar and saved me from starvation! I also bought a cerise polka dot pencil skirt - a bargain in Vredendal which probably should have stayed on the rail - I think that I may look like a hooker in it back in PE!

What I have learned
This area is beautiful, Paternosta is a little slice of heaven tucked away in a far corner do the earth. The people here are arty but not at all shabby - I am in a B&B straight out of Home and Garden decorated in bright white and the palest teal, surrounded by original pieces of art, lying in a bed dressed in the finest percale linen under a floral chandelier. Last night I dined on baked oysters and angel fish pie and I am told that there is a 3 course breakfast ....with dessert! An afternoon beach walk brought the realization that if an ordinary lass from Lancashire can find her toes in the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Africa on a Friday afternoon then really anything in life is possible!

Dusk last night brought with it a spectacular sunset and this morning the palest pink light peeked through my curtains and nudged me awake to enjoy the sunrise. A Druid in a past life I don't know but  sunrises and sunsets especially by the sea speak to my soul!

I have also learned despite my independence and courage that dinner for one on a Friday night in a small restaurant full of couples is not a good idea and wine makes that empty feeling worse.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Courage ....Tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.

Have you ever read one of those books that you want to read each sentence twice to extract all the meaning from it - one of those books where you want to highlight important points  and end up highlighting whole pages - one of those books that makes so much sense that you wonder why - when they put a man on the moon four decades ago - are they only just understanding this stuff?
I am taking about Brenee Brown's book Daring Greatly. Brenee studies human connection, the ability to belong, to love and to empathise. The book is about vulnerability, authenticity, courage and shame. It is mind blowingly honest! Her name was mentioned at a meeting that I attended about my coaching work and I came home and did what we all do when our interest is piqued - I googled her, It was late but I was too fascinated by what I read to sleep and I stayed up deep into the night  - by 3am I had watched both of her TedCasts -  here is the link to one of them. Downloaded two of her books - read one and I am now half way through another. Her work resonates deep inside my soul - It excites me, it enrages me, it saddens me and it makes so much sense with my own struggles in my life to accept my journey and my choices.
Five years ago I reached a point in my work, as a facilitator of learning and growth for others, when I thought that I can't do this any more - I love what I do - but the price is too high - It takes too much out of me! I had spent over a decade working hard to deliver training programmes to groups of adults, I gave it my whole heart and I loved it  and I was good at it (my feedback was consistently excellent) but I was constantly under pressure  ,,,,,,,,,,,and that pressure was coming from ME!
I went to talk to a well recommended psychologist and the result was that I decided to stop what I do - to give it up. as it was consuming me. I did this and was OK for a little while but although my life was easier,,,, I was unfulfilled,,,,,I was content but I wasn't engaged - something was missing from my life.
I know now that I had disconnected from my purpose, I am here for a reason and I had lost sight of that reason -  I had to find a way to reconnect to what I loved to do without harming myself - HOW?  I went back to doing what I love most and the cycle started repeating itself!   About this time I was having coffee with a friend who had just been for hypnotherapy to help her sleep and I thought - Let me try this, so off I went - really not knowing what to say to this person and if they could help me. I had a real problem just telling them what my problem was - My health is good, I sleep like a baby, I am happily married, my kids are successful and happy, I have no money issues or debt, I have work that I love, is interesting, flexible, reasonably lucrative and I am stressed! He looked at me like I had two heads!
In that first session the hypnotherapist changed my life - Hypnotherapy is therapy that takes place in a state of deep relaxation that takes the patient back to experiences that are hidden deep in their subconscious. In that first session, I was taken back to my first negative experience at school.
I am four and a half years old, I am in a classroom and everything is small. I am playing in sand and water at my primary school, I could describe the classroom, the children, what I was doing - I saw everything clearly and could even smell the metal containers on legs that held the water and sand. I could see myself in my sage green dress with my cardigan sleeves rolled up, I am happy, I am chatting, I am laughing - and then I am in TROUBLE! My teacher is shouting at me and I don't know why. I don't know what to do. I am confused and I am still laughing - I think its funny! The more she shouts - the more I laugh, I don't know why I am laughing and I don't know why my teacher is so angry with me. Suddenly I am plucked out of the sand trough and I am placed by a cupboard. I have to stand there  - I could describe that cupboard in detail - the colour, paint chips - the stickers that were on it. I am not laughing any more - I am embarrassed because everyone is looking at me - I am at the front of the class and I am ASHAMED! I stand there for a long time and class ends - I am still there - forgotten as everyone leaves the classroom - I am alone - no one has said I can leave that space and I am frightened now to do anything else wrong. Gingerly I leave the cupboard corner and crawl under a table and there I hide - afraid and alone.I feel BAD. I stay there for a long time - I see myself, alone, frightened and cowering under the table too embarrassed to go back to my class. This is a vivid description of my first experience of shame.
When I came out of my deeply relaxed state - I was amazed, I was amazed that I could remember all this and amazed by something else - In my recollection of that experience I am amazed about how pretty I looked. I had the most beautiful skin - pale gold and like a peach, my eyes were the loveliest turquoise colour and I had beautiful golden blond curly hair neatly clipped to one side with a large white ribbon attached to that hair clip - I was beautiful! So powerful was this image that all I could talk about that evening was what a pretty child I was. I even felt compelled to phone my sister in the UK and ask her if I was such a pretty child. The vivid image of me as a bubbly, laughing, chattering girl surrounded by friends and enjoying play stayed with me for several days and I can recollect that memory in detail now. I can also recollect in great detail the feeling of shame when I was hoisted to the front of the class and everyone was looking at me. My hypnotherapy had highlighted for me why I feel so much stress when I am 'in front' when I am leading, when I am being looked at in a classroom situation. This forgotten childhood experience was the source of all the pressure and discomfort that I experienced when I facilitated. I understood both my desire to connect with others as a experiential facilitator and my school conditioned thinking that it was wrong to be at the front of the classroom or boardroom.
How sad is that! I had been daring greatly all my life and didn't know it.
I decided that day to stop trying harder, to stop over analysing my feedback from training, to accept that after twenty odd years of doing what I do that I know my stuff but that I will never know everything - I am wise but I am not an oracle- I am enough! I surrendered to my purpose and find joy in my work. I am vulnerable, I am courageous and I am worthy.
So the work of Brenee Brown is worth exploring - its insightful and it will teach you how we are all flawed in some way and that its OK. That society is cruel and conditions us in ways that don't serve our purpose. It will help you to understand connection and empathy and that none of us are perfect as society demands us to be - but we are enough. We are pretty enough, thin enough, happy enough and we have done our best to be what we are capable of. Her studies have highlighted the struggles of not accepting our vulnerability and the chapter on men and vulnerability will make you weep.
Read it - Watch her - It will change the way you view yourself and others!

Watch more here  Listening to Shame.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Cyber School Reunion

The last few days have been full of reminiscing and flashbacks as I was put in touch with my old school friends on Face Book and it has sent a flurry of messages across the globe - California, Canada, Australia, Africa and the UK. I went to The Cowley Girls' Grammar School - a traditional and academic establishment and a power house of hormones and high spirits! Looking at the old school photo that one member of the group put on FB, I am amazed that I can remember every girl in my class quite vividly and that we are remembering our school days with a combination of nostalgia and laughter. WE were all girls - boys were mysterious creatures and any that were brave enough to enter our school gates where subjected to flirting, giggling and occasionally - hysterics! Things that have popped into my head include:-
* Our first school needlework project was to embroidery and stitch a cover for my hymn book! Mine was in beige linen fabric with a design of a bunch of flowers painstakingly embroidered in orange and yellow daisies. I can see it in my mind as if I had stitched it yesterday and yet I had not thought about it for thirty five years. I have no idea what happened to but I imagine that it will resurface one day and perhaps feature on The Antiques Roadshow as an example as a dying skill. I just hope that I am spared the embarrassment of this by dying before it!
* Those awful bottle green knickers that we had to wear were so ugly. Enormous bloomers, fleecy lined with elastic threaded through the top - they were passion killers of note! We played sports in them too. Its hard to believe that tights (pantie hose) had not been invented and stockings were worn with suspender belts. Clear nail polish was used to stop ladders in snagged stockings. We wore school coats with raglan sleeves and bottle green velour hats in winter and any girl caught chewing in the street was disciplined.
*Summer tennis was played in Victoria Park and our objective was to hit the ball over the net in such a way that our opponent cold hit it back. I used to accuse Tony of cheating when he spun the ball when we played the odd game of tennis and he commented that how could anyone be expected to win if you didn't spin the ball. As young women, it was all about the game - were not taught to win - winning was sinning LOL.
* We were not caned - not that I know of - We were given order marks and if you received three in one term then you were sent to the headmistress. My friend Susan Helsby told her parents that order marks were for keeping order in class so she got praised when she got one or two! I was mortified to receive my first order mark - my crime? I lost my purse on the bus and it was handed in and it did not have my name in it. Laughable compared to what happens in schools these days!
* Food glorious food! School dinners consisted of shepherds pie, rice pudding served with a blob of jam or prunes, syrup sponge, cabbage, meat and two veg, jam roly poly and sometimes on a Friday Chips and salad and as a special treat - milky coffee!!! We used to swoon with happiness on these holy days.
* A group of us were banned from the classroom at breaks for a whole term for some misdemeanor so we camped outside by the staff room window and sang hymns at  until the torture became too much and the teachers let us back in a couple of weeks later.
* Assembly where Miss Jackson read our school reading from Corinthians - the one about love - and we used to sing hymns off key. I was reminded about the hymn, Love Divine, that had the line 'pure and spotless' in it and how we used to sing that line at the top of our voices just to be funny,
* My best friend and partner in crime and I, often used to send a taxi cab to Miss Jackson's house on a Saturday evening at 7.30. We used to order it by phone from a telephone box and pretend we were Miss Jackson. I hope the taxi firm and Miss Jackson forgives us.
* Many of our teachers were old spinsters who were very dedicated to their job and then we had a couple of men teachers, Mr Wood who taught English and walked out of our class one day as we were giving him a hard time. We had to go to the staff room and apologise and beg him to come and teach us. Mr Brader taught German and history I think and then Mr Briscoe who apparently we used to ask abut his sex life - I have no recollection of this as I probably blotted it out,
I have much to thank my old school for as it taught me everything I needed to navigate the world - I was thought of as an underachiever as my priority in life then was fun, dancing and boys! I wish I had the maturity and study ethic that I developed in later life as I would have excelled. Many of ex Colewians have gone on to be successful and well rounded women and it is so lovely to catch up with them and reminisce. I also remember getting into trouble for passing a note in class saying,"If school days are the best days of our lives, what are the rest of our lives going to be like!" If only I had appreciated how lucky I was back then!                                                                  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Cross Dresser?

This is a postscript to my previous post about our belated honeymoon to Zambia.

I am a girl - so I made a list, shopped, packed and was pretty organised as I have travelled so much in the past twelve months that I am tired of last minute packing panic attacks which result in my lugging half my wardrobe around. I coordinated and planned my look - think five star safari designer nautical casual!
V is a boy - so he has a suitcase slightly larger than a matchbox and what isn't in it - he begs, borrows or buys when we get to where we are going. This trip he surpassed himself by leaving most of his clothes behind! The phone rings,"Babe, I am just outside Mthatha." "Wow!" I exclaimed,"You sure are making good time." "Yes," came the reply, "but there is a problem." The problem was that in his rush to set off early he had grabbed his matchbox size case and left all his hanging items ie. Shirts, smart trousers and jacket on the hangers by the door in the man cave! My suggestion to pop into PEP stores in Mthatha was not taken kindly, we were leaving at 6am the next morning and I had a busy day ahead. OK - packing panic attack courtesy of Mr Niemack! I ran to Walmer Park and grabbed what I could that I thought would fit my man and that he may wear - he claims to be easy to please but he has definite tastes - sort of Old Khaki meets Yves Saint Lauren! Jackets were not within my budget so I used my lifeline and phoned a friend. When I enquired about trouser waist sizes I am informed he has a couple of pairs of smart jeans and one other pair of trousers.
He arrives, there is an inspection of my purchases and a slight nod of the head for three of the shirts that I had managed to find. We raced to the lifesaver jacket friend who had the most perfect jacket which was greeted with a more definite nod of the head. I am saved from spending my 5 star honeymoon with a scarecrow groom.
We dress for dinner on the first evening and he looks quite grand in the borrowed jacket, new shirt and smart pants. We are enjoying a glass of wine on the deck before we go and some nibbles. Being a savvy traveller I have packed wine, spirits, Amarula, chips, crackers, chocolates ect as I know these resorts charge in dollars and I so resent paying through the nose for anything! When we get to the resort restaurant and starters are from R120 and desserts from R160 I am so pleased that I took our starter nibbles and desserts with us!
We order our surprisingly reasonable main course and V slips away to the loo - he returns and whispers," Sue, I think I have your trousers on." I raise my eyebrows. I look. They are not mine. "They are definitely girls trousers." he says. "the fastenings are all on the other side" I look again. They are not mine. I raise my eyebrows. "Whose are they then?" He has no idea. I am now with a man wearing a borrowed jacket and girls trousers!
I down my wine - wine cures everything! 

NB. Back in our room we inspect the foreign trousers. They are ladies grey size 14  I am more jealous that he wears a smaller size than me in ladies trousers than the fact that he has packed a pair of strange woman's trouser on our honeymoon! We convince ourselves that they have found their way from the Bush Lodge laundry into his wardrobe by mistake. I down my wine!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Za Za Za Zambia!

I like to keep a travel journal when I am away and this trip to Zambia was no exception. Yes it was our honeymoon and it was a wonderful special time for us to relax and enjoy a bit of togetherness.

These were the highlights of our stay  in Zambia and at the Royal Livingstone :-

The first wow was our welcoming glass of champagne on arrival together an iced towel to freshen up our hands as we signed in. All this takes place in the comfortable lounge area and not in reception and in view of the Zambezi and the odd Hippo!

At dinner I placed my handbag next to my feet on the floor and to my amazement a footstool was brought to perch my handbag on. This happened at every meal and blew me away each time! The food was delicious and the staff remembered our preferences. The food also had zero calories - LOL!

The Zambian people are lovely - soft smiling eyes, dignified posture and a willingness to help and serve which just does not happen here in SA. We never once saw a beggar, no people asking for money at traffic lights, no car guards in Livingstone. As we walked over the bridge to Zimbabwe there was no hassle and locals passing by asked where we were from, how we were enjoying our stay and not once for money or food. The only requests were from taxi cabs stopping to see if we needed a ride somewhere, How odd that this should surprise us but we citizens of South Africa are harassed by people with their hands out at every opportunity!

The natural beauty of the Victoria Falls is amazing and I love the Zambian side! This World Heritage site is just beautiful and access is free from Zambia. The Zambezi River is fast flowing and clean - I saw only one plastic packet and a couple of bottles the whole time I was there. A highlight for me was seeing the elephant cross the river at sunset and then back again the following morning. All this seen from the deck of the hotel which is on the banks of the river. We also saw hippo, crocodiles, buffalo, elephant, giraffe, zebra and buck and many birds and fish! Several pink elephants and a gin-affe!
The tourists were a friendly bunch and we chatted to a youngish couple from Holland who come to Zambia each year and told us how blessed we were to live in Africa. We met an British lady who came to Zambia years ago and fell in love with the place and the people and returned the following year to assist the local village orphanage. She has founded an international charity organisation The Butterfly Tree which coordinates hundreds of volunteers and manages to provide safe water, food, improved health and education facilities and malaria prevention. We also chatted to several Australians and a couple of Americans who were all having a wonderful time appreciating our magnificent continent.
I shared a half hour with a Chinese/Canadian as we waited for the sunset at the Victoria Falls by Danger Point. His wife had lost patience (his honeymoon long over) and deserted him but he wanted to get the photograph every photographer wants - a sunset over the falls. We enjoyed and appreciated the beautiful warm light as the sun dipped below the horizon and then he ran to find his wife as V and I watched just a little longer. The gate and shortcut to our hotel was closed and locked when we eventually got to the entry point - but it was worth the long walk round and that view is imprinted on my mind forever!

So sad to come home but all good things come to an end !
What a lovely holiday .....Nothing left to say!
,,,,till the next one :-)

Friday, August 29, 2014

A Peek at my Week.

Its been quite a strange week for me and the first time in a long time that I have had time on my hands. Living in two places means that I only facilitate half of the month and on previous stays here, I have always had work to bring here with me but I am up to date and so have had a lazy time - I am so not used to that!
Here is a summary of my week:-

Where I have been: To Butterflies for Africa where, for R24, I spent an hour or two fluttering around with colourful butterflies and a parrot or two. I stood still long enough for a pretty butterfly to land on my finger and for a yellow parrot to do what the bluebird of happiness is said to do ......on my jeans!
Also visited Karkloof Falls (pictured above) and saw a cycad growing at perfect right angles to a rock face.
Who I have met: A delightful young man called Tyler who was our waiter at a lovely restaurant in town and served us a delicious lunch. He  informed us, when I commented on his height,  that he is still growing at the age of 27 and way over 6ft - He was rather a dish himself, and I felt like bringing him home, keeping him as a pet, feeding him and watching him grow.
What I have bought: Shoes - What can I say! I made a vow last year not to slip or slide around in cardboard shoes from MrP or flop around in unflattering flats that strain my calves but its hard to find fashionable shoes with a small heel that don't look like orthopaedic appliances. So when I stumbled across a sale at a Green Cross outlet up here I 'just popped in'. I must say their shoes are comfy and stylish.
What I have seen: I used to go to the movies two or three times a month but in the last couple of years it seems that Hollywood has died and been replaced by animated cartoonists or comic book Superheroes! I jumped at the opportunity to see Helen Mirren in a film called Hundred Foot Journey which is a foodie film, set in France and the village resistance (they are always resisting something the French) to an Indian family opening a restaurant opposite a Michelin star establishment. It was like a French pancake - fluffy, delicate, sweet, pleasant and predictable with lots of ripe berries, French arrogance, Indian music, huge sad brown eyes and furious chopping and lashings of coriander! I came out of there starving and headed for the nearest sushi place.
I also caught a glimpse of the reclusive resident water monitor who popped his head out of hibernation on Sunday just long enough for me to snap at him.
What I have read: The rest of my time has been spent pottering about here at Ascot Bush Lodge and catching up on some reading. I finished Two Brothers by Elton John and flattened The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle in two days,,,,now on to The Universe versus Alex Woods!
I head back to PE on Sunday to pack again for our trip to Zambia - a belated honeymoon - another story - another adventure!

Friday, August 22, 2014

A happy ending......and I didn't have to bite anyone!

Thank you SanParks - I was refunded today! I mentioned in my previous blog that we arrived at Kruger Park to find that there was a mess up with the booking and we weren't booked in - whats more they were full so we had no option but to book into the Protea Kruger Gate (which is fantastic by the way). It was such an awful feeling to get to our much looked forward to destination and be turned away. Even though I had proof of payment - the dates we had booked for had not been altered  as I requested when we had to make changes due to work commitments, and I didn't have the new reference number with me. We decided that it wouldn't spoil our holiday and even though I felt like crying - I put my happy face on and made the most of the situation.
When we got back -- I grabbed my diary and thank goodness that I had noted there when I made the change the new reference and the persons name who I spoke to. Despite this when I emailed SanParks I was told that I couldn't get refunded as I had paid the balance of our booking with the old reference number. I sent more emails and was not given  much sympathy or hope so I put to use my hunting skills!!! I don't only like to hunt for a good photo - I like to track down the best person to speak to in an organisation - the ones who I think care and the ones that can think for themselves. Like I did when Pick and Pay gave me terrible service in PE - I stalked Raymond Ackerman and wrote to him personally in a letter to his home address with a stamp on it and YES! he wrote back because he does care about his reputation and he sorted my problem out.
So I checked the who's who in the Zoo ....or should I say the Parks and I found the name of Glenn Phillips - with the title of  Managing Executive Marketing and Tourism and emailed him and found out why he has that job and why he is successful. I had an immediate response,  he got personally involved, looked into the matter and within a few days managed to do what no one else could do - understand what I was telling him - and give me an apology and a refund. Well Done Mr Phillips - I wish you even greater success and truly wish there were more in your organisation like you!
So the moral of the story is to Keep Calm and find out the person in the organisation who cares, and to make notes when you are on the phone to people. A happy ending to what could have been a sad story!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


After 30 years of living here - I realised a dream last month - I visited the Kruger Park. Because of Tony's work commitments and the car industry shutdown, midyear holidays were few and far between and December is really not the time to go so far north when the temperatures soar.  So even though we had been to most of the Eastern Cape reserves, the Kruger - like a leopard - eluded us. It has been my goal for a long time to see a leopard in the wild - I have only ever seen one and it doesn't really count as it was in a fenced area on a reserve and it looked so depressed that I didn't even take a photograph of it!

V and I combined the trip with his birthday and a couple of days at Hippo Hollow in Hazyview and yes, the Hippos really did join us for dinner in the evening bobbing up and down in the Sabi River while we ate. As we were going into the Kruger we used the time at Hazyview to visit Gods Window and Pilgrims Rest. Gods Window was the most magnificent view point and although the drive to Pilgrims Rest was pretty the place itself was pretty awful and such a loss to tourism revenue. Such a historical mining site dating from 1837 when a gold strike drew many hundreds of hopefuls, could have been made far more interesting to visit. Instead its a street full of stalls - all selling sunglasses, caps and fake designer stuff and a couple of performing street kids and car guards - Why??

Back at Hazy View we enjoyed a lovely evening of African dancing, dining and drumming celebrating the birthday boy. The next morning after breakfast we headed off to the Kruger National Park to be told that we weren't booked in and there was no room at Skukuza for us! Long story...... I had booked the accommodation and paid for it months in advance and subsequently had to change the date - apparently this change wasn't actioned and our booking was cancelled!  We instead stayed at Kruger Gate Protea Hotel which is absolutely wonderful and I would go back any day! We dumped our stuff, grabbed our cameras and headed off into the park!

WOW - within thirty minutes we had come across lions feasting on a very recent kill - a buffalo and in fact we saw the carcass in various stages of being eaten over the next couple of days. Also on that drive we drove to Panic Lake and saw a pod of hippos lazing in and out of the water with crocodiles on the river bank, while a golden eagle soared above them - magic!
We were up early the following morning and in the park to see the sunrise - on this trip we saw wall to wall buck and zebra, giraffe, rhino, buffalo, elephant and some beautiful birds. Its good to go to the park in winter - although the temperature was in the mid 20s - because the vegetation is sparser which gives better game viewing. I noticed that the animals were alert and lively - V pointed out its because of the lions. If there are no predators in the game park then the animals get lazy as there is no threat. We drove past the lions again guarding their food and made for camp to eat ours!
We booked an evening drive that night with a group - you are not allowed in the Kruger on your own after curfew as that is when the animals hunt and there are strict times for you to be back in your camp so a supervised game drive is the only way to access the animals at night. We were with a group most of Swedish tourist who went ballistic before we got into the park because they saw an elephant at the gate. Hmmm! I thought what will they be like when they see the lions eating the buffalo?? 
When we got to the buffalo kill, the whole pride was there - perhaps 15 of them - and they were feasting
like I have never seen before. Noisily tearing the flesh off the bones and chomping with low growls of satisfaction - they ate with such energy and intent it was spellbinding. We drove on to see a pack of hyenas with their babies mewing like puppies, a cerval slinking in the long grass, more elephant and buffalo. It was almost like the park sprang into action at night.

We drove through again the next day on our way to Crocodile Bridge where we had booked for our last night in the National Park. Taking our time we drove off the tarred road at every opportunity and saw more lion on the banks of the river and many crocodiles - some huge! We saw a brightly coloured saddle billed stork - looking like an exotic prehistoric survivor and ground hornbills hopped everywhere. The buffalo carcass was now covered with vultures picking clean the bones - nothing wasted!
Our accommodation at Crocodile Bridge was a far cry from the luxurious Kruger Gate but it was clean and comfortable - a thatched rondaaval with an outside kitchen so I cooked bacon, eggs and beans by torchlight and we sat on the veranda to enjoy it - we were not alone. The torch light lit up two red eyes just metres away on the other side of the fence - a hyena - thank goodness for that fence!!

 The stars were magnificent - we turned off all the lights and in pitch dark whorls of them came into view - a falling star - another - it was as if the universe was putting on some illuminated show for us. We brought out a blanket to lie on and pillows for comfort and that was how we spent an hour just watching and enjoying the canopy of stars above us making us feel small and very insignificant in the grand scheme of things,

We packed  a flask and breakfast the next morning for our last drive though the park and ate it at a view point over the river watching the Kudu and waterbuck come down to drink while the crocs eyed them lazily. This part of the Kruger is well known for the lilac crested rollers and we spent the morning trying to get a good photo of one as they flitted through the bush.

Reluctantly we made out way to the gate to exit the Kruger and on cue a lone elephant came to see us off - his wise eyes listened knowingly as I silently swore that we would be back soon for our next visit.......and we will!
After all I am still hunting for that elusive leopard in the wild!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Online suprise!

This time last year I embarked on an interesting adventure - I tried online dating - this is what I wrote at the time!

I have had an interesting 2 weeks. I have been winked at from all over the world from Iceland to Cape Town and Milton Keys to Morocco. My iPhone has been pinging and my laptop has been in overdrive. Encouraged by friends as a way as a potential way of meeting someone and as research for my attempts at story writing, I have been online dating! Well sort of! I think at this stage I need to reassure all of you who know me and particularly my family, that I am now off line - permanently and have deleted all traces of me on the virtual love boat!
 I decided that I would see what is was all about and aided and abetted by a friend, I 'put myself out there'. I tried a local and an international site which seem to operate on the same basis. For those of you who are curious this is how it works.
  • You create a profile and a user name and password.
  • You pay some money - I subscribed for a month but could not tolerate another 2 weeks.
  • Your profile is put onto the site with details that you chose to disclose.
  • You upload a photograph (most people use one at least one 10 years old)
  • You are then offered a selection of hopefuls who match your criteria and the games commence.
People who want to make contact with you then send you a 'wink' if you like them you can 'wink' back at them. This then gives the go ahead for them to start a conversation with you. I had a great many 'winks' after the first 24 hours and went through their profiles trying to keep a straight face and bearing in mind that these could be vulnerable, desperately lonely or just desperate people who were brave enough to open themselves up to strangers. I am a kind, compassionate person with bags of empathy  but I am not proud to admit that I often found myself laughing out loud and not in a kind way!
The first guy who decided to send me a message looked very much like Abu Qatada, the Muslim cleric who was recently been deported from the UK. It could have been him as I am sure that they are allowed Internet access these days from inside! Needless to say I pressed 'delete' as I did with many others.
I then received a message for a man who decided to 'play open cards with me'. He confessed that he was married but he hated his wife who did nothing but shop at Woolworths. I thanked him for his honesty and told him that I had more in common with his wife than I did with him as I loved to shop, loved Woolworths and perhaps he could send me her number so she and I could go shopping together. I added that if I was married to a man like him that I would also spend my days in shops and what's more every time I saw him on his computer I would spend more! I then pressed 'delete' with real enthusiasm!
I did however have several conversations with an Icelandic chap living in Cape Town as I was intrigued. He is there on work assignment, he told me. He asked me to 'cuze is inglish' and send short messages that I had to decode into understandable language. I laughed so much at some of these that I am surprised the neighbours did not send for the men in white coats! He asked for my email address and phone number so I asked him if he had a facebook profile so perhaps I could check him out. "no sorry I must had to remove as my ex wife is foorias and sends me bad stories" I couldn't help it - a vision of Eskimo Nel came to mind with furred hood, and leathery cheeks, fish in one hand and harpoon in the other! I called my friend and partner in crime and warned her that if I was found in an alley somewhere with a harpoon arrow in my back and a vrott fish stuffed in my mouth, then she would be to blame!  Funny as all this was I continually reminded myself that there are real and genuine people out there looking for love and I have heard of some success stories - but I think these really are they tip of the iceberg -for everyone of these there must be thousands of dating disasters!
So the fun continued until this weekend when a Sky News Report caught my eye and I delved a little more into what really happens online. Read the report by clicking here........Scary stats - "A poll finds that 18% have lied about their age, 28% exaggerated their financial status, while 10% lied about where they lived." I then watched a documentary by the UK Panorama team that explains how these sites con people and it is really scary and cruel - Read the next instalment of this experience later in the week!
PS. My online dating days are over so don't even think of looking for me in cyberspace LOL!

Part 2 

During the second week of my experience I took a ‘Graham Norton’ approach and gave anyone who wanted to contact me an opportunity to delight me in 50 words! I sat with my finger on the delete button and was only delighted on one occasion. A contact delighted me by sending a lovely photograph of his Labrador - a really cute chocolate lab. I declined his invitation to chat but asked if I could take his dog for a walk from time to time. I actually think I could run a photographic service for would be online daters as the photos they use are positively weird. I mean why would you put a picture of you and your late wife, Thelma, on line, or you posing with your four children? Then there are the ones taken with a webcam – glassy eyes staring at the screen often with the light bouncing off their specs! Shirtless when you clearly should not ever take your shirt off, ruddy faced with a large glass of beer in your hand, wearing Roy Orbison sunglasses or one guy who caught my attention because he was standing on his head! These profiles could not possibly be fake but many, many of them are.
Online dating websites say they are taking all steps possible to try to stop scammers and fraudsters from misusing their services. However many, many of the fake profiles that are set up are done so by the Dating Site themselves.  The Panorama team interviewed people who had actually worked for one such international online dating site whose job it was to set up profiles, source information and images for these profiles. When you join ‘for free’ and upload your details, within hours you are bombarded with requests to chat, sent winks and messages but to reply to any of these you have to subscribe. All this is bait! As soon as you subscribe and they have your money, the activity comes to a standstill. When your subscription is coming to an end and you request to terminate it – all the activity starts up again, tempting you to stay online. The documentary showed all this happening.
One online dater wrote “They are not scammers, the profiles are created by the companies running the sites. I was a victim of When I cancelled my subscription I changed my profile, deleted all information about me on it. Just left the info that I was 99 years old, 4ft tall, and 18 stone. Guess what? They still sent me emails telling me that there were 6 women a day meeting the same criteria who wanted to meet me? Easy way to tell their fake profiles, the name on the profile has "_1234" after the name, with a random number. These wouldn't all be set up by scammers with the same format, they are auto-generated to match the profiles of the gullible victims who thought that they were dealing with a reputable company. I tried other dating sites, and they all do it. Global Personals run multiple sites had me too (read the small print to see who is behind the site). I found them out when a profile with a picture of someone I knew personally appeared. I contacted them and they told me that they had never been on the site, and that it wasn't their profile at all.
I eventually saw the light, got off all dating sites, and decided that I would rather be single for the rest of my life than be a victim of this abuse of trust.”
Then there are the profiles of real people who are not quite what they seem. Mary Turner met her husband William online, and had two children with him. It later emerged that he was a bigamist, who had fathered 13 children with six different women.  Ms Turner was left £198,000 in debt, and decided to write a book about her experiences. Dominic Blackburn, spokesman for which carried out the survey, said: "It's very easy to present yourself in a very different way on online dating sites and social networking sites - it's far easier to do it on that than on a face to face basis."
In my own experience – I copied the method used by the Panorama team and searched the photographs posted by a few of ‘gentlemen’ who contacted me. I found myself having conversations with Finlay who claimed he was from Stellenbosch and yet when I googled  his image, I was taken to a Facebook profile picture of a man who lives in Texas and among his other photographs was the second photo that was posted to ‘Finlay’s profile.  The same happened with a person who claimed to live in Bloubergstrand who called himself Richard. His photo was that of an image attached to a LinkedIn profile of a man called Alan Bailey from Atlanta. In both these cases I was asked for my email details to make it easier for us to contact one another. Needless to say I declined and informed them of my findings and asked who has stolen whose profile. I haven’t heard from Finlay since and Richard wants to meet me for coffee so I can see for myself it’s him. Not a chance Richard – I have a feeling that you are a Nigerian drug dealer or perhaps a human trafficker and I may find myself living in a basement in Oklahoma!
The online dating industry generates around 2.5 billion pound per year. If they are serious about protecting its users they need to spend a lot of that reviewing their security and their systems to protect its genuine users.

 I have asked the site to remove my profile 3 times - Last night I logged in as a guy using a different email address and there I am still smiling online and waiting to be winked at ;- (

Part 3

There really wasn’t going to be a part 3 to this but I went online to see if the dating site had taken my profile down – and there I sit looking pretty after numerous emails to ask the site to remove me. I wondered if perhaps I was only be visible to me so I thought of a way to get to see the dating site through the eyes of a guy and created a brief male profile.
Lord forgive me! I logged in using Tony’s email address and created a free account. I didn’t go so far as to load up a photograph – just his name, age and area. Ironically the first face I saw when I did a search for matches was ……me!  So I am definitely still up there despite being reassured that morning that my profile had been removed.   I checked again later in the day after receiving an email telling me my profile had been removed and ‘Tony’ had four messages – All he had to do was subscribe to begin chatting with these ‘lovely’ ladies. One of which was me – sending him winks.  I reported this to my son who pointed out that I was now winking at myself online. I resisted temptation and decided not to have any conversations with the four women who are now eyeing my late husband - this is getting bazaar! I am becoming quite the detective and think I may have missed my vocation!
Anyway by now - back in my own profile I had a mailbox full of messages which I really was tempted to look at. I deleted most of them including one from a 19 year old who had added me to his favourites - hilarious! But I replied to three after checking them out using Google Images - none came up with a police record attached to them. The first chappie lives up country on a bush camp and everything he has told me about his whereabouts checks out. He wanted my phone number to chat as he wasn't the greatest typist - I refused and he said this really confirmed that I was the woman for him - a 'lady' - as if I had passed some big test - I was delighted! He did give me his number though - which I immediately googled. It took me to an advertisement for a person selling goats! In my next missive I asked if he was in fact a person who sold goats on occasions and I have not heard from his since. I think he has deleted me!
Number two and I were having conversations about animals and photography - he directed me to his Face Book page and sure enough there were some awesome bird photos - I told him I wasn't very skilled with bird photography but had some really good animal shots - well that is what I thought I had told him but when I reread the message the next day what I had written was 'I have some really good anal shots' Oh no! I was doing this on my phone without my glasses on  - I was in hysterics and had no idea how to put this right! Had I blown my big chance?  I need not have worried - also on his FB page was his information telling the world he is 'in a relationship.' So I asked him and he confirmed that yes he is and gave me a sorry story - he didn't even ask for my 'anal' shots - Delete - Delete!
The third guy is French - here on contract and widowed - his wife 'is dead on a motor bike'. He is quite attractive and seems sincere - I haven't found anything to doubt in the  information that he has communicated to me and we are still chatting but he lives in Cape Town and is currently staying in Johannesburg for work. I think he is lonely and he just enjoys telling me about his day - he has given me his number but I won’t be dialling it anytime soon.

So - my profile is still there - I am still getting winked at daily by fictitious characters and messaged by pseudo profiles and perhaps the odd real person. I am strangely comforted by the fact that computer matched me with my perfect match - Perhaps there is a message in that!

Part 4

Its now 6 months later! I never did call the guy from Cape Town but in a strange turn of events – I continued to chat to the Bush Lodge guy who once upon a time advertised goats for sale. We racked up hours of whatsapp texts and then phone calls. He lives in Natal and I am in the Eastern Cape and we agreed to meet half way in September last year. I booked 2 rooms at a B&B and told them he was my brother so if he touched me inappropriately then they would think he was a perverted weirdo!  We got along from the first minute together and we had dinner out – went for beach walks and enjoyed each others company, so we decided to continue our conversations and meet the following month – this time in Cape Town. This time it was a little harder for me to say goodbye to him. I went overseas for a holiday and he kept in touch and we met up again on my return – this time I flew to him and saw his bush lodge and we stayed on the Natal coast.  I sensed that this was getting serious as I missed him so much when I go t home and he said he felt the same. In December he stayed with me for a week and I really sensed that we were falling for one another. Christmas was really lonely without him even though I had my family and good friends around me.  In late December we could not be apart any longer and I spent New Year in Natal and since then we have hardly been apart. The distance has been a little difficult to manage but we are making it work by dividing our time between Natal and the Eastern Cape and we are planning a shared future. My sons and their families really like him  – he fits in so well with my friends. We deliberated at first on what to say when people ask how we met- Do we tell them we were kidnapped by aliens on the same day and shared a space ship? Well we did meet in cyber space!! Do we say we met through business? Do we make up imaginary mutual friends? In the end we decided to tell the truth! 

We make each other laugh – I love having him around and we have shared some great road trips already. He is enjoying photography and I am learning to drive a tractor – we have been to dancing lessons.
I never thought online dating would work but as I type this – he is sitting opposite me and I am so so happy to have him in my life.

Finale!! We were married on June 21st and meeting the challenges of our two worlds colliding in real space - not cyber space.