Mile High Living

Zombie Breakfast

As established in the post Happy Expat Wife, Happy Expat Life, I’m rubbish at drawing.  Sweetpea has kindly contributed this doodle of a sunburnt zombie family waiting forever for their breakfast eggs (or brains) to boil.

There are a few quirks to mile high living.  I covered the zombie skin we get in Jo’burg’s crackling dry winter months in the post High Altitude, Dry Altitude, but there are are other things about life on the Highveld that you might be interested to know about. 

Dry Altitude

In addition to zombie skin, dehydration is something to watch out for. Unlike more humid climates where you find that your sweat glands have sweat glands, the dehydration here is stealthy. Because your sweat evaporates so effortlessly (rather than running down your back or into your eyes) you probably won’t realise how much moisture you’re losing. Dehydration IS very real though, so be sure to drink plenty of water, especially if you are enjoying any of the local wines or craft beers.  If you don’t, you will look AND feel like a zombie. Continue reading

Clouded Judgement?

Cloudy days are often considered less desirable than clear ones.  But I like cloudy skies and I’ve seen some stunning ones recently here in South Africa.



For example, these sun kissed clouds are rather gorgeous.

Then there are white clouds that contrast against otherwise blinding blue skies, which are also striking. Continue reading

Four Seasons in One Day

Being British, it’s long overdue that I conform to my cultural stereotype and talk about the weather.  Despite living here in the Rainbow Nation, I think rainbows are just about the only weather phenomenon we have not yet experienced.  We have shivered on cold and frosty mornings.  We have sizzled, like sausages on a braai, under the baking sun.  We have experienced wrathful thunder and lightning and traffic stopping rain and hail.  We’ve even ‘survived’ a freak sandstorm. 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