According to the old Julian calendar, the 1st of April was New Year’s Day before Pope Gregory XIII changed it to the 1st of January – thus the Gregorian calendar. Thought you could do with a bit of useless information. I choose to see April as a month of New Beginnings … sometimes good, sometimes not so good.
Twelve years ago my life became a boiling cauldron, spitting and bubbling away for what seemed like eons. That April, just after we arrived on the Island of Love, was one of the most soul grinding months I’ve ever experienced … but, that’s another story.
The bubbling and boiling cauldron kept bubbling and boiling for many years to come but I can now say that the fires underneath it have been extinguished and the surface is becoming like a still pond.
I set out on a journey at the beginning of March to seek out friends and family in South Africa, some of whom I have not seen since moving to Cyprus. It was an amazing journey … and probably the cheapest holiday I’ve ever had! No-one wanted me to pay for anything … which left me feeling indebted, but at the same time bursting with gratitude.
I started in Pretoria with my daughter, her husband and my grandson where I stayed for three nights. It gave me the opportunity to mend fences with my grandson who didn’t want to speak to his grandmother for more than two years. As that episode, like all the others, is in the past we shall say no more about that. What I do want to say is that I shall be eternally grateful for the opportunity to put things right. We still have a lot of talking to do but at least we are talking … Like every other grandma, I’m really proud of him and having met some of his buddies, I think they are OK; in fact, I’d say more than OK! They have a whole future in front of them and all I can do is wish that I can be part of it for a long time to come.
My only surviving brother turned 81 on the 11th March and for that occasion, I ‘co-piloted’ for my son-in-law as he and my daughter flew me up to one of the northern provinces now called Limpopo, to a mining town called Thabazimbe which translates as ‘mountain of iron’.
Don’t I just look the business?
For as long as I can remember I wanted to make a real connection with my brother but there being fourteen years between us, made it a bit difficult as I was always the ‘little sister’.
Doesn’t he look just adorable?
However, this time was so different and so much better than I could have hoped for. We spent hours together as we went through old photographs and discussed things that deeply affected him for many years. He drove me around town and buggied me all around the golf course where he has been playing for many years – and still does! Again, my heart filled with gratitude that we have had the opportunity to come that much closer. I fully and absolutely believe that we are going to continue our conversations in the future and that will bring me such joy.
My next stop, to which my beloved brother drove me 2 hours each way …was with a long-time friend who lost her second husband six years ago.
Lee is an exceptional person, a retired psychologist who worked in the world of addiction for many years. She lives on the lakeside of a large reservoir called Hartebeespoort Dam and while there, she asked if there was something special I would like to do during my visit. What a question!
It suddenly dawned on me that there was one person I have been wanting to meet for the last 35 years; Margaret Roberts started her herb centre around that time and I followed her through magazine articles and radio broadcasts but never got around to going to the herb centre. And here was that golden opportunity as we were a stone’s throw away. As it happened, the herb centre open for the public on … Wednesdays and this happened to be one of those.
That day will remain in my mind as fresh as the herbs and flowers and fairies that we encountered. Mrs. Roberts spent – unbelievable as this may sound – more than two hours talking to us and she made me promise to stay in contact.
Well, that was an easy promise to make as we both felt that we go back many lifetimes. Needless to say, she re-inspired me to make my garden into that Eden I have always wanted it to be. I’m hoping to open it to the public in about 18 months’ time, together with putting an art exhibition together. And yes, there will be a fairy garden once again. However, things may change at a moment’s notice … watch this space!
Lee spoiled me even further by taking me to dinner at Stef’s Table – a really intimate restaurant run by Stefan and Athlone, the latter being an artist who works extensively in stained glass. What fabulous work! I was again favoured by the gods as I was shown Athlone’s workshop – a rear treat! Stef’s food is not done justice by calling it just food – it’s fit for the gods!
The cable car system was replaced a couple of years ago and when you see the old wheel, your heart would stop … it was made of wood and looked infinitely fragile! The new system is ultra modern and provided me with yet another grand experience long desired.
From Lee’s place, I moved to the other side of the lake to two dear friends who live on a golfing estate designed by Jack Nicklaus, called Pecanwood. Lee stayed for dinner and we all enjoyed a lovely meal of salmon, potato chips and salad with good wine in abundance. And there was ice-cream to follow! Lee was made aware of the theatre club as well as the gardening club in the area, something she had been looking for. And again, the fact that there are no coincidences triumphed.
Once again, I was made so exceptionally welcome by Penny and Keith and my stay included a trip to the theatre – something I haven’t done since Donald and I went to Drury Lane to see Miss Saigon. Really good farce called “Don’t dress for dinner”. On Sunday morning, my host and hostess went to the cricket at Wanderers and dropped me off at another friend’s home in Bedfordview. She and her husband, John, did a trip a few years ago which left us all breathless as we followed them from … Cape to Cairo and beyond. They did it in a vehicle they nicknamed The Beast … and I had the honour to meet this glorious beast! This tiny woman is a bundle of fire and determination – do not take her lightly!
Marina lost her husband a mere six weeks after I lost mine and we have all been rather close for many years. That Sunday happened to be exactly six months since John drowned in a diving accident off the coast of Scotland and the Monday was to be their 25th wedding anniversary. I wanted to be with her at that time and we spent hours just talking non-stop. I hope I helped to make those two days easier for her.
We had these few days to ourselves and we cried while watching “The Notebook” and laughed while watching “Something’s got to give”. We topped that with watching “Mama Mia” – again – and sang along, remembering all those old songs when we were so much younger and happier. Since John passed away, Marina had to fight all sorts of demons including two human ones – she really didn’t deserve that! However, she is a strong person and I’m sure she will win through in the end as she has goodness on her side. The Light usually overpowers the Dark. We also used a little retail therapy for comfort …
When planning my itinerary, I made provision to stay in a hotel near the shopping mall where I used to work before getting married in 1987, so that I could entertain other friends. It was wonderful to walk the halls of opulence once again, drooling over the window displays, sniffing the expensive perfume wafting from boutiques and admiring the well-dressed people going about their business of becoming even more beautiful and well dressed.
Once again, the Universe arranged a meeting between Sandy Barnes and myself as he and Thelma were in Johannesburg for one day only, picking up supplies for their home-building project many miles away on their farm in the Free State. He had a window of about one hour during which we could meet and … talk! How great was that?
That evening I spent happy hour with Graham and Vivienne, who had forgiven me for waking her up before 10.00 a.m. Oops! I was not aware of the ‘rule’ so, once again, sorry, Vivienne! It was great seeing them again and I had to promise that next time I’m in Johannesburg, I would spend time with them at Tara, their fantabulous home in Saxonwold. No problem – it would be my indulgence.
My last day in Johannesburg was spent meeting my daughter off the train from Pretoria for more retail therapy at the shopping mall and meeting my financial advisor for lunch. Brilliant company, good food and once again … no paying! What bliss …
The Gautrain, I must mention, is ultra-modern and was completed in time for the Soccer World Cup in 2010 – certainly worth trying it out which I did in the afternoon, going back to Pretoria for my final leg of my grand tour. Very impressive!
The following day was spent watching my daughter and her helpers prepare for the big cup-cake-fest; it was graduation day for the students who attended her sewing school. Joey, my daughter, is teetering on the brink of being a perfectionist to say the least. Just have a look at these photographs of the storeroom … am I right? I’m so proud of her!
More time was spent meeting my grandson’s friends and feasting around tables laden with exceptional goodies. The young ones made us old ones feel young again as they laughed and joked. Great, great times spent with my loved ones.
To put the cherry on top of my journey, a sewing lesson was arranged with the people who supplied my sewing machine 13 years ago; I never had the time to take that lesson before packing the machine for the journey to Cyprus! I’m so glad I could get this lesson in as it opened up all kinds of doors …
Not only am I going to create lovely things to wear but also wonderful things to pick out of my garden, the vegetable patch to be created and, oh … don’t forget the paintings and the fairy tales to be illustrated! Lots and lots of plans and ideas for this new phase in my life.
I am so full of gratitude for each and every person who made this sojourn so very special; I shall remember it for the rest of my life and build on what I have learned from all of you. Once again, thank you – from the bottom of my heart, soul and being.
until next time.
(Image drawn from the internet – unable to credit the artist/photographer – but with great thanks for a lovely picture!)