Monday, June 16, 2014

A splendidly 'royal' day!

I have now had about six months to get to know Kwazulu Natal and although many areas of the Natal Midlands are lovely - especially the Midlands Meander - I have to admit that Pietermaritzburg leaves a lot to be desired. It has all the characteristics of a lovely old town ruined by bad town planning and lack of urban maintenance. Beautiful old buildings have faded due to neglect and the city centre has been invaded by street traders who leave litter and debris everywhere. The shopping malls are reasonable but the service delivered by apathetic staff make our PE retailers look top notch. I loved the Tatham Art Gallery which is not just a really attractive piece of Victorian architecture but also houses a fantastic art collection. I will definitely be returning there and to the Botanical Gardens which are a lovely tranquil green oasis that are also well maintained.

Seeing that I appreciate art and love gardening this isn't surprising!What did surprise me though was how much I enjoyed The Royal Show. The last time I went to an Agricultural Show in South Africa was at Bathurst and I expected home made preserves, WI needlework exhibits, sheepdog trials and a flypast by the Red Arrows. What I got was a fairground and a whole lot of Nigerians selling cheap sunglasses and  Chinese fake  'Lolex's' and Suey Vuitton handbags! So my expectations were low when I was asked to accompany V's brother to the highlight of PMBs rural calendar. Grin and bear it I thought - but my smile got wider when I saw that The Royal Show is exactly what an Agricultural Show should be.
We were greeted by a line of tractors and farm implements all polished to perfection and gleaming in the sun - eye candy to all farmers and country folk alike. On route to admire them we were stopped in our tracks by irresistible smell of pancakes and even though we had just had breakfast we joined the queue to order ours and enjoy them in the sun. Then a very patient tractor salesman explained the intricacies of the latest SAME tractor - a huge powerful machine - the grand daddy of all tractors that did everything. "Does it make coffee?" I asked. "Does it come in pink?" For R1.2 million I think it should - perhaps women should start to design and manufacture tractors.
I left the brother in his element as after a dozen tractors, my excitement was dwindling and I was starting to imagine counting tractors that night to help me sleep!

I was drawn to the pungent smell of cattle and inspected the livestock on show. I was brought up by a mother who considered all animals 'livestock' - this was her standard response to any animal that we wanted to domesticate, "I will have no livestock in this house!" A bit dramatic I thought when all I asked was if I could bring the hamster home from school for the holidays and we children kept all sorts of secret pets in the garden shed. I am ashamed to say that many small rodents, Guinea pigs and tortoises were lured into that house of horrors and mostly starved or froze to death! After striding around the live exhibits pretending that I knew an Aberdeen Angus from a Hereford - I made my way to the sheep shearing demo and then the exhibits of very large vegetables which the Jolly Green Giant would have been proud of! Then on to the 'Halls'.

These Halls were full of pickles, chutney, marmalade, embroidery, knitting, stitched garments, hand made toys, bead work, Macrame, wood carving and all manner of home made items that the very clever folk of Natal had made. There was also an exhibition of photography and some lovely art on display. So satisfying to see that the good citizens of Pietermaritzburg are whiling away the hours in a creative frenzy - perhaps brought about by there being nothing else to do in this town!

The Rotarians were out raising funds and I met Vs brother (who arrived armed with a million tractor brochures) by their stall to enjoy a steak roll and to rest my feet which by now were resembling the hooves of an Aberdeen Angus!
Yes there was a fairground and yes there were some very suspicious looking "Owega' watches, "Nikie" Shoes but at least the Royal Agricultural Show had some sexy farm implements and a whole lot of variety of goods on display that had all the characteristics of what an Agricultural Show was designed for. It was all well organised and well attended and next year I may just by a three day ticket so that I can triple my enjoyment.

As we left the noise of low aircraft rumbled towards us and we looked up to see neat rows of planes flying towards the grounds in V formation. V for Very Very Good !! See you there next year.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Two of everything and a Tractor

I have been back at the man cave for a week after a busy spell back in PE where I worked and sorted out town house and garden AND arranged a wedding very hastily. Its not what you think - the rush has come about because the minister is going on sabbatical for 78 days from 23 June to 19 September. V and I, having got our priorities straight, had booked and paid for our honeymoon so we wanted to get married on 3rd September and now couldn't. "Perhaps we could book you for the 26 September when we are back and so are you?" I asked Rory, the vicar." Well then," came the reply,"In that case you would be going on a holiday and not honeymoon!" And here was I thinking all the rules changed after the age of 50. I posed the problem to V who said - the sooner the better and we are to be married in 2 1/2 weeks time!
That was Friday and on Saturday I had a meeting with YaYa Wedding and by Monday I had been to a Bridal Fair, bought Fabric, arranged for a dress to be made, seen a jeweller and arranged for a ring to be designed and made, booked an intimate venue for a small family reception after the service, had an invitation designed and sent out for the June celebration (there is to be another reception in September when we are back from honeymoon), arranged a photographer and arranged for a small wedding cake to be made and of course had floral discussions with YaYa Wedding Voila! 
I arrived back at the Lodge thinking that I could have a little respite but things are all go here! The Royal Show was in full swing - this being the highlight of the Petermaritzburg Calendar - and Vs relatives arrived the day after me, so I was caught up in a social whirl of activity! Quite the opposite the quiet existence I have become used to here. A lovely day at the Royal Show (which I will blog about soon) Another wonderful visit to Tugela Estates on Friday and as the Comrades was on - the Bush Lodge was exceptionally busy over the weekend and I have been given the role of managing a highly strung chef!
So it was on Sunday evening that I broached the topic of wedding apparel to my beloved. He ventured into his Vintage wardrobe and retrieved a pair of very shiny trousers and a dusty jacket."What about these?" he asked hopefully while brushing some 1987 custard off the jacket lapel. "It will dry clean well and it fits like a glove" - followed by pleas of -"I've hardly worn it."
Do all men have this allergy to new clothes? I protested that I could not possibly marry a scarecrow and the tricky negotiations began........
Since then I have been back and forwards to the mall with various size trousers (this man is also in denial about his waist size) and shirts that now come in not only collar sizes but regular, slim fit and comfort fit - my regular man wants to be comfortable and slim at the same time. I have had to concede on shoes though, and the old "very good, leather, cost a fortune, designer, almost new shoes bought for daughter's wedding ten years ago", have been polished and the new shoelaces bought.  Not the average cave man - most of what I have bought is going to a tailors to be 'finished off' with a nip and tuck! When it comes to shopping, I am just about finished off too and will be giving the shops a wide berth for a while and I so wish I could afford the nip and tuck!

So all in all an exciting and eventful week and I know the next couple of weeks will also be as exciting - I head back home next week to resume my PE routine and work life. I had dreams one day of a lazy retirement and here I find myself with two jobs, two homes, a chef in tears, an extra family and a tractor to contend! Pray for Me :-)