Cute as a Button Spider

South Africa is, depending on one’s point of view, either blessed or infested with an astonishing variety of arachnids.  At least 2000 different types have been recorded.  So, in addition to the bits and pieces I’ve told you of other dangers we have faced here (Pickle being pinned to a rock by a lion cub, snake infested garages, snakes that are in fact not snakes but hoses, electric fences….) I’d like to introduce you to two of our occasional house guests and a spider who can rival Rumplestiltskin with her ability to spin a golden thread.

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Water Aware

It was gold, not water that drew people here in droves. Johannesburg is the only major city in the world that is not built close to a large source of water. Landlocked, it is about as far from the sea as it could be in South Africa and there are no large rivers or lakes here. It’s all pumped in from elsewhere filling our taps and swimming pools and nourishing the vast man made forest that is Jo’burg. Continue reading

In England’s Green and Pleasant Land

July 2014

Whenever we’ve been away from the UK for any length of time, the last line of William Blake’s Jerusalem comes to me unbidden and starts looping in my head as the plane circles above a patchwork of luscious green landscape below.     “In England’s green and pleasant land” chimes over and over in a happy way. Continue reading

Not so Plane Sailing

Have you ever flown with children?  Have you ever flown on your own with children?  Don’t unless you have to.  It is the curse of the expat wife.  I remember somebody once asking my husband what it was like to fly with the kids.  “Oh, it’s no bother”, he replied breezily.  Yes, that would be because he’s never travelled solo with the children.  It is a real treat and I would like to share just a few of my highlights with you.  Continue reading

Arctic Africa

So the talk of the town is the cold front that has whipped up here on chilly Cape Town winds.  Winter is here.

Just to be clear, before I in anyway mock the Jo’burg attitude to winter.  I am not referring to the masses living in flimsy accommodation with limited or no utilities.  I am extremely appreciative to live in a house with heating and hot water, but, my goodness, considering how tough and hardy many South Africans are in most respects, even the most privileged are having a jolly good grumble about the “Arctic” conditions that we are experiencing at the moment.

The Antipodeans have been equally pathetic switching their fires on as far back as April when it was merely fresh outside in the mornings climbing quickly to balmy and then tropical temperatures with the rising of the sun.  The Canadians and Bostonians laugh at all of this even more than we do.

The high today is a modest 9 Celsius which although not terribly warm is, let’s be honest, considered bikini weather in Scotland.  Unlike a cold day in the UK where the watery sun occasionally comes out of hibernation the bright African sun is almost omnipresent.  It’s statically dry here, so the damp doesn’t get into your bones either.

Pickle is finally relenting and mostly agreeing to wear trousers and a coat – although I had to peel a pair of shorts of him again this morning.  This is more to avoid the visible distress it causes his teacher than because I’m actually worried that he’s not keeping warm enough.  I’ve also been advised, by complete strangers, that it’s about time I got a coat for The Cheesethief.

The knack to “surviving” the Joburg winter is to dress in layers.  Lots in the early morning, peel them off one by one as the day warms up and then replace them as the sun drops.  The only problem with this is, (that amongst many other fashion dilemmas), I’ve never quite mastered layering and end up wearing three tops all the same size and then looking like a trussed up turkey.

Despite this wave of angst triggered by the cold weather, it doesn’t seem to have filtered down to the construction industry yet.  Loft insulation?  Nope.  Double Glazing?  Never heard of it.  Cavity walls?  The attitude seems to be: why build with two lots of bricks, when it’s quicker and cheaper to use single brick construction?  It is often warmer OUTSIDE during the day than inside the un-winter-proofed houses.

As a strange side effect of the less than tropical temperatures I’ve found myself listening out for Christmas carols on the radio and expecting the shops to be bedecked with tinsel.  Apparently I am far from the only one, although there is no known name for this ‘syndrome’.    The whole topsy-turvy season thing is very confusing and many expats talk about where they are going to on their Summer Winter holidays.


Frost on the ground in Arctic Africa.

July 2014

Testing the Water

Delhi – India, Circa 2003

Water bottles and glasses were placed the length of the table. We must have been a group of 20 or 30. A party of groggy Brits just landed in Delhi for a wedding. We were having a welcome meal with a few of the Delhi Rellies before the formal celebrations began. Continue reading

Endless Summer, Broad Horizons

So, one year into our South African adventure (July 2014) and we are all enjoying our time here, but it is unquestionably the children who are having the time of their little lives.  Scarce an eyelid is batted at the power cuts, traffic jams, street hawkers or shacks.  They do ask questions about the poverty and disfunctionality they encounter, but take the answers in their growing strides. Continue reading

The Hunt for Red October

“Please could you pick me up some new shoelaces if you’re going to the mall today?” Mr Incredible tossed the tiny challenge lightly over his shoulder on his way out the door. At face value this was one of Mr I’s most simple requests. Continue reading

National Dress Dilemma

Every year most expat communities will have some kind of parade or festival to celebrate their multiculturalism. Often it’s connected to the International schools. There is plenty of flag waving and any accompanying food stands can get quite competitive, (and that would be down to the parents, not the kids). Continue reading

Wonder Woman


I’ve got awfully big wellies to fill. 

Who else had a Wonder Woman obsession when they were about 5? I would try to dress like her and twirl round the back garden in tiny shorts and welly boots with a dressing gown belt tied round my forehead. It took me a while, but I eventually realised that the real Wonder Woman was right there watching me all along. Continue reading