Monday, July 31, 2023

With a little help from my friends...

 ...with apologies to The Beatles. And here I learned something today. I always thought that Joe Cocker was the original artist. 


We live and learn.

Good morning to my Blogger friends. Back to my injury before my holiday.  

The day I fell and was taken to the doctor, had X-rays and back to the doctor who arranged surgery in the city later that day, the Easter weekend was looming. And with me, long weekends (in fact, any weekend) I have holiday guests. In fact, I regulary have weekly guests too.

This was the case at the time of my fall. I had guests leaving on Thursday morning and the next guests checking in at 14h00 that same day. While waiting in the back of John and Ron's car to be taken to the hospital, I contacted my friend, Shelley. She and her husband own a large hotel. She also owns private holiday accommodation on the same estate where Grant and I lived before his death.  Even as I asked her if she could absorb my guests, I knew what the answer would be. It was the Easter long weekend, the middle of school holidays. Of course, there was no accommodation available in the Valley. 

While chatting, Shelley suddenly suggested that she could go and clean The Bunker and prepare it for the incoming guests. Can you BELIEVE that I have friends like this? Thanking her, I asked Ron to collect my holiday bags which I use to carry clean linen, toiletries etc.  On the way out, we first stopped at the hotel, Shelley took the bag and told me to worry no more about my guests. I was to focus on getting my knee surgery done and rest afterwards. 

Phew, the mind boggles at the community I live in.

After surgery and resting well over the long weekend (I mentioned in a previous post how Ron and Janine looked after me), it was Tuesday. Every Tuesday I run Weigh-Less groups in town. A member from the Valley Group had offered to transport me so Patrys drove me to my meeting, my Group Assistant and her DIL and granddaughter set up the tables and posters and I on crutches, weighed each member privately in the anteroom. I always do a motivational talk which I did this day as well. 

Wednesdays I run four online groups. This I do from home.

On Thursday it was time for my Valley Weigh-Less group. Ronnie took me to the venue, and while I rested knee on another chair, my Group Assistant weighed the members and did the talk afterwards. Sharyn, my Valley GA is very engaged with our members.

This was the pattern for the month of April. My Weigh-Less Groups continued with my friends helping.

Meanwhile, members continued to lose weight. Members continued to reach goal weight.

A couple reached their respective goal weight at the same time. 
I was able to award their Goal Weight certificates. 

Ron continued to drive me and Thandi to our accommodation to clean and prepare.  My Winterton Group Assistant's DIL, Helen told Ron that she would also help. The next week Helen and Chloe collected me and Thandi and took us to The Bunker. 

Chloe and Thandi fold the fleece throw while Helen changes pillow cases

Once a week Ronnie drove me to the physio in town. The first week on the therapist's bed, I was able to bend knee 11° . A week later we were at 33°. Two weeks after the surgery, Ron took me to the doctor who removed the 12 clamps and bandaged my knee. He told me to continue using the brace and crutches to move around. He gave me a reprieve:  I could sleep without the brace if I promised not to toss and turn. 

By the fourth week at the physio, I was able to bend knee 90°! The therapist said she had never seen such determination! 

I used the brace and crutches religiously 
Using the Thera band along with several other home exercises from the therapist, I improved mobility dramatically

All along I motivated my members to continue on their Weigh-Less program. I emphasized that even without my normal daily workout, I was still able to keep healthy and NOT gain weight.  
And using my accident, I reminded them that losing weight could ONLY be good for your joints: hips, knees and ankles. 
Motivational posters which I shared online with my members while I was recovering

I rest my case...

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Rainbow and a zebra

 Good afternoon, dear Blogger friends. Several weeks ago, just as the weather was becoming cold, I snapped a beautiful rainbow in the Valley. 

Thandi and I were on our way to clean The Bunker when I stopped to capture this beautiful phenomenon. While doing so, I explained to Thandi that according to folklore, if we could find the end of the rainbow (which was VERY close to the car as I took the photos), we would discover great riches. In her culture, mentioning a pot of gold would not make sense to her. So I said we'd find a basket of money - banknotes. I'd been telling her this while keeping my eyes on the camera screen. She was dead quiet. When I turned to look at her, she slanted her eyes at me and clicked her tongue. She definitely didn't believe me! 

As this photo shows, the end was quite close to from where I was snapping it! 

As we entered The Bunker property, we encountered one of the three regular visitors to the estate

Burchells Zebra

There are two adult zebra and a younger one. They seem to have wandered down from the nature reserve. As always when wild animals become tame around humans, they become a problem. The other residents on this estate regularly chase this stiped trio across the river boundary and into the nature reserve. 

The guests of course, LOVE seeing these interesting animals grazing on the Bunker lawn. 

I'm linking this post to Saturday Critters here


Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Winter with a vengeance

 Good morning, dear Blogger friends. Winter has arrived. Last week the temperatures dropped drastically from Tuesday. On Thursday, the sun didn't even bother to put in an appearance, leaving us with a whole day of dark grey cloud, drizzly, freezing rain and very cold air.  

Friday dawned. Some of the clouds lifted. And the mountains were white!

The Central Drakensberg last Friday
The same snowy peaks taken from a private property in the Valley

As can be seen from the second photo, the snow only appears on the high Berg and peaks. As soon as news of the snowfall hits the socials, prospective guests from the coast, phone asking that, if they came, would their children be able to play in the snow in garden! As can be seen in the photo above, you'd have to drive to the end of the tarred road, get out and hike at least three hours up into the mountains, before getting to the snow. 

With our warm sunshine the snow soon melts and only the high areas in Lesotho remain covered for longer. 

On Sunday I attended a church service held on a farm about 30 minutes' drive from the farm. I rode with a friend who had asked me earlier if I knew how to read pin directions. I can and she was fascinated that the voice emanating from my phone directed us to the garden of our hosts!

As I normally am cleaning The Bunker after guests and before the next ones check in on Sundays, I don't often get to church. This weekend I had guests staying until Monday, so I managed to get to this service, which had a braai (BBQ) and social get- together afterwards.

Thankfully, when it came to taking communion, we were asked to file past the priest and layman. Although my knee is quite mobile, I still find it a challenge kneeling on it.
Communion with a difference

I'd already been up for communion when I took this photo above. Sitting in the warm sunshine in a beautiful garden, I was reminded of Grant. In 2012, while we were touring London, he expressed the wish to take communion in St George's Cathedral. We visited this beautiful house of worship and read that there were several Eucharist Services in a given day.

I remember filing past the priest with hundreds of other communicants, partaking of the bread and wine.  Grant got his wish! 

Friday, July 21, 2023

And then she fell...

 Good morning, Blogger friends. Thank you for all the wonderful comments this week, I am up and running and blogging full steam ahead again. 

However, three months ago, I inflicted the worst ever inconvenience and pain on myself. On Wednesday morning, 5th April, I left the farm office at 11.15. Inside my cottage, I placed my phone and other paraphernalia on my desk, in readiness to do my online talks for the Virtual Weigh-Less Groups which I run worldwide. 

While doing this, I heard Nurse start the ride-on mower. I went outside and pulled the rolled-up hosepipe onto my veranda, to save Nurse having to do this.  As I turned around, my left foot hooked the hosepipe and I fell full length onto the concrete floor, landing on my right knee.

With me the glass is always half-full as opposed to half-empty. So telling myself this has not happened, I pushed myself into a standing position, using my arms. I promptly fell down again. My knee just wouldn't support me. Dragging my right leg behind me, I slithered indoors to my desk; I reached up for the little A-frame calendar and counted...I saw that I had four weeks and four days before flying out to Spain.

Then only did I pull my cell phone towards me. I rang my neighbor, Ron, who at a hair appointment in town, and who always answers her phone on loudspeaker, took my call. So, when I said (with hysteria in my voice) "Ron, I fell and hurt my knee; please come and help", within a short time, the whole town knew about my fall!

Using furniture to get around the house, I'd found Grant's hiking stick in a cupboard. When Ron arrived in my lounge, with her supporting me, and using the stick, I managed to hobble to her car. She took me straight to my doctor, 40km away. After he checked my knee, and pronounced that I had cracked the kneecap, he fit me a pair of crutches. He asked Ron to take me to Ladysmith hospital for X-rays.  As he was due to run his clinic in another village that afternoon, he asked us to return in the morning with the results. 

Bandaged by the doctor, I spent an anxious night worrying about my injury

The next morning, John and Ron loaded me into their car and took me back to the doctor. When he checked the X-ray on his computer screen, he confirmed that I had cracked my kneecap; not once, not twice, but THREE times! He made arrangements with an orthopedic surgeon in Hilton Life Hospital. He warned me not to eat anything as I would be undergoing surgery that evening. 

 Arriving at the hospital, Ron fetched a wheelchair and helped me into it. While she and John went the cafeteria to have lunch, a very friendly man arrived, introduced himself as my doctor and pushed me to his rooms down the passage. As we were traversing the corridors, I told him that I was due to go on holiday in four weeks - and now - three days' time. He promised me that I would make the trip in time!

Once all the admin for my medical plan was sorted out and my operation scheduled for 6.30, Ron and John came to greet me and left to drive back to the farm. It was the night before Good Friday, the Easter long weekend... I certainly chose my dates well😞

Later that evening, as I was wheeled into theatre, the anesthetist, theatre nurse, an assistant nurse preparing the theatre bed and the doctor, all chorused: You are going to Spain in four weeks! 

Waking up later, I felt no pain and when I checked my leg, I saw a beautifully bandaged knee.  Oh this isn't too bad, I thought.  


The next morning a young man arrived and proceeded to fit a brace to my leg. He showed me how to adjust it to be able to bend the knee when needed and when to tighten it. 

EISH! I know it was a whole lot better than a plaster cast and I am grateful this is the route my surgeon went with me. But oh WOW! This contraption was very uncomfortable, especially once I was home and trying to sleep. 

At first this seemed an object of torture, but ultimately it helped heal my knee 

After the surgeon visited me in the ward and explained what he had done to repair my knee, he said I could go home. Thinking of my four jobs and that three of these entail travel around the Valley, I asked the million-dollar question: when may I drive again. Fixing a stern eye on me, he said in SIX weeks' time!  He also said: "don't swing that leg"; use it carefully,  while wearing the brace; rest as much as possible; and with physio, in a month's time, I'd be able to bend the knee 90 degrees. 

 He summarily discharged me from hospital!

This time, my other neighbors, who were in the city that week, came to fetch me. Janine walked in with her future SIL, who qualified as a vet earlier this year, saying I've engaged the vet's help! Together they helped me into the wheelchair, and while Jer chatted to me, Janine collected my prescription from the hospital pharmacy. 

Back on the farm, Janine helped me to my room and told me to stay there for the long weekend! I needed no further encouragement:  I was exhausted after the trauma of the past three days; surgery the night before and the trip home. By now the knee area was throbbing with pain. Janine administered my pain meds.  She also said she'd bring me lunch and something for dinner.  After she'd left, Ron arrived, pulled up a chair and sat with me for a while asking about the op, and if she could make me tea or do anything for me. 

What friends...

And so ended the first lesson towards a month-long saga facing me, with several friends helping me run my businesses while being basically legless! 

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

A birthday gift...

 Good morning, dear Blogger friends. Although I'd known about this before Christmas, I kept it under wraps until I had confirmed the finer details with my generous benefactors.

In December last year, my sister, Rose and BIL, Pete offered me a trip to Spain, flight and all expenses paid, for my 70th. Not only that: knowing that I was arranging my birthday celebrations, Rose deposited a substantial amount of money into my bank account which helped towards the two parties I had. 

My beautiful sister, Rose 

I was 15 months old when Rose was born. And since that day, she and I have been as close as close can be. Even though for the past 23 years we have lived on different continents, with technology we still remain in contact on a bi-weekly basis. 

And... over the past six years that I've been forging a new life on my own, I always had the spiritual, emotional, and when I desperately needed it for surgery, financial support, from Rose and Pete. 

Early in March, I phoned Rose and together we decided on a date for me to visit. The departure date was to be 8th May. 

Mere South Africans mortals such as we are, need a Schengen Visa to visit Europe. Obtaining this is easier said than done! I applied online and was duly given an appointment in Durban on a specified date at an appointed time. There was a dire warning on the online application, that if I was late for the appointment, I would be turned away and have to start the whole process over again.  . 

Once again, in my trusty little car, and a file bulging with information on the passenger seat, I ventured onto the N3 and headed for the Spanish Embassy in the city center.  Here I need to interject I ALWAYS use GPS directions. This day I was directed to the correct street but in front of a Primary School. Starting my car again, I drove around the block only to be directed to the same address. Eventually I drove straight over a traffic light intersection where a young Indian gentleman was rattling a paper cup, begging for change. I stopped and said I would give him something if he showed me where the Schengen Visa offices were. Beckoning, he ran in front of me up the street and stopped at a parking bay. I parked and lo and behold: the Shengen Visa application offices were on my left. I tipped my helper handsomely and suggested that instead of begging, he should channel his energy into learning a skill, such as becoming a guide in the city! 

Only now did I think about my appointment and when I checked my watch, I saw I was 20 minutes late! Nevertheless, I intended to use my "vintage lady" guile and gain sympathy to keep my appointment! As I entered the small office a man and woman were deep in conversation with an efficient-looking clerk. I sat down as unobtrusively as possible and listened to the interchange. The gentleman, who seemed to be a businessman, was talking on behalf of the lady, who was obviously in his employ. 

After several minutes of dealing with this couple, the clerk suddenly looked up and asked me if I was there for an appointment. I said yes, to which she apologized profusely for having kept me waiting. 


Eventually the customers ahead of me were done and it was my turn. Still believing I'd been waiting; the clerk was most helpful. My forms were all in order; she took two photos with a Canon camera (remove earrings, glasses off, no smiling, please) and asked for my passport. After tapping my credit card on the card machine. she said my passport would be delivered to me (I stipulated my farm domicile) within 15 business days. There was no guarantee that the visa would be approved, and the cost would remain the same! 

I've applied for this visa before and was quite positive all would be in order. 
Elated at having completed the application process, in the lift down to the ground floor, I snapped a photo to commemorate the moment. 

This was Friday, the 31st of March. On Tuesday, the 18th of April, the courier arrived on the farm with a plastic envelope for Jo Hedges. Gavin, my neighbor, met the driver in the yard and as I was unable to walk**up there in a hurry, he signed for me and brought me my parcel. 

With my heart in my mouth, I opened the envelope, extracted my passport and flipped to the back page...

What a relief to have had my visa approved! 

(**see next post)

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

100th Parkrun

 Good morning, dear Blogger friends.  For those who have followed my blog for the past six years (since I moved to the Central Drakensberg) will know that in December 2016, Grant and I joined the newly formed Parkrun in Winterton. Grant became one of the regular tail walker volunteers.  I walked with our friend, Ant while we tried to better our time! 

After Grant's passing, I did three weeks of volunteering in his honor. In between I continued to walk my weekly 5km when work constraints permitted.(I was managing the Art Box for friends, Estelle and Steve at the time). During the winter of 2019, I was diagnosed with cancer. After successful surgery, I got back into Parkrun, reaching my 50th Parkrun in December 2019. During the ensuing months I reached 70 Parkruns. 

Lockdown April 2020 put paid to my job in retail as everything shut down. I was offered a position in the farm office, just across the lawn from my cottage. It also banned all sports and Parkrun was put on hold.

In October 2021 the Run Director asked me to join her and the two men who had been timing runners prior to Covid. We uploaded an app on our Smartphones and were ready to time parkrunners (and walkers) digitally from that weekend. 

I love numbers and statistics. In August 2022, I realized that I had reached 70 volunteering stints; I had stopped "Parkrunning/walking" at 70. My 70th birthday was approximately 30 weeks away.  With Skabby as my walking partner, I started on my quest to reach my 100th Parkrun milestone around the time of my 70th birthday, I started to walk the course again! 

At the Christmas eve walk, Skabby had developed a horrific hotspot ** so I stopped taking him along. The weather was terribly hot and even we humans were suffering out there. 

Training at the beginning of February, floods in mid-February, which caused Winterton Parkrun to be cancelled for the first time ever, and my Avon event at the beginning of March, meant I turned 70 but hadn't reached my 100th yet. 

Finally on Saturday 25th March, I was on the track and set out alone to do my hundredth Parkrun. Not far into the walk, I suddenly doubled over with severe chest pains. My friends Helen and Marelize were just behind me. Helen asked if she should accompany me back to the Waffle Hut. I shook my head, thinking IMAGINE having to turn back on this auspicious walk! 

As I stood up and relaxed, the chest pains subsided (turned out nothing serious, a rumbling ulcer😰) I started to walk with my two friends. On the last 400 meters, our photographer, Ann, was waiting to snap me

The ladies in blue and yellow. were instrumental in getting me to the finish line! 

Moi, after my 100th Parkrun achievement, with
Ezmarie, our Parkrun Director 

The two Run Directors congratulated me on my 100th and both said, "Now you can come back to volunteering! "

Don't miss the next post...

Note: ** Skabby is 100% healed. We will be going back to walking the Parkrun again during the cooler months. 

Monday, July 17, 2023

Avon awards in the city

 Good morning, dear Blogger friends. Thanks for the warm welcome back. 

My next event happened not long after my birthday week. As a top seller in Avon, I was invited to a special luncheon at a three-star hotel in Durban. Saturday, 4th March, (my 51st wedding anniversary, to boot), was IT.

Last year in June, I also attended a similar event but made the mistake of driving back to the farm that afternoon. Meaning I arrived home after dark! This year I arranged with dear Gill to stay over halfway - at her cottage in the retirement village. 

As always when I have an occasion looming, I think of what I am going to wear. I have an original saree which Grant bought in 2012, in India for me. I NEED someone to dress me in this glorious creation. While I was doing Weigh-Less training in Pietermaritzburg in February, I passed an Indian shop with several punjabs displayed on the dolls in the window. I tried one on; the young assistants were very helpful and convinced me to buy jewels to go with this lovely outfit. 

Leaving the farm at 6am...

Imagine Jo's trusty car in the lane on the left of this photo 

'The national road between Durban (on the East Coast Seaboard of South Africa) and Johannesburg, our largest city, is always a challenge. Especially to a farm granny like me. It teems with 18-wheeler trucks hurtling between these two cities. Add to this  impatienty driven,  privately owned SUV's who flash and hoot at little cars like I drive. However, as the sun rose, the glittery sequins on my outfit reflected on the ceiling of my car, cheering me no end. I LOVE BLING! 

Arriving safely at the venue, I asked a friendly doorman to take photos of me
Moi, wearing a punjab!

 met Londeka, my "upliner" for the first time at this event

As a Platimun Avon representitive, I was lauded on stage with several dozen other reps from Kwa Zulu Natal
We were treated to a five-course lunch, bubbly and a gift pack of cosmetics and the latest eau de parfums on the range

Selling Avon for the past five years has been a great source of income for me. Two years ago, Avon initiated a rewards system, which is just up my street. Wave a carrot (especially a financially coated carrot) in front of my nose, and I will go for the highest reward. 


Sunday, July 16, 2023

The gaps got bigger

 Hello dearest Blogger friends. Now it's been FIVE months since I posted here. Thank you dear Sandra (Madsnapper blog); Eileen and Donna for caring and asking where I was!

 Well, so much has happened in these months. I'll start at the beginning (or where I left off on my 70th birthday).  

That week, I treated 38 guests (most were my Weigh-Less members) to lunch at The Waffle Hut. On the invitation I'd asked guests to wear something quirky. One member had a string of beads wrapped around her wrist. Another was wearing two different sized hoop earrings. I love fascinators, so I topped off my black and white outfit with this elegant headpiece.

A retired Group Assistant of mine, Jill Atkinson was my EMCEE. Once everyone was seated, she welcomed all, including Angus, Amanda and three grandchildren.

 Jill then did a short quiz on "Who is Jo?". Not many of my members knew where I live. And even though I've led the Weigh-Less Winterton and Valley Groups for the past five years no-one knew that my name, Jo, is shortened from Johanna. But when Jill asked for the name of my trusted companion and watchdog, everyone shouted out: Skabby! 

Esme, my Afrikaans Group Leader, wished me on behalf of the Winterton members. Rene, in turn,wished me on behalf of the Champagne Valley members and  spoke a blessing over me, quoting: Numbers 6:24-26 - The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.

Angus, paying tribute to his mum!

Angus also did a tribute to his mom. Saying among other things, that you could drop me in the desert, and I would make a go of whatever it offered! Ironic, that we lived in the city of Khartoum, in the middle of the Nubian Desert, North Africa for two years...]

Di, the owner of Waffle Hut catered for my luncheon and her staff made this delicious birthday cake! 
With my three Bloemfontein grandies, Joel (13) Abby (ten) and Liam (eight) 

A wonderful celebration indeed! 

On the Friday of that week, I attended our Taigelates (exercise) class in the Champagne Valley. Afterwards, I was invited to breakfast with the other ladies. Estelle (before Covid, I managed the art shop for Estelle and Steve) had made me a personalized mug. It had a bankroll of notes inside!
Personalized mug filled with cash! 
The Taigelates class members

On the Saturday of my birthday week, I had a final party on the farm, hosted by my dear neighbors, Janine and Gavin. My Valley Weigh-Less Group Assistant helped me to cater for the 35 guests whom I'd invited. These included several of my members, but this time their spouses were also invited. I specifically invited all the people who supported me at Grant's memorial service way back in December 2017. A subtle addition was my cousin Shirley and her husband who farm in the area and a school friend, Gene, who was instrumental in getting me and Grant together way back in 1968! 

Here I asked a friend, Neil, who was the Probus Chairman (pre-Covid!), to EMCEE at my farm birthday celebrations. His opening quip was that I (Weigh-Less Group Leader) convinced him to do this job by offering him a slab of chocolate!  He introduced the three people I'd asked to say a word at my party: "Aunt" Gill, neighbor Janine and my brother, Phillip

Neil helped ensure that my party went off well.

Grant's 88-year-old aunt, Gill, related how she has known me since Grant introduced me (as a 16-year-old) to the family and subsequently how we married. Gill and I have remained friends over the years. She lives in a Howick retirement village near Pietermaritzburg. I previously posted how I stayed with her while I did the Weigh-Less training. Gill, a retired theatre sister, is an eloquent orator and has done eulogies for family who has passed on. After her talk at my birthday, someone asked her if she does that often. She replied: only at funerals!

From left: Aunt Gill, her DIL Gill! My brother, Phillip and my school friend, Gene

My brother, Phillip spoke about our family upbringing. He kindly also reiterated what Angus had said: that when I was widowed, he never heard me complain or shed a tear. I just dug in and made life work for me. I've had the added blessing of friends here in the Valley. 

Janine (right) checking on the food which was scrumptious.

I had a bespoke cake made by a master baker in the Champagne Valley. A four-layer mousse cake with white and dark chocolate decorations 
A tongue in the cheek slogan on the cake. Two minutes on the lips; a lifetime on the hips

Believe me, although I celebrated with a luncheon, breakfast and a party, with plenty to eat INCLUDING two delicious cakes, this will not happen again for at least another ten years! 

And so ended my week-long 70th birthday celebrations!