What was Hong Kong’s Biggest Super Typhoon Mangkhut like?


On our expat travels we’ve experienced a few hairy moments. There have been riots, petrol shortages, a political coup, contentious elections, minor earthquakes and an unexpectedly severe hail storm in Johannesburg. Now we can add Super Typhoon to the list. Toto, we are DEFINITELY not in Joburg any more.

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Child's sketch Mile High Living gives your zombie skin

Mile High Living: High Altitude Quirks

There are a few quirks to mile high living.  I covered the zombie skin you get during Johannesburg’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. 

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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

All Hail just Broke Loose in Johannesburg

Yes, you heard that right, hail storms are a thing in Johannesburg.

I said all hail, not all hell.

It WAS biblical.

After weeks and weeks of rainlessness in Johannesburg and much of South Africa…

After weeks of drought and water restrictions…

All    hail    broke    loose.

It was a week night. My friend and her son had some over for pizza and wine. We sat gazing at the bright sunny sky beyond the window pane as we chatted.

Her phone rang. Her husband urgently wanted to know where she’d parked her brand new car. This seemed like an odd question. He told us of a huge hail storm baring down on the city. We looked again at the sunny sky and laughed.

“Perhaps I’ll move it just in case”, said my friend. As we turned and glanced out the opposite window we saw that the sky was ominous. Two minutes later all hail broke loose.

The road outside became a torrent and we watched in horrified awe.

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The Clowns are Fighting

I have a distinct childhood memory of standing by the back door in my parents’ 1970’s avocado and cream wallpapered kitchen during a storm, my eyes raking the sky expectantly for giant clowns.  “The clouds are fighting” is what mum had actually said to explain away the roaring thunder. 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