The First Lady, the model and the cord

8 the plu

What would you do? Proceed with a case, which could possibly carry on for years? Or complete a blank cheque and move on?


This could easily be the title of a crime novel, or a badly written comedy. It just sounds, well, bizarre. If you don’t know what I am referring to, it is probably because you have been lucky enough to be on holiday somewhere where there is very little media coverage or cellphone signal. Not only has this story been dominating the *news and social media locally, but it is all over the international newspapers too. Even as far as **Australia – I kid you not.


There are many questions around the incident. Why was Grace Mugabe concerned over whom her sons socialise with? How did Grace Mugabe get access to a hotel room with restricted access? Where were the sons at that stage? Were both girls being attacked or just one of them? Etc., etc.….. Afriform, in the form of Gerrie Nel, have offered their services to Gabriella Engels, the 20-year-old model, who was attacked. Kallie Kriel from Afriform was quoted saying;

“Through my discussions she had just met them. This is the kind of thing I think we should fight. It falls in the same category as when people say a woman was raped because of the clothes she wore.”

Afriform is expecting the trial to start within the next three months.


And then another interesting thing happened. Gabriella Engels was offered a blank cheque…. For everything to just go away. How tempting must that have been? Because let’s face it, no one knows what the outcome of a possible court case is going to be. Will our president really allow his friends’ wife to go to jail? Or somewhere someone is going to find a loophole, a reason, why Grace Mugabe cannot be prosecuted. This is risky business. This opened a very interesting discussion on 702 this morning and I always find people’s opinions fascinating. The public court always has many views.

“She needs to settle”

“Lawyers are expensive and this is going to be very traumatic for her.”

“People in power should not get away with crime.”

“Gabriella is damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t.”

“She should ask for a huge amount and insist on a public apology from Grace Mugabe.”

“Accepting money will not make her forget what has happened to her.”

“Her mother is putting pressure on her to pursue the case. She should be given time to decide what she wants to do.”


It made me wonder what I would do if I was in her shoes. A 20-year old girl who has her whole life ahead of her. Who works in an industry where today you could be the most sought after, and tomorrow your portfolio is at the bottom of the pile. Whose life is going to be dissected by top lawyers who will be out to prove that you are not the victim? Paparazzi cameras constantly shoved in your face, and for months, you belong to the public. There could even be death threats, little accidents happening to your family members, friends and family turning against you. Or siding with you because they want their pound of flesh.


At the age of 20 I would seriously consider taking that cheque, writing down a ridiculous amount in dollars and go on a long vacation until the dust has settled. How awesome could her life be! She could fix her face by a top plastic surgeon, get a personal trainer, start her own modeling agency, pay magazines to use her in their photo shoots, take acting lessons, buy a house and a cute cabriolet. Write a book about her ordeal, start a charity for abused women, host her own talkshow. The possibilities are quite endless.


But this has become a high profile case now. This is not just some girl, who was attacked by a mommy’s boys’ crazy mother, in a 3* hotel in Bloemfontein. This is a full scale battle. The victim and her lawyers want to prove that a highly connected person is not above the law. They want to make a point of showing the world that even a first lady will not get away with a crime, and that no amount of money or contacts, is going to get her out of this mess.


Because of the international coverage of this incident, Gabriella Engels now has to do “the right thing” and fight this tooth and nail. She will be crucified by the press and social media if she does otherwise. And she has to fight this not only for herself, but for all woman out there how suffer under the hands of violence.


So my question to you remains – what would you do?





The Elusive Bandit

7 - The bandit

Are you the time square bandit at Jacaranda FM?


Jip, I was one of those hopefuls who went to that morning’s location. And whilst driving there, I rehearsed those very importing lines.   Because if you don’t say it right, you simply cannot win. And you could actually be standing right in front of that bandit not evening knowing it!  One word wrong or in the wrong order, and he/she would simply just deny it was him/her…..


When I got to Delta Park I first rushed to the bird sanctuary car park. And stood and watched. There were a few people scattered around, some with earphones in their ears listening out for the clues. But something didn’t feel right. Twitter then convinced that me that I was indeed in the wrong spot, as the next photo was taken at the entrance of the Environmental Centre. Which is on the opposite side of the park. Where I then rushed. What was the chance that he would actually still be there, was my first thought. With a bounty of R45,000 on his head, he would certainly not make it easy for anyone to find him? As I got out of my car, walking to the entrance I realised my next dilemma – I simply had no flipping clue what the bandit looks like! Is he young or old, Chinese, White or Indian? Is he alone or hanging around with a dog or a friend? Will he be wearing a tracksuit, to blend in with the rest of the walkers and runners or will he stand out like a sore thumb wearing a Charlie Chaplin suit? Was he hiding in between the tall shrubs at the bottom of the entrance or was he simply out in the open fidgeting on his cellphone?


And then came the third dilemma – I had to now go up to strangers, tap them on the shoulder (I think?) and recite the rhyme.

“Are you the time square bandit with Jacaranda FM?”

Oh my soul, this was truly testing the limits of my shyness. I eventually did do it a few times; after all, you’ve got to be in it to win it. At one stage a little car drove past me and stopped a few meters away. In passing, I saw a big computer bag in the back seat of the car.  One is not allowed to approach someone in a vehicle, so I couldn’t go and ask. He was waiting for someone. Within seconds a girl got in and off they went. And I am still wondering if there is any chance of one of them being the bandit. It frustrates me that I would just never know!


I still lingered for about fifteen minutes, walking and watching. R45,000 is certainly not to be sneezed at; it was 50% of a Mauritius holiday paid for!   It was quite entertaining too to watch fellow hopefuls walking up and down, some even running towards certain areas, clearly convinced they cracked the clue. There was a woman in stilettos jogging up and down the road in front of the Environmental Centre, cellphone in her hand, frantically looking left and right. Another guy with a beard and longish brown hair, with a camera bag over his one shoulder, kept being harassed by strangers. Eventually he asked me what was going on cause people kept asking him something about a bandit! I overheard two girls discussing the next clue, which was the sighting of a birds’ nest and I figured the bandit had probably relocated to another side of the park. In the car park two elderly walkers were sharing what they thought were clues of what the bandit looked like, with anyone willing to listen.


Once the trimming of the grass started giving me the sneezes and reminded me of the sinus headache I had had on and off since Saturday, I decided to give up. No family bush weekend at Kwa Maritane, no new Adidas trainers, no Holiday on Ice tickets, no laminate floors for the spare room. Just me and the physiotherapist and her bill afterwards. Sigh…..


The bandit was found that morning, by the way. At Emmerentia Park.

If you read this….

6 - Crime novels

Science fiction? Romance? Crime? Action and Adventure? Autobiographies? Which one do you prefer?


After struggling through the first few pages of a Jojo Moyes novel, it wasn’t long before it was covered in a thin layer of white dust on my bedside table. I realised that I am just not a romance novel person. Maybe twice a year? Cause let’s face it, sometimes one does need a break from one’s usual genre..  And Jojo Moyes would then be my first choice for that “scenery change”.  But the time was obviously not right yet!  In my twenties I was obviously more of a romantic. I loved Danielle Steel, Nora Roberts, Lesley Pearse, Ena Murray, Maretha Maartens. Jackie Collins for glamour and glitz and Jodi Picoult was for something a bit more controversial and serious.  These were the novels where young girls’ dreams started.  And yes, of course I could see my 20-something year old self running off into the sunset with a hunky doctor or a wealthy entrepreneur.  Driving a red Ferrari, owning a holiday home on the French Riviera, summer months living in a Hyde Park apartment, dinners with celeb chefs and famous photographers, going to exclusive night clubs with famous popstars and, at the same time, being a magazine columnist wearing designer jeans with brightly coloured Manolo Blahnik heels.   Ahhhh, how I got transported from my bedroom in my parents’ house to the streets of New York, Paris and London.


So which authors’ books fill my bookcase these days? James Patterson and the Women’s Murder Club series. Four friends regularly meet up to talk about a murder or two being investigated. They share clues and discuss theories while dining and drinking Marguerita’s at their favourite Mexican restaurant. The stories about their personal lives and challenges, makes it feel like you could easily be the fifth friend sitting at their table at Susie’s in San Francisco.

Peter James’ series featuring main character DS Roy Grace, takes place in the seaside town of Brighton. His life is certainly not boring and while solving murders, he continuously ponders the disappearance of his wife Sandy. As the series progresses, you find out that she ran away when she found out that she was pregnant. But Roy does not know this….


I find that my favourite female crime novelists are a lot more explanatory and surprisingly graphic than their male counterparts. Karin Slaughter pulls no punches. Her website states “stories that get under your skin.” And that is not an understatement. The murders are brutal, chilling, disturbing. To such a point that I sometimes have to catch a breather after a hectic chapter, just to slow down my heart rate! Martina Cole writes about the gangs that rule the East End of London. She lets many “f-bombs” drop, writes about child molestation, affairs, betrayal, paedophiles and prostitution. Ruth Rendell, Chris Carter, Michael Connelly, Jo Nesbo, Tony Park, Chris Karsten, Wilbur Smith, Michael Robotham. The list can go on forever.


My latest read is a true life story, which shockingly (and sad) reads like a novel.

“If you are reading this, then I am dead.”

A confession to a murder in the form of a letter, found under a carpet in a house in Kenilworth, Johannesburg. A cold case re-opened after 12 years – lies, abduction, excavations, secret recordings, private investigators, handwriting experts, missing files. The biggest challenge however was that this was to become a murder trial without a body. The author takes the reader on a journey into the real world. Where getting hold of DNA is not as simple as it seems on CSI.  Where people continue to lie or conveniently forget the names of roads or forget that they were actually friends with certain characters significant to the trial. Where investigators work tirelessly at the risk of their personal relationships. Where vital evidence like paper hospital records were destroyed years ago and possible eye witnesses just cannot remember what happened over a decade ago on a busy road where white men tried to bundle a black woman into a car. Where there are no tearful confessions or revelations. Where family members eventually get closure, but never find out why an ordinary woman, called Betty Ketani,  a cook at a popular Rosebank restaurant, was murdered. The book is called Cold Case confession, by journalist Alex Eliseev. In my opinion, a must read on any “crime reader’s” wishlist.


What is it that attracts us to certain genres? And what does this say about us? What does my fancy for crime novels say about me? I did some research because I was really hoping that my love for crime novels doesn’t mean I am some undercover crazy psychopath. One article summed it up quite nicely and at least confirmed that I was still, well, normal. Not many of us have the inclination to be a policeman, serial killer, drug lord or gangster, but we are intrigued by these people and novels take us to the core of these people’s lives. Due to the accessibility of social media, we are exposed to stories of kidnappings, murders and terrorism on a constant basis. But we rarely know the intricate details of these stories and crime writers fill the gaps for us.  And fortunately, in most of these novels, the bad guy is caught by Karma eventually.  Whether he/she dies at the hands of a policeman’s gun, being strangled by a rival, buried alive or just goes to jail, the satisfactory ending leaves us with a feeling of hope and that justice has been served.


Because let’s face it – “…the danger and thrill of the chase is undeniably ‘cool’.” (quote)



Happy Mother’s Day

5 Mothers day

Is there anything specific you would like for Mother’s Day?


It is one of those days that many people immediately complain about –

Just a money making scheme

You should spoil your mom whenever you feel like it and not only on Mother’s Day

The whole thing is so commercialised

Of course there is truth in this. Walk into Woolies and there they are; the big curly-swirly signs announcing that Mother’s Day is on the 14th May. And that you could spoil that special mom of yours with pink slippers, a fluffy (and very expensive) gown, or buy-2-and-save-25%-Minnie-Mouse-fleece pajamas. Red Square has 25% off on all their fragrances and has huge discounts on coffee filters, food steamers and fitness goodies. And yes, I then jumped on the bandwagon too by advertising my tissue boxes, trinket boxes and discounted, personalised shopping bags. Because let’s face it, us moms have more than enough bubblebath and body creams and as much as we love chocolates we could do without!


The idea of Mother’s Day didn’t just fall out of the sky –

“The modern holiday of Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother at St Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. St Andrew’s Methodist Church now holds the International Mother’s Day Shrine.[6] Her campaign to make “Mother’s Day” a recognized holiday in the United States began in 1905, the year her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, died. Ann Jarvis had been a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War, and created Mother’s Day Work Clubs to address public health issues. Anna Jarvis wanted to honor her mother by continuing the work she started and to set aside a day to honor all mothers because she believed that they were “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world”. Thank you, Wikipedia x


I must admit, I love these “commercialised” days.  It gives us an ideal opportunity to spoil and thank our moms, who, at the best of times, we take for granted. We expect them to just always be there for us, because that is what mothers do, right? And there is nothing quite as special as giving a gift that is carefully thought through and chosen, and to then see the happiness on that person’s face when they receive it.


So what do I want for Mother’s Day? I suggested to Andries that he take the girls to Clicks, and let them pick a handful of items they think I would like. I am really looking forward to seeing what the three of them came up with!


To all the mothers out there – whether you are single, divorced, happily married, young or old – happy mother’s day. And treasure those handmade cards and hugs and kisses you will be receiving.


And pretend to absolutely LOVE that cold mug of tea that is brought to you in bed.

Class of 93


How many of you attended your high school reunions?


I read in a magazine once that your 10year reunion is usually the “show-off” one. Everyone shows off their other halves, they brag about their jobs, and purely by chance they mention the car they drive and where they went on their last holiday. A simple spit-braai that turns into a huge contest, while the men are downing shooters and the ladies are discussing those who are not in their circle of conversation at that given moment.

“My wife is a fitness instructor”.

“My husband is an architect”.

“We got married in Mauritius, an intimate ceremony with only 200 guests.” “Yes, we live in Bryanston”.

“We have just returned from a 3-week Mediterranean cruise”.

“My BMW 3 series has so much power that the cops couldn’t catch me on the N1 the other night”.

It is all about showing your old classmates how successful you have become since leaving school. That you are no longer that 2-meter slightly awkward beanpole, but that you have actually become quite muscular and attractive. Or that you have replaced your nerdy glassed with contact lenses and lost your plumpness since you started cycling. It is of course also an opportunity to rekindle friendships and maybe even a relationship that broke up as people grew in different directions.


Then, 20 years one, as everyone is heading towards the dreaded 40, the picture is slightly different. The beer bellies are out, and frankly, they don’t care that they are no longer driving that sporty BMW. A double cab Toyota is way more suitable for their changed lifestyle and their growing families. Some arrive newly single, or with a second wife or a friend. And instead of bragging about themselves and their successes, the focus changes to their offspring and their achievements. Karate champions, provincial netball players, rugby captains and little beauty queens. And the cellphones are full of pictures of their amazing kids. Parents living their dreams through their children.


I unfortunately cannot talk from experience, as I have never been to any of my school reunions. I was in three different high schools, and no, not because I was a menace or I was expelled! In five years we moved from Vereeniging to Kimberley to Vanderbijlpark. As far as I know at least two of my 1993 matric groups had 10-year reunions. Living in the UK at the time, I wasn’t able to attend any of these. 20 years on, two of my schools did have reunions, and yes, I contemplated attending both. Mainly because I am FOMO (fear of missing out), and extremely inquisitive and interested in people. But I then looked for every justifiable excuse imaginable, not to go. To either reunion.

The truth is, that firstly, I truly believed that no one would even remember me. Imagine arriving at your school reunion, introducing yourself to people you remember and they just look at you blankly?

I use to sit behind you in Biology and you regulary slipped me answers? And in the holiday winter school we were part of the same group who went to Spur instead of attending extra Maths class.”

“No sorry, I don’t remember that.”

I would rather die a thousand deaths! SecondIy, I get quite anxious at the idea of going to places by myself and not having anyone to talk to. There is an Afrikaans phrase “sy staan daar soos ‘n muurblommetjie”. And that has always been one of my biggest “phobias”. Being this “sad case” person, awkwardly standing against a wall, hoping someone would pluck up the courage to talk to her, or ask her for a dance.   Even today, I will never attend a party or a function if I did not know that there would at least bone person I knew and that I could chat to.


For many years, I did however have these visions of going to my reunion facing the girls who were nasty or the boys that never returned my affections. Imaging myself as this butterfly who escaped her cocoon before entering adult world. I few years ago, working as a receptionist at a private hospital, an old school acquaintance crossed my path. He brought an injured colleague in from a nearby building site. VB was one of the cool boys, who looked up his nose at my friends and me. And there he was, standing in front of me, with dusty clothes and dirty fingernails. I was my usual friendly self, without making too much of a fuss. While he was so obviously flirting with me, asking me where I lived, etc. And I was like “seriously, four years ago you didn’t even know me and now you want to know where I live?” Giving him the cold shoulder, made me feel like I at least got my own back in a tiny way!


Recently, after an old high school acquaintance passed away, a school whatsapp groups was formed and stories and photos are shared on a regular basis. We talk about our current lives, our kids, our holidays and we even ask for advice about school speeches and marketing our businesses. I wasn’t in matric with this group, and part of me wish I was. I never had that sense of belonging in my matric year. That feeling of being part of a special group of young people. It sounds like they share fond memories and formed special bonds. The whatsapp banter amongst everyone is light hearted and there is a sense of camaraderie between most members of the group. I do wonder though if the bond is also part of the 40somethings within us that crave to be those teenagers whose biggest worry was passing an English Romeo and Juliet exam or getting a date for the matric farewell? Oh to be those young adults again!


So what are your fond, funny or memorable reunion stories?

Their future is bright


Why is it such a big deal to get your child into the “right” high school?


Will School A further my child’s aspirations in becoming a  Protea cricket player?  Will School B ensure my child gets the best matric results?  Will School C enable my child to study in England?  My parents did not have these issues back in the 90’s. We lived in Arcon Park, a leafy suburb in Vereeniging. The Afrikaans high school in our area was Hoërskool Overvaal. And that’s where I went – it was as simple as that. There weren’t any Marketing strategies by the various high schools to visit the primary schools in order to get the best academic students or sportsmen. They were all pretty similar and one didn’t stand out above the rest.  The best the Vereeniging high schools had to offer, were things like an outdoor swimming pool, music as an additional subject or boarding facilities.  Provincial rugby coaches, astro turf hockey fields, epic theatre productions, overseas school tours. Those were all foreign concepts to most parents of 20th century teenagers! And certainly not on offer in small Transvaal schools.


Maybe, living in Johannesburg, we are just so spoilt for choice? Too spoilt. And that is why we are so unsure and confused and why we are constantly fretting about which school would be best for óúr nearly teenagers. Like most of my friends, I have been to a few high school open days. And most of them are obviously keen to impress and to attract the best caliber child to their school. A friend, whose daughter went from private primary school to government high school, confidently tells me that private high school is a waste of money. That there are still some excellent government schools out there, you just have to find them and of course find ways to secure your child being accepted there.


And let’s face it, how many of us knew, at the age of 11 and 12 what career path we were going to take? Throughout my school career I had dreams about being an actress, journalist, gymnastics coach, hotel manager, beauty therapist, clothing designer. The choices varied tremendously! And, as you can imagine, subject choices didn’t come easy because I didn’t know what type of adult I wanted to be. I admired people like Michelle Bruce and Annie Malan and Ena Murray. What did that say about me back then? I don’t know….I did know however I was never going to be an engineer or a teacher or a computer programmer, so why I suffered through the agony of Maths and Maths extra classes, is a mystery. I believe there is however a small amount of young people who know exactly what they want to be and pursue that from a young age. And that makes high school and subject choices just a little easier.


I hear of schools who put a lot of pressure on academics and wonder if that is really what I want for my children? What is it that I want for my 11year old daughter who, in 2019, will start a huge chapter in her young life? High school. I want balance for her. I want her to feel she fits in somewhere and that it is OK if you are not the most popular, coolest or richest. I want her to experience there will always be families better off than us, but there will also be families a lot worse off than us too. I want her to experience life and different cultures and to explore different activities.  And by getting exposed to all these different things, find her passions.


Thank goodness high school is only in 2019. Good luck with your choices!

Civvies, teenagers and rules

4 - Civvies day.jpg

Are certain school rules unrealistic and dated?


A mini drama has unfolded on social media. Picture this – A pretty matric girl dressed in a skinny jean, and a burgundy halter neck top. Her long hair is in a loose bun and she is wearing flat sandals. She looks like most teenagers on their way to a movie or a shopping trip with their moms. Walking past her in a Mall, you might glance at her because she looks pretty, or you like her jeans or the style of her fashionable top. It all sounds pretty…. uhm, normal, doesn’t it? Not like her butt cheeks are hanging out under a pair of ripped denim shorts, or a see-through top is leaving nothing to the imagination? Nothing scandalous at all? So what is the drama all about?


The issue was that this young girl was not going to a movie with friends or shopping with her mom. She was dressed for a civvie day at her private senior school. According to reports, the school is very specific, and strict about what attire is allowed on civvie days. And this girl’s top was classified as “inappropriate”. And the local newspaper states that the head mistress said her outfit was offensive. The comment was also made that there were male staff and boys around. Implying what? That the males on campus would be lead on by her? Get “aroused” by the way she was dressed? I am wondering if there is a formal document around rules for civvies day. A document that needs to be signed by each student acknowledging that they understand the rules. Each family has different rules – we all have our own values and those are the values we instill on our children. And what is unacceptable by one group, could be acceptable to another.


It made me wonder if there is a formal guideline document like this at our school? I don’t actually know? (For bullying there certainly is)  I do know however that girls are not allowed for example, to wear make-up, or wear very short shorts on civvies days. The reason for the last mentioned, is pretty obvious. I guess I am lucky in the sense that I have an 11-year old tweenie who would rather hide her body than put it on show. So revealing, runway type clothing, is not part of her wardrobe anyway. Her Valentine’s civvie day outfit was a pair of above-the-knee denim shorts, a flowy red top finished off with gladiator sandals.  And that very Valentine’s morning she still had a wardrobe crisis because in her opinion her new shirt was too tight.  Which it really wasn’t.


This drama made me think back, over 20 years ago to be more specific, of the rules we had as teenage school girls. No make-up, no highlights, no clear nailpolish or long nails. Not even nailpolish on your toenails which are permanently in black school shoes or sports tekkies anyway. One earing in each ear, no necklaces or bracelets. Did we like these rules? Hell no! Did we follow the rules? Hell yes! Why? I don’t know. Out of fear? Out of respect? Or was it purely the times we grew up in? Our parents didn’t question the rules at schools. And as teenagers we didn’t have a say in anything. There wasn’t room, or opportunity for debate or negotiation. We had to be seen, not heard. We were encouraged to follow, not lead. Those who had opinions were cheeky and defiant. Labeled as troublemakers and rebels.


But what is YOUR opinion?


It would be unfair of me me asking your opinion, without stating mine of course. I think this situation has been blown out of proportion, by the media, and by social media where everyone has an opinion. The remarks on the school’s facebook page vary from rude, out of order, to funny and tongue-in-the-cheek.  Rules are there to protect and if you don’t like the rules of an institution you challenge them from the beginning, or choose to leave. Mentioning the presence of male staff was not a very clever move, because it implies that the male staff and male pupils cannot control themselves and if something should happen, they could not be held responsible for their actions or comments. The girl was offered an oversized, white t-shirt which she tied at the back. Why did she tie it at the back? Because it was too big or because she was trying to make a point or be cheeky? Who knows….


If this was MY child, how would I react? I would probably also be very angry. Humiliated even. Would I have vented on social media and post pictures of my daughter in her outfit? Maybe?  OK, to protect my daughter, probably not.


I guess this is an educational opportunity for all parents with tweeny or teenage children!

Be my Valentine


3 -Q and Q blog1.jpg

Why do we make such a fuss of Valentine’s day?


Why not? I would counter question. Yes, it is a commercial “foefie” and yes, there are people who go totally overboard with expensive jewellery, hot airballoon trips, spa days, kilograms of chocolates and overpriced bunches of roses.


Even at school the kids were celebrating Valentine’s day – wearing red and pink and treating their teachers to little gifts of handpicked flowers, home made biscuits or creamy chocolates. It was so heartwarming to see all these innocent little ones, dressed in their Sunday school best, hugging their friends and excitedly discussing each others’ outfits. Cailin even got a little teddy bear in a gift bag, from a not-so-secret-admirer. She just wants to be friends, but the poor boy lives in hope….


Valentines’ day gives you an opportunity to show the one you love, that you really do value them. That they fill a special place in your heart and in your life. Because, let’s face it, we take each other for granted at the best of times. And, from my own experience, husband and wife have two different lives during the week. While I am doing grocery shopping, sorting washing, planning dinner, running errands and being “mom’s taxi”, my husband is managing staff, attending meetings and planning budgets. In some ways our lives are worlds apart and at the end of each day, we have to bury our stresses till the next morning. So we are a bit like passing ships in the night.


In my single days Valentine’s day, for obvious reasons, had a very different “feel” to it. In high school, on the morning of Valentine’s day, we would post a Valentine’s card in a cardboard postbox placed in front of the hall. Throughout the course of the morning, these cards (and little gifts) would be delivered to our classes. Sadly, I remember the total disappointment and disbelieve, when, on many occasions, I got nothing. No anonymous card decorated with red hearts, no red foil wrapped chocolate heart, no fancy fabric rose or pink helium balloon.   It was of course even worse when my best friend broke the record for most cards received in our class. Nothing like feeling like the ugly step sister. Oh boy, life and love can be so cruel.


At least as I got older, Valentine’s day became a lot more exciting. The days when little gestures were oh so romantic! A handwritten note with a white teddy bear left on someone’s desk, a fresh rose delivered via a friend. And then the overwhelming joy of actually receiving something! The disbelieve when the guy you had your eye on actually likes you back.   Or the knot in your stomach when the bunch of flowers is signed by “an admirer.” And finally, when you find the person who is your person, there are candelight dinners and romantic movies with popcorn and slush puppies. Cards are exchanged with words of undying love and ever after commitment. The stuff fairy tales are made of. And you don’t mind paying for overpriced roses or fancy restaurants.


Now that the girls are old enough to also understand Valentine’s day, it is so much fun celebrating this day of love with them. It is also important for them to see that their parents love each other and spoil each other. But they also need to realise that it is important for mom and dad to spend some time as a couple too, as that is what they were before they had you! So last night, we had a family dinner, with chocolates and candles and fancy cutlery. Before kissing them goodbye to go off to the theatre.


Out on a school night? Such rebels.

Moving on


Why does it hurt so much? When people move on.


The reality is that at some point, all of us do.   Whether it is changing jobs, moving to a new country, getting divorced, starting a new hobby, buying a motorbike. Change is inevitable and at the best of times we don’t even know when that opportunity for change is going to come our way. Sometimes it comes suddenly and you have to make quick decisions and trust that your 6th sense is guiding you in the right direction. Other times it is something that you see in your distant future and when it gradually comes closer and closer, you make well thought through decisions and still have time to change direction.


Many moons ago, 2001, to be exact, we met our very good friends, James and Judy. Living opposite each other in a block of flats next to the Thameslink railway, we became friends who spent nearly every weekend together. Being South African too, there was already a connection. Missing our friends and family back home, and going through tough times in a foreign country, having friends like them was like an anchor in a stormy sea. But three years later their Australian visas were granted and we had to say goodbye. Driving back home from Heathrow airport, my heart was in a thousand shattered pieces. I realised that was what it must feel when someone close to you passes away. A feeling of utter loneliness, sadness and a tumbledrier of mixed emotions. I could not stop crying – our friends were starting a new life without us. Part of me was so angry too – did our friendship mean so little to them that it was so easy for them to leave us? Which was of course very stupid of me. And totally irrational. It was also the reality that we would have to start all over again, and look for new friends.


Returning to South Africa in 2009, was never an easy transition either. Our old friends had moved on and again, we had to build new friendships. It takes time and doesn’t happen overnight. But Yolande and I bonded instantly, our 2year olds, being friends at nursery school. Even though we lived quite far away from each other, we had weekly pizza-and-wine playdates and we shared secrets, tears of joy and sadness and had many memorable moments. When she therefore gave me the news, in 2013, that they were moving to Cape Town, it felt like a part of me had died. There was that awful feeling AGAIN! One of indescribable loss and a sadness I was convinced would never ever go away. No more Friday afternoon playdates, or a quick cup of coffee at Heathway Centre. My word, I don’t know how many tissue boxes I emptied.


Sara moved back to the UK at the end of last year, we all knew it was going to happen eventually. It doesn’t make the goodbyes easier or less painful. Laura moved her son to another school, which was also going to happen at some point. But I expected that to happen next year rather than within two days! When I arrive at school, I subconsciously still find myself looking out for their cars. AON1 and FB registration plates. And then my heart feels just a little bit heavy knowing I won’t see them there anymore. No more quick chats at collection time or cheering together at sports days.


Over the years I have realised that I cannot replace these friends with others. Those times and memories are unique and when people move on, they have not disappeared and it doesn’t mean the end of a friendship. It is only their “place” in my life that changes. And it is a great adventure when new friends enter your circle, because it opens up new chapters with new memories.


All I say is, thank goodness for Kleenex.

In the gym?


Why are there so many men in the gym? At 8 o’clock on week mornings.

Especially “middle-aged men”. By this, I mean men between the ages of 30 and 50, who, at that time of the morning, you’d expect to be at work already. Most of them are on their own mission and focused – if they are not in the spinning studio, they are sweating on the treadmill, swimming laps in their Speedo’s or lifting weights in front of the huge, polished mirrors. These are not men on a weeks’ holiday or on a mere business trip, they are regulars who stick to routines. Same faces, same times.

They have to make a good living, to afford the monthly gym fees and of course the Prado’s, Ford bakkies or two door Mercedes’ they climb into after their workout. (OK, OK, walking on the treadmill is boring and I can see the car park from the first floor of the gym. I am not a stalker, I promise! )  So I often walk and wonder, what careers these men must have, allowing them to be at the gym at these unusual hours.

I can imagine the Ford bakkie driver being a builder. He needs the open back for transporting tools and cement mixers and emergency patio tiles. The double cab space for driving his mates to Loftus over weekends, or for when he picks up the kids from school at lunchtime. And a bakkie comes in handy for those Waterberg hunting expeditions in winter.

The Prado drivers? Let’s think…. Game farm owners? Toyota salesmen? Or provincial rugby players. Brokers – they like their off roaders, don’t they?  The Prado drivers also love the outdoors – an awesome vehicle to launch a boat with.  A farmer- could he be?  And in the state that some of our roads are in, if he travels to towns like Potchefstroom or Bethlehem, he needs a solid car.  He could be an insurance salesman or a rep.  A professional wildlife photographer also needs a reliable 4×4 – needing to drive through rivers and over rocks to get that perfect shot.  And a Prado has more than enough space for all his lenses, battery packs, tripods, etc.

The two door Merc drivers seem to fall in the slightly older age category. They have grown-up kids or no kids, because let’s be honest, kids and two door cars are a major mismatch. No Dad wants his two door’s bumper paint scratched by the metal buckles of a heavy school bag. And they certainly don’t want Simba chips crumbs or red Energade droplets all over the backseat. No way will Mr Two Door Merc cover his leather back seats with seat covers – even if they are custom made. (Let’s face it, I would not either.) An estate agent is one of my favourite guesses. These days, estate agents meet their prospective clients at the property or on a Sunday show day. No more driving your client around, so very little chance of the client messing up the mats with muddy soles or tearing the upholstery with a handbag zipper. My other guesses would be an entrepreneur who owns a boutique hotel, purely because I know of one. Or a retired footballer turned coach, again, because I know of one. Drug dealers….? It is a show-off “industry” after all.  And what could be more beautiful and eye-catching than a C-class Coupé….?

Somewhere in the mix, there surely has to be at least one house husband/stay-at-home-dad. Who has a job-hobby on the side, just to keep the morning hours ticking until he needs to do the extra mural run-around. His morning job-hobby being a programmer or psychiatrist or artist or bookkeeper. And naturally he has to be quite a confident, secure individual who is not threatened by the fact that his job-hobby is for pocket money. That his other half most likely has the high flying career which pays the private school fees, extra murals, island holidays, garden service, etc.

So what do you think? Am I spot-on with my over active imagination or completely off target?