In order to catch up (in my mind and in reality!) I have decided to return to the third week of February. This is when we flew out from Tanzania to South Africa on our first break this year.
We did many things, met many people, revisited old friends and places and covered many many miles across our beautiful land. I also met a blogger friend! (more about this soon!)
Because I love photography and take photos of
Top left - right: Full moon over Marquard, bikes parked on the Port Alfred River. Bottom left: Cintza beach and right, overnight at the Hogback Inn
We spent ten glorious days biking; our friends returned to the Southern Cape and we eventually arrived home on Friday at of the first week in March.
On Sunday morning, Grant and I, our younger son, Angus and daughter-in-law, Amanda and our two Marquard grandchildren, booked flights on a low-cost domestic airline (and were we impressed!) and flew to Cape Town - where Grant bought, and I quote: "our retirement car to use in the meantime and for times ahead until when we cannot drive anymore!" It has all the bells and whistles that a man
needs,wants, has to have: electronic gadgets galore, including an on-board navigation system, Internet connection, Blue Tooth (for hands-free telephoning - I think) and is of course, a four-wheel drive vehicle. I, by choice, had nothing to do with the vehicle he was buying; I only asked that we have personalized number plates. Mmmm.
The great journey to Cape Town!
We drove back to Bloemfontein/Marquard from Cape Town. With an overnight stop on the first night, we finally reached home by 7pm on Tuesday.
At 4am on Wednesday Grant and I were on the road again. This time we headed south to the East coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal to visit Grant's mom in Durban. She seems fine, albeit ageing rapidly. She also seems to have re-settled into the home which she insisted on leaving in September 2011 and then insisted on returning to in December 2012!
On the way back up the N3 Freeway, we stopped off in the Midlands Meander where we met up with our older son, John, Debbie, and their five beautiful children. We stayed on a Guest Farm near Nottingham Road where Granddad spent many hours teaching young Joshua to fish with a new bass rod. We gave Eryn a digital camera (she was ten last month). She was elated at this "grown-up" gift and very quickly had worked out the various functions. ("What's the lightning sign mean, Granny? And what do I do with the flower sign?" "And when do I use 'P' ")
It was also very special to spend time with Debbie and John and the younger three children: four-year-old Bethany; three-year-old Elijah and ten-month-old Israel. What could be more precious than sitting around the breakfast table with your children and grandchildren while the little ones sang, first the grace and then a variety of Gospel songs in Portuguese?
Grant and I headed further up the N3 and popped into Estourt to say hello to my brother, Phillip. He teaches History, English and is Head Librarian at Drakensview Primary School which incidentally was where Angus spent a few years. While Phillip showed us around, I took photos on my cell phone and sent them to Angus.
It was also heartening to hear Phillip speak about the love that the children have for the printed word. He told us when he arrived, there was a half-circle of easy chairs and a sofa facing a wall on which a television was mounted. The shelves below were amply stocked with videos and DVD's. The children sat glued to the screen watching mainly cartoons. He removed the television and replaced the lounge area with tables and chairs. He says the open-mouthed, box-viewing kids have blossomed into serious students who come to do their research or homework at the tables or merely to browse through the National Geographics and Time Magazines stacked in the shelves which previously held videos. They have also developed such an enthusiasm for books that often the children dash in of a Friday afternoon saying to "Sir" they hope they're not too late to return their books and take out new ones for the weekend.
The real beauty of this transformation for me is that 95% of the school is made up of Zulu scholars. With such eager minds and such enthusiasm, I profess that these children will go far!Top left: watching the sun rise as we drove down to see Grant's mom - pictured with him on the right. Bottom left: four of our Drakensberg/Mozambique grandchildren and right: Grant and my brother, Phillip at the gates of Drakensview Primary School in Estcourt
Once back home in Marquard again, I spent time in and around the house. Well, I was inside the house, tidying cupboard, doing the filing and dealing with household issues. I also started to de-clutter my house of the many old / antique? -some of it yes, possessions - which we took down to Amanda's shop. (more about this later) When the gardeners came in every two days, I spent twenty to thirty minutes refreshing their thoughts and tasks about autumn clean-up and replanting.
Grant, of course, buried himself in his well-equipped, excellently-illuminated, better-arranged-and-kept-than- my-lounge workshop. From here he fixed a myriad of little items that had disintegrated in the house and garden. Often I'd hear: "What DO the gardeners do to make a hose fitting look like THIS?" and directly to them: "John, how on EARTH do you get an electrical extension into this state?" Of course, no-one ever responded to any this but he fixed it all the same!
We also took Megan, our 13-year-old Scottie/Maltese Poodle to be clipped for the winter. As this task is done at our vet in Ladybrand, 80 kms from home, we loaded our last remaining cat, Felix, from the original menagerie into a travel cage and took him for a check-up. We also loaded the new cat, (yes, a new cat! more about this in a later post) Chappie into her travel cage and took her along to be spayed.
Megan came out of the vet looking gorgeous and shiny although she is also feeling the strains of old age and slept for two days after this little trip. Chappie's operation was a great success and Angus will take her back to the vet this week to have the stitches removed. But nine-year-old Felix was another story altogether. Our vet of many years, Dr Anne, came into reception looking very stern. She said that Felix is obese (that day he weighed in at 6.4kg) and had developed a heart-murmur. She presribed life-long heart tablets to be administered daily and also a drastic change in his eating habits. He is now on a special formula of cat pellets and allowed only 55g per day. Fortunately he is the only cat living in our pool room/braai area (Chappie lives indoors for now) so as long as Emily keeps his portions weighed, he should have lost the 2kg that Dr Anne suggested with ensure he lives a little longer.
We also spent time outdoors with the dogs, Megan, Eddie and Angie and took them walking on the golf-course.
Top: new SA kitty, Chappie; bottom left: the dogs love a walk on the golf course. And right: Fatty Felix tries to chew my slip-on in case it means more food than he is allowed right now!
March is always a wonderful time, weather wise in Marquard and this year was no exception. We spent long, leisurely evenings braaiing (BBQ-ing) on the patio with Amanda and Angus and Joel and Abby.
We also advertised Grant's high-rider pick-up (bakkie) on the Internet and sold it the weekend before we returned to Tanzania. In fact, the vehicle is so popular in SA, that we could have sold it a dozen times over!
Bonding with our Marquard children and grandchildren; everyone loves a braai; de-cluttering my home and selling Grant's high-rider bakkie
Grant and I also managed to fit in another bike ride: a breakfast run to Clarens, 200km down the road. We stopped frequently so that I could photograph the beautiful Free State scenery where the poplar trees and connifers turn a golden colour at this time of the year. We also spotted (and photographed) several birds, not least, Widowbirds, falcons and kestrels so prolific in Autumn in the Free State.
We during the last week, we popped into the city for a last shopping expedition.
Top left: breakfast in Clarens; right: Megan after being clipped. Bottom left: some of the items I will need for my new hobby here in Tz and finally the waxing moon over Marquard which meant we'd been home for a month!
I hope you're all having a wonderful Easter Monday and have managed to read to the end of this post!