Justin, caught on film by Gary Henwood-Fox of Henwood-Fox Photography at Salt Rock.
I have been - internally - debating on how I'd go about typing this post about our little Justin, every day, since his passing; it's not something that I could get away from - he really meant - and still does mean so much to both Chris and myself and I'd be doing him an injustice by not saying goodbye to him in words and photos.
Grief is a funny, little creature in that way; we've been taught that it's a private matter and socially not acceptable to allow our vulnerability to show in times of extreme sadness and loss but at the same time, we are encouraged to open up and share - thus bringing us closer to those who perhaps find themselves in a similar situation. It can be confusing at times but for me to move on, I need to do this; not to necessarily close the chapter that was his life with us but to bookmark it and have something to look back on with love and fond, bittersweet memories. So here goes...
I knew of Justin well before he came to be ours - by 18 months or so - when our first dog, Max, was a puppy Chris would accidentally call him Justin from time-to-time; on enquiring who this 'Justin' was, Chris explained that years previously - when he had lived in Johannesburg - he and an ex from that time had had a Jack Russell cross Whippet who he had been very fond of but sadly had to let him stay in Johannesburg when he moved back to Durban. After Max, we soon added Cleo and Jessie to the pack and before we knew it almost two years had passed; then out the blue, Chris found out that Justin was being put up for adoption and was in need of a loving home. I'll be honest - at the time - the thought of having four dogs, one of which came with some personal history was unnerving, slightly, but as with everything we do as a couple, we do it together. So caution to wind, Justin became ours!
He was 10 years, going on 11 when he arrived at ours - and like a cat that immediately goes to sit on the lap of a person who doesn't particularly like cats, Justin latched onto me. Did it have something to do with me being home more so than most people? Perhaps this created a sense of security for him and - finally - allowed him to relax and not worry about being left alone for hours at a time. I don't know. As much as he loved us both, Chris will even admit that he was my dog, in the weeks that have followed since putting him down, I'd get terribly teary, which has been compounded with guilt by the knowledge that Chris is grieving too and me being all apologetic about that, as if I'm the only one who has lost a much loved member of our family. Chris - being the good man that he is - has firmly said to me that I was Justin's 'Alpha' and truth be told, I had never really thought about it like that and yes, looking back, I was his world. He arrived at our's with me not being really too sure I wanted him around but by the time he left, he left with me not wanting him to go, with me wanting him to stay with us just that bit longer. I wasn't ready to say goodbye; am I ready to say goodbye?
There have been so many sweet words of condolences from our friends and some family members, from those whom had the chance to meet and get to know him and others from those further afield whom only knew him through photos and us talking about him. Things like, 'they become part of the family', 'he's in a better place and not in pain', etc. were said, which is undeniably true and pre this life changing moment happening to us, I would've most likely have said the exact same things to someone in our situation; until it dawned on me that for those us who will never have children (well, we never know....) that our pet's do become our children. They have need's that must be met, whether it be protection and being kept safe and warm; ensuring they're health and wellness are looked after and that they're made to feel secure emotionally and part of the pack., made to feel wanted. Yes, I know one doesn't have to worry about things like school fees and such but it takes time and active participation to know when they aren't feeling well, because it's not like they can say, 'Dad, I have a sore tummy, I may need to go see the Vet'. If that makes sense? One has to be in tune with these little individuals that communicate on a whole other level. It breaks my heart when I hear of people who only see their pet's as possessions and not as the individuals that they are, with their own personalities and emotional needs.
I try to be as open and honest about things like my suffering from terrible bouts of insomnia and one of the things I'll miss most is having Juzzie joining me in the kitchen - in those early hours of the morning - as I sit at the kitchen counter, checking emails, typing a blog, working on photos, essentially enjoying those sweet few hours before the sun starts to rise - wherever I was in the house, he wasn't far behind. I often refer to him as my gatekeeper and that he was - those quiet times - whilst the rest of the house was sound asleep was his time to keep me company, watching patiently over me. Every morning would invariably start with him pawing my side of the bed, kindly asking in his own sweet way for a sneaky cuddle under the duvet; then as I'd be making a cup of early morning coffee in the kitchen, I knew he was on his way to find me with the pitter-patter of his paws as he made his way down the passage. It made for some sweet photos too. He never needed any encouragement, he was always ready for a love and some affection. He deserved it so much in my - obviously biased - opinion.
Oh my Juzzie, such precious moments caught on film, during the early hours of one morning.
It took me a quite a few days to go through the archives of our photos - there are literally 1000's of our hounds, some out of focus, some not perfect but each one taken a snapshot of a particular period in time - which was for me simultaneously sad, cathartic, bittersweet and, at times, even funny looking for photos to share, I found these two that made me smile - typical Juzzie.
Over the course of the last four and a bit years - since Juzzie's arrival - I, at times, thought that Max, Cleo and Jessie have had a good start to life in the sense that from the day of their respective arrivals, they had myself and Chris to build a solid foundation on - their needs were met from day one. When they need some love, they actively seek it out but for the most part they are content and in a way independent - like, 'We know you're there for us but we're not going to follow you around'. I became used to that way of life in our family, then Juzzie arrived. We don't know that much of Juzzie's life pre us but we've come to understand that for a period of time, whilst his previous owner was away overseas, he spent a few months in temporary accommodation, coupled with the fact that he was rescued from the SPCA as a puppy - this may have contributed to his anxiousness, as if he was waiting to be left again - with us, he had finally found a home that would love and accept him for who he was and have guardian's that would not leave him for extended periods of time and if I am to take one thing away from his last four years with us, is that he lived the remainder of his golden years being adored and having someone to focus all his attention on - in our case, it was me. I - at first - wasn't too sure how to deal with this but he forced me to climb out of myself and give him all the love he so rightly deserved and in return, he gave me his all. I often say to Chris that I wasn't a terribly emotional person - sensitive, yes but emotional, no - that statement is not true today.
As I was going through our photos, another thing I realised that I'll miss dearly - yet cherish all at the same time - were all the cuddle and snuggle time's that were had - truth be told all our hounds, except for Ruby (she's a Labrador and too big for couches!) love cuddling - he liked nothing more than being wrapped up under a blanket, next to me., whether it was early in the morning, late in the afternoon or in the evening - I think that's why the week's that have followed since his passing have been particularly hard for me, I had unknowingly become just as used to having him around as he had become used to having me there for him. No more pawing my side of the bed in the early hours, no Juzzie being caught having a sneaky nap on - always - my side of the bed, no more turning around and finding him there just looking at me or casually lying in such a way that I was within eyeshot of him. No more him. Period. Whilst we're on the topic of napping, Juzzie enjoyed nothing more than a good nap - towards the end, he did that more and more - especially on the couch or bed - whether we were there or not - cue to either myself or Chris shoo'ing him off - sometimes a photo or two was taken beforehand and sometimes he was allowed to just chill. There were so many to choose from that it was quite hard picking just a small handful!
I don't know if we struck it lucky with our hounds or if it's the way we raised them from puppyhood but there was no animosity nor pangs of jealousy on his arrival; in fact, it was just the opposite - it's like he had finally arrived home - if he wasn't at my side, whether I'd be in the kitchen cooking, giving the house a clean or reading, he would most likely be found chilling with the other hounds, if they were lucky, he'd spend some time giving each one a good clean by licking their faces and their ears - sounds gross, I know but the love they all shared was tangible and my original concerns regarding how he'd fit into the pack, that I had prior to his arrival, dissipated on seeing those sweet moments between each one of them. The girl's seem to be adjusting just fine without him, our dearest Max has been battling a bit. We've chatted to our Vet and he has assured us that this adjustment period will be tough for him as the dynamic of the pack has changed and he's just not too sure of his place and where he fits in. So we've had to be patient and understanding of this, again, it just goes to show that animals are so more than what we think they are - that they indeed do have feelings and emotions and need just as much care as any child would need.
The Johannesburg weather made it necessary for all to wear jerseys - patiently awaiting a treat from Chris.
Whenever he wanted a cuddle, he would not-so-subletly let me know his intentions - he'd sit patiently waiting for me to notice him, then when I did, the game was on - there was no way that I could ever say no!
The camera loved him. Chris loved him. I loved him.
I'm so glad that Chris convinced me that we needed to adopt him, apart from being 10 years old at the time that he arrived at our's - not many people would take that responsibility on, be it the emotional or the financial implications that an older animal comes with in regards to medical and Vet costs, etc. - I knew Chris loved him from way back; looking back now, I don't think I could've lived with myself knowing that I had denied them both the reunion they so rightly deserved - even though Juzzie latched onto me more so than Chris, but Chris didn't mind - I think he's grateful for that, that I was there for him these last few years.
Chris and Juzzie - our first Christmas in Johannesburg 2013.
I had started the grieving process for Justin well before he actually died, which in itself was an odd experience - usually one has the privilege to grieve the person or animal they have lost post their death but that wasn't the case with Juzzie.
After watching from the front row, so to speak, his health get progressively worse over his last few months with us, we knew we had two options - and knowing he had been on the strongest dose of pain meds possible - on one hand, we could've kept him over-medicated and watched what made him the special little soul that he was slowly and painfully wither away, or we could've been the best guardian's possible and make the hardest decision we've ever had to make together and let him go. We chose the latter. We chose the best for him and how we wanted to remember his presence over our own seemingly selfish want of wanting to keep him around - if I could've, I would've kept him for forever. I really would have...
But I digress.
We're taught that there are five stages when it comes to grieving, if I can recall them correctly; denial, bargaining, anger, depression and acceptance - I may have the order muddled, but oh well. I couldn't deny that Juzzie was ill and our Vet had confirmed that there was nothing that could be done, apart from keeping the pain at bay with pain killers - which worked for the first few months. We decided that we weren't going to renew his pain meds script - that once finished, we would say our goodbye to him - that's when the bargaining with Chris started. Every day, and I do sincerely mean every day, I'd say to Chris, 'Are we doing the right thing? Could we not prolong his life with us?' That's when I realised how terribly selfish that would be, the last thing he needed was to be in constant pain - so that stage too did pass. Anger, I don't think I have been angry; though, as much as this kills me to admit - closer to his last days with us, I found myself getting terribly annoyed with him. I suppose - in retrospect - it was my way of distancing myself from what was to happen, that when I should've been showering him with even more love, I was internalising this annoyance towards him. Don't get me wrong, there were plenty of cuddles, snuggles and our usual routine, but as always, my coping mechanism is to keep things at arm's length. As I type this do I only now realise that perhaps I was angry, not angry with him - that I could never be - but angry in the sense that there was nothing we could do to protect him. To save him. The last month has seen me being very quiet blog-wise, I haven't wanted to share, or speak of anything really - but as always, I needed to do this and by that I mean putting my thoughts down in words and hopefully by doing so this fog will lift. So yes, I may be slightly depressed, or should I say deflated? I am going with deflated. I have every right to be, don't I?
One Sunday morning, in Salt Rock, the three of us joined an awesome photographer for a special photo shoot and Juzzie was the star and shine he did - thought I'd share a few photo's from that sweet day on the beach and in the park with all of you reading this post. What a fabulous, bittersweet but most of all loving way to remember our dearest Justin - for a dog that was in terrible pain, one would never think that from the photos below.
The day before we said our very tearful goodbye - Chris had to go to Ladysmith on business and he took Juzzie along for the drive, so that they could spend some time together - just the two of them. On The Day, I took Juzzie for one last walk, our last walk together, just us two. I had imagined talking to him and asking what it felt to have lived a long, happy life but alas, we just walked in silence. We had gone for 100's of walks together but that one was tough for sure, me trying to stop the tears as we walked the streets of our suburb, with Juzzie stoically by my side - as he had always been, as one of my walking companions. It was as if he knew what was coming - though he didn't really know what was to come, but still... He was such a pleasure to walk with, I am glad that I had the chance to be his handler in that regard for the last four years. I have yet to go for another walk, with and without the hounds - Chris has been bravely doing it on his own, it's too fresh. Perhaps I should?
Chris had offered to take Justin to the Vet on his own, I told him that I was going to be there and that was non-negotiable. I had to be there, I needed to be there. I needed to be the last face and voice he heard - forget what one saw in Marley & Me - there was no prolonged period to say goodbye, it was all over within a short moment. Years of dedication, love and responsibility gone in the blink of an eye. Do I have any regrets in co-adopting an older dog that needed a home? Not for a second. Do I wish that we had had just a bit more time with him. Always. Will I feel better about all of this in time? Yes, this I know. Will I still love the rest of our hounds unashamedly? Definitely, I wouldn't have it any other way.
I shall never forget you, Justin. You're always in my heart - now and forever.
Until next time,
The last couple of years have seen me attempting - and it's a decision I had to make consciously - to really be there for people. Sadly, I'm not talking about the ever-increasing number of homeless, begging people who seem to be swarming every intersection and stop street at the moment - even though my heart goes out to those poor souls, there's not much I (as one person) or we (as a couple) can do to make their lives better, apart from making donations to The Salvation Army in the hopes that at least a few people will benefit from our small donations.
I have come to realise that I can't be there for people that I don't know, especially if I'm not able to make myself available to the dear, sweet souls I interact with on a fairly regular basis.
Unlike Chris, who happens to be blessed with this ability to give of his time - be it an ear to listen, business advice - you name it; he will always try his best to be there and be present. Unfortunately, there have been times when a few people have taken advantage of this and Chris has had to learn when and when not to be there for others - it's sort of ironic in that sense - Chris having to learn to be more selective in his giving nature, whilst I'm having to learn to be more giving of myself. It's like we're simultaneously working - though, as individuals - towards that oh-so-fine middle ground between learning when to say no and when to say yes. We obviously aren't at the same place, yet, but it's comforting to know that I am not alone in having to realign my inner self and that my loving hubby (side note: I can't believe we've been married 6 months already!) are on the same - in an alternate universe sort of way - journey. It would be very easy for me to romanticise it and say that we have brought these qualities out in each other, who knows, perhaps we have. It's certainly not as easy as flipping a switch on and off. It takes effort and understanding - from the both of us - especially when one has their foot on the accelerator pedal and the other has their foot pushing as hard as possible on the brakes!
But I digress, back to the subject at hand.
I am more guarded; I have always had to be - thinking of it now - perhaps it has something to do with my tumultuous family life growing up (which I can't change and which I really wouldn't want to truth be told - it's a part of me, it defines me) I think it's given me a better, whole-view of situations - without my past, I wouldn't have everything I have now - in the form of Chris, our dogs, our life together - but there is certainly an element of me keeping people at arm's length; not sharing my time, not letting people see the best of who I can be. Why it took me over 30 years to realise that I am indeed able to contribute, have my voice heard - without fear - and be of meaningful service to my - albeit - very small social circle but baby steps, right?
I suppose in order to reach the light at the end of the tunnel, I indeed have to walk through the tunnel!
In order to grow - in my opinion - you have to put yourself into situations that force you to climb out of your comfort zone, no matter how trivial it may seem to you.
The last three weeks I have spent Monday through to Thursday evening's staying at Aunty Helen's place whilst her son is overseas with his daughter, visiting her maternal family. She politely asked a few months back if I'd mind staying over at hers; I said yes, the thought of her staying alone wasn't really an option but it's something I always do; I agree to - fill in the blank - and when it comes to showing up, I start questioning whether I can or cannot do it and sometimes I bail. This time I didn't, I couldn't. There was no way I could break my word to Aunty Helen - especially after the emotional and traumatic months the first half of this year have brought with it.
It only then dawned on me - two weeks into me staying over at Aunty Helen's - how used to a certain routine both Chris and myself had become accustomed to. Evenings spent with me making dinner and us debriefing each other on our day's news, etc. Little did I know how much we would actually miss each other whilst I was away - even though we saw each other during the day! How I worried if he was eating properly and just general stuff like, 'should I have agreed to stay over? Did I make the right decision?'.
Then last week Friday evening - whilst I was making supper - Chris arrived home with a bouquet of flowers; a huge smile on his face and when he told me how much he loved me and how glad he was that I was home for the weekend. I knew then, with that small gesture of flowers, that my small gesture of agreeing to stay over at Aunty Helen's place meant just as much to her as Chris' flowers meant to me.
The penny dropped! It indeed is the small gestures that count the most.
I may not always get it right but I am certainly heading in the correct direction and that's the important lesson I have learnt from these past three weeks; it will certainly act as a reminder the next time I am considering bailing out on whatever situation I may find myself in that requires me having to climb out of my comfort zone - that I actually can do it. That I indeed can be present and show up for those whom I love and respect.
The bouquet that inspired this blog, in full bloom!
Until next time,
This week's #tbt takes us back to August 2012; we had just recently adopted Justin. He had lived, up until joining us, in Johannesburg - so we thought what better way to welcome him into the pack than with a trip to the beach!
Until next time,
I'm not saying that I dislike flying - it's just a means to an end for me - but if time permits, I love nothing more than packing the car and hitting the road. I've lost count the number of times that I and / or we have driven the Durban - Johannesburg and vice-versa route but that's simply on the highway, not really getting to see this beautiful country we happily get to call home. Whenever we go to Clarens; whether it's from Johannesburg or from Durban, I know the minute we're in the beautiful Eastern Free State countryside when I spot the familiar Poplar Tree that dots it's landscape. - that's the whole point of road tripping, for me. Getting to explore the old main routes and it's accompanying towns and villages, as opposed to whizzing by on the national roads, not seeing much at all.
Our first road trip took place in December 2010 / January 2011 - all mapped out after we returned home.
We're planning our second official road trip for this December and I can't wait! Unlike our first road trip 6 years ago, we are a little more organised this time around. I still remember Chris saying - spontaneously - all those years back, 'let's go on a road trip!', so happily we piled all our stuff into the back of Edith (Chris' Renault Koleos at the time) and off we went. It was just after Boxing Day, we hadn't booked at any places to stay, heck, we didn't even know where our end destination was going to be! Bearing in mind, the time of year and how fully booked places can be - we were brave like that! Chris did all the driving as I had, had my scooter accident barely six weeks before; so with arm in sling, I was the chief photographer and navigator of sorts. I couldn't do much else really. As I was going through the many, many photos from our adventure for the this blog did it only then dawn on me that I easily took twice as many photos on this particular trip than what I took when we visited the UK - and I took a lot of photos in England and Wales!
The day we left home, it's safe to say, got off to a bumpy start - packing and some light arguing was had - if you can recall those TV adverts from the past where a family would pile into the car and start their journey off in a huff and 50 minutes into the trip happy faces all round, well, that was us! I still maintain that, that Wimpy stop at Scottburgh Mall really saved us! We decided to make Port St. Johns our first stopover, just for the night; I had never been there before and as we were crossing the Mzimvubu River to get to the town centre, Chris told me that the Zambezi (also known as the Bull) Shark could be found in it's waters. I have since learnt that there have been six fatal shark attacks at PSJ's Second Beach in the last five years - so if you're ever visiting that part of the world, take care when going for a swim! The river flows through an impressive gorge known as the 'Gates of St. John' into an estuary located along the Indian Ocean. The town is situated around the river's mouth.
We arrived in Port St. Johns late that afternoon and managed to find a place to stay - luckily!
We left early the next day and, as Chris had packed our camping gear, we thought we may as well alternate accommodation between self-catering and camping! YAY... We stopped along the road in the Eastern Cape to take some photos. We still weren't sure where our next stopover would be but we soldiered on. The one thing I just adore about South Africa is how varied the landscape is; we went from the lush, subtropical climate and vegetation of the South and Wild Coast into the rugged and the slightly semi-arid Eastern Cape.
Chris even wore his 'You look like I can use a drink' t-shirt as he posed at the entrance to the property!
Mmmmm... Cleansing Section...? We were like, ok....
We found ourselves in Port Alfred - after a good few hours of driving - and decided to find a campsite and call PA home for the next two nights. It's situated at the mouth of the Kowie River and is almost exactly halfway between Port Elizabeth and East London; this little town was established in the early 1820's by British settlers whom were moved into the area by Lord Charles Somerset - it's main function was to act as a buffer between the then Cape Colony and the Xhosa people. It officially became know as Port Alfred in the late 1860's after Queen Victoria's son, Prince Albert visited the area. It was the perfect spot for us to journey from inland for a day trip to Bathurst, a relative's farm and Grahamstown.
We were fortunate enough to find a place to camp for the duration of our stay in Port Alfred.
See?1 We did indeed camp! Now for those of you who know us, know that Chris can really snore. I use earplugs to dampen the noise but I didn't realise how bad it really was until Chris told me the first morning we were there that he overheard two youngsters saying how the noise had suddenly stopped after he had woken up! The thought of his snoring bellowing throughout the caravan park did make me laugh.
Coffee in Grahamstown and views of some pineapple fields from the Big Pineapple in Bathurst.
The Big Pineapple, Bathurst - standing 16.7 metres tall - this gigantic structure is a tribute to the agricultural success of the prickly fruit. Early farmers struggled to grow any crops here until the first pineapple was planted in 1865.
A gorgeous sunset over Port Alfred on our last night.
We left Port Alfred feeling as if we achieved as much as we could in the short time that we were there. We saw Grahamstown and it's surrounds; stopped at 43 Air School and drove around the village of Bathurst. We by now thought that Plettenberg Bay would be the best place to call home for the next three nights, and most probably our last stopover before turning back to head home to Durban. So on leaving PA early one morning, we took a slow, meandering drive down the rest of the coast - stopping at some off-the-beaten track spots for photos and sight-seeing - before entering the beautiful Garden Route area.
We travelled for what seemed like miles and miles along dirt roads that run in-between farmlands to find the little, secluded hamlet of Oyster Bay - one day we'll buy our little getaway beach house there! Just love that little hideaway!
During the course of our road trip, we noticed that in and amongst the various small towns and ever-changing scenery - there were also a variety of pretty flora to be seen along the roads too...
As we crossed the Storms River via the iconic Paul Sauer Bridge - we officially entered the Garden Route - this area stretches from the Storms River on the south-eastern coast of the Eastern Cape to Mossel Bay in the Western Cape. It derives it's name from the verdant and ecologically diverse vegetation that is encountered here and around the numerous lagoons and lakes that are dotted along the coast. Notable towns include Knysna, Plettenberg Bay and George - with George being not only the largest of them but also it's main administrative centre. It is know for having South Africa's mildest climate - with mild to warm summers, and mild to cool winters - interestingly, making it the second mildest climate in the world!
Hello there, Garden Route!
The Paul Sauer Bridge.
A short stop and look-see later, we decided to head through to Plettenberg Bay - it was by now 30 December - and as mentioned earlier, we hadn't made any accommodation plans. So as we travelled towards this particular holiday mecca, our fingers were crossed!
It suddenly became very misty as we entered the lush, green Tsitsikamma region of the Western Cape.
Plettenberg Bay (fondly called Plett by most South Africans) is situated along the Keurbooms River and was originally named Bahia Formosa - Portuguese for 'beautiful bay' - by early explorers. It happens to host one of the largest seagull breeding colonies along the South African coast and if that wasn't enough, the endangered African Oystercatcher also lives in the area.
Our first port of call upon arriving in Plett, was to find a place to stay - fortunately - we found a place after driving up and down a few roads but we really should've known it wasn't going to be the best of places - just by judging by the signage outside - but being the ever optimists that we thought we were, we didn't judge this book by it's cover. We really should have though!
We spent our first evening at the above establishment; whilst there, we googled alternate accommodation for the remainder of our stay!
Albergo was our home for the next two nights! Shew! So much better than the first place we stayed at!
First thing first, before we could take a drive around the little town, just to have a look-see, Edith seriously needed a wash...! Some sights were seen before we headed to the vibey main street to find a place to have a bite to eat and something to quench our thirst!
Our New Years Eve was a fairly quiet one, what with all the driving that we had done - we were like, let's skip this one this year. Little did I realise that we would be hitting the road - feeling refreshed - early New Year's Day 2011 for a day trip to Oudtshoorn - 150 Km's away! Chris had spent some time there - at the South African Infantry School - during his army stint and hadn't been back since; I on the other hand had never been. What better way to spend a New Year's Day than seeing the Cango Caves?! We headed towards George, passing a misty coast and Sedgefield along the way.
We stopped briefly at Sedgefield - whilst I was waiting for Chris - an impromptu photo shoot of Edith ensued. I would never admit this to Chris but when he traded her in for Betty, his current Ford Ranger, I was a little sad. So many happy miles of memories were had in her and it all started with this road trip!
Edith in Sedgefield.
After passing through George, we found ourselves on the Outeniqua Hop and the Outeniqua Pass. This mountain pass in the Western Cape connects George and the Garden Route with Oudtshoorn and the Little Karoo - it was constructed between 1943 and 1951 - replacing the Montagu Pass as the main route from George to the interior. It provided gorgeous views and we had to stop for a few photos!
Chris, admiring the view.
I knew we were close to the Little Karoo town of Oudtshoorn when we started passing ostriches grazing in fields along the road! I had - in the past - seen ostriches before but never in the 'Ostrich Capital of the World!'.
Alphen aan den Rijn is a town in the Netherlands.
Oudtshoorn is a town that after two ostrich-feather booms (1865-1870 and 1900-1914) was truly established. It is the largest town in the Little Karoo region; the town's economy is primarily reliant on the ostrich farming and tourism industries. Apart from ostriches, the town is famous for the Cango Caves - our New Year's Day destination. The Cango Caves are located in Precambrian Limestones at the foothills of the Swartberg Mountain Range just outside the town - the principal cave is one of the country's finest, best known and most popular tourist caves - it attracts many visitors from the world over. Although the extensive system of tunnels and chambers go on for over 4 Km's, only about a quarter of this is open to visitors - who may only proceed into the cave in groups supervised by guides. I remember when Chris and I went in, we were given the choice to do either the regular or the 'sporty' route; as I was in my sling, no climbing and crawling for me! We saw some awesome sights within the caves but just like visiting Table Mountain, every proud South African (or tourist too) should add this to their 'to do list' - even if you never do it again, at the very least you can say you have done it. Who knew it would be open on New Year's Day too?
After leaving the Cango Caves; we stopped outside the South African Infantry School; located within the Oudtshoorn Army Base. Chris spent some time there during his compulsory military training - known as conscription. It was his first time coming back to visit. I had a vague idea of what conscription was but thought I'd do some research on this subject - just out of interest - and because I feel that the after effects are still felt by those young men who were put into situations that they should never have had to deal with at their age.
I found the following, informative information on the South African History Online website:
The Defense Amendment Bill, designed to make military service compulsory - note that these men had NO choice in the matter - for white, young men was passed on 9 June 1967 - with the support of the opposition. Conscription was instituted in South Africa in the form of 9 months of service for all white males between the ages of 17 and 65 years old. Conscripts became members of the South African Defense Force or the South African Police. They were used to enforce the then government's stance against liberation movements, anti-apartheid activists and the 'communist threat'. In 1972, conscription was increased from 9 months to 1 year, as well as 19 days of service annually for 5 years as part of the Citizen Force. Towards the middle of 1974, control of northern Namibia was handed over to the South African Defense Force from the South African Police, and in 1975, the SADF invaded Angola. To keep up with operational demands, Citizen Force members were then required to complete 3 month tours of duty. In 1977, conscription was once again increased, this time to 2 years and 30 days annually for 8 years. Due to an increase in guerrilla activity in the early 1980's, camps were once again lengthened in 1982 to 720 days in total. A movement in South Africa began in 1983 to co-ordinate various groups in the country who campaigned against conscription and encouraged conscientious objection. This group was called the End Conscription Campaign. The ECC had wide support from students, religious groups and even the United Nations. Activities of the ECC were curtailed by the then South African Apartheid government from 1988 - 89, but restrictions were lifted in 1990 as part of the country's move towards multi-racial government.
After finding out the above information, I am left feeling slightly saddened; I totally understand that a country needs a defense force and that that's a good thing but it should never be forced onto someone - there must have been 1000's of young men who were against the whole conscription process and most of these guys probably live with the PTSD that their time in the army created - my heart goes out to them. I am so grateful that it was eventually done away with and that goes for Apartheid too!
As we were heading back to Plettenberg Bay, we passed the adorable De Oude Meul Restaurant and decided that that's where we would have our New Year's Day lunch! Luckily, it wasn't fully booked and we were seated overlooking lush green fields with livestock grazing in the distance.
On our way to the Garden Route, we crossed the Van Stadens Bridge, and being the iconic structure it is - Chris kindly stopped for me to take a photo or two. I barely placed a foot onto the bridge when all of a sudden a police vehicle arrived out of nowhere! The police person kindly asked me to go back to the car and advised that no person was allowed to walk across the bridge. It's been well documented as being the 'Bridge of Death' - in 2005 a group of private donors raised the 1 million South African Rands required to install a video-camera surveillance system on the bridge - to date, 20 people have been saved from jumping to their deaths using this camera. So, I really shouldn't have been surprised by the police showing up but in retrospect I'm glad to know it was working that day - even though I just wanted a photo!
Chris thought this road sign was particularly funny considering my shoulder was non-functioning at the time!
Once we departed Plettenberg Bay, we decided to make Port Elizabeth our last stopover before heading home to Durban; with the above in mind, we decided to travel on the old main route to safely see the Van Stadens Bridge.
The Van Stadens Bridge, as seen from below.
Both old and new bridge can be seen behind me.
Port Elizabeth - also known as the Friendly or Windy City - is not only one of the largest cities but also seaports in South Africa, it also happens to be the southernmost large city on the African continent. I always thought that Cape Town was further South - we learn something new every day, it seems! It also forms part of the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality.
After finding a place to set up camp, we chilled for the rest of the day, by going for a walk along the beachfront and in the evening we took a ferris wheel ride at a fairground that had set up shop along the beach. I am not the best when it comes to heights; so I should've known that coupled with the breeze coming off the ocean, it was going to make for a windy ride!
We took a drive to Uitenhage, a small town famously known for it's Volkswagen vehicle manufacturing - turns out that this car factory is the biggest in Africa. Truth be told, there really wasn't much else to see in the town that was founded in 1805 but hey, we could at least say we saw it.
Our last day in Port Elizabeth was spent taking in some of the sights, which included a visit to Bayworld - whenever I'm in PE, I always visit Bayworld! I do love Durban's Moses Mabida Stadium but if I had to choose another one to fill it's architectural shoes it has to be the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. It's just a pity that it seems to be situated in and amongst what looks like a light industrial area! Yikes!
It was time to leave the Friendly City and make our way back home to sunny Durban - we had just two stops to make before hitting the road - the first was Nanaga Farm Stall, just outside Port Elizabeth. If you've ever travelled that route, you can't miss it. The second stop was in Grahamstown.
As we were driving into Grahamstown, on our way back to Durban, we noticed that we forgot to visit one more important place - the 1820 Settlers National Monument - you can't miss it, it's right at the top of the hill on the edge of town. It has been described as a living monument which not only serves to honour those brave English settlers but also contributes to the community which it surrounds - a memorial with a purpose of sorts - the building serves as a centre for creative thought and activity. It was designed to be used mainly as a conference centre in order to encourage free debate and open discussion - today, it's use extends past this; especially during the Grahamstown National Arts Festival when the venue hosts concerts, theatrical dances and productions.
Grahamstown now behind us, we hit the road home to Durban - as much as I love going away - there's always a part of me that can't wait to get home. I love being home!
There were so many photos taken that I liked but this one is definitely close to the top of the list.
After many hours on the road, we made it home late that evening - we barely managed to unpack Edith before just chilling; according to Edith's odometer, we had travelled 3 571.5 Km's - not bad going for an unplanned trip!
I suppose you're all wondering what - in hindsight - I have learnt from this road trip and what we plan to do differently this coming December / January?
Well six years have gone by, so being slightly older - and hopefully wiser too - we have planned ahead in the sense that accommodation is already booked and paid for; so no stressing about where to call home at our various stops! The days of Chris being able to take two weeks off for us to go galavanting across the country have long since passed because the boss has to be back in time for when our office reopens in the New Year! So instead of travelling the West Coast (one day, one day...), we're kinda following (slightly) the same route but this time around, being more prepared, we can relax and truly enjoy our time away. Truth be told, I'm just looking forward to getting away with my dearest Chris!
The main thing is to make sure your vehicle has been checked and declared fit for travel; second is to stick to a budget - nobody wants to starve making it through to payday, end of January! Take lots of photos. Laugh, at others and yourself too. Keep hydrated and take turns driving. Make a road trip music compilation. See sights you might not get a chance to see again - there are oh so many to see in South Africa. The last - and most important part - have a rough plan in place but don't be so rigid that you can't divert from it!
So whatever or wherever you may find yourself this coming festive period; have fun and be safe if you're on the roads.
Until next time,
Oh! Before I forget; Amy, we're spending a day with you and yours too. Chris is looking forward to meeting you! Feel free to check out her blog - amykaymademyday.wordpress.com - you know you want to!
We travel back to 2011 for this week's #tbt. Our first trip on Johannesburg's Gautrain.
Five years have gone by so quickly!
Until next time,
We cast our vote during the Municipal Elections at the beginning of the month.
After voting, we popped in at Aunty Helen's place for a quick visit. Mia was up and about, she's such a cutie pie!
Looking like a little princess in the dress that came all the way from Dubai.
It's no secret that I do love me some leather, zipped ankle boots. I had to attend a high achievers' award ceremony alongside Chris in Johannesburg, so whilst out shopping for my first ever black suit for the function, I stumbled across these boots. After much toying, caution to the wind, I bought both pairs!
Gotta love Durban!
We decided to stay on in Johannesburg for a few extra days after the awards ceremony and as Chris had forgotten his driver's at home - I hired my first car, ever!
We stayed at the Sun International Sandton City Hotel - this impressive chandelier is at the hotel's centre. It's a pity my photographic skills aren't brilliant as this photo truly does not do it justice. It's gorgeous!
Usually I just have a cappuccino but this month I had some cake too!
Our view of Sandton from our hotel suite and - apparently - the Joker was at Sandton City's Gautrain station.
August brought with it us being back in Durban for a year - yikes! Is it really possible for 12 months to literally fly past in such a blur?! I suppose, in hindsight, we have been busy: Chris with the business; us renting and then buying another house; Chris' family visiting from Australia; us getting married; Justin being unwell and Uncle Lenn's passing... It really has been a jam-packed, emotion filled year. I'm slowly starting to feel settled, Durban is starting to feel like home again. We are also finding ourselves socialising more, which has been good for us, as we both can easily spend all our free time together! The one thing I do enjoy about visiting Johannesburg, is that I get to pop into some stores that aren't down here along the coast such as Birkenstock and H&M and - lest we forget my favourite haunt - Super Sconto! I stopped yoga over the Winter months - can anyone say Winter fat much? Luckily I have found a Pilates studio just down the road from us; I have pre-booked 20 one hour lessons for September, so let's see how we go. I have never done Pilates, so not too sure what to expect but coupled with my wogging (walking/jogging) and Parkrun - hopefully by November's end, I'll be beach ready!
Some light retail therapy ensued!
Criminal Minds, our hands-down favourite telly show always start off with a quote of some sort; the above two stuck out in my mind. Thought I'd share these words of wisdom.
A walk along the promenade wouldn't be complete without stopping by the Moses Mabida Stadium. It's been over 6 years since the FIFA World Cup graced our shores and our stadium looks as neat and tidy as can be. Not to mention a stunning piece of architecture that dots Durban's landscape. Spent some time there with Zubaida and naturally a selfie or two were taken!
Over the past few months I noticed when checking my tyre pressure that my back left-hand side tyre constantly seemed to be losing pressure - Chris usually deals with maintenance issues but because he's been so busy - I told myself I'd get to it. Eventually, after many months of procrastinating, I finally contacted a good friend of ours who works at a Hi-Q and booked my car in to have a look see. I am usually very pedantic about these things, so don't follow my lead and rather get it sorted out ASAP as vehicle maintenance is so important.
Chris and I had a lazy Sunday lunch along the promenade at California Dreaming, whilst sitting in the warm sun. !t was really busy, so perhaps that's why the service and food quality wasn't quite up to our expectations but when we can we like to support local business. We'll probably give it one more chance to redeem itself.
I follow the lead of my favourite cook, Ina Garten, and have been freezing any leftover roast chicken with my eye on making homemade stock. August found me cooking up a batch - nothing more comforting than knowing exactly whats gone into it and they freeze so well.
Guess who I found taking it easy on our bed one evening. It's a Jessie!
Whilst we were in Johannesburg, we strolled down 7th Street in Melville and popped into Junkie, a sweet jam-packed charity store just to have a squizz and I found this vintage 1960's Pyrex Coffee Carafe - I just love the simplicity of the design. So carefully packed, it now has a home down here in Durban.
So now I have caught everyone up on the last three months.
Until next time,
Are you one of those people who think knowing your blood type is only important in the event of a transfusion?If so, perhaps you should rethink that as research indicates that your blood type can be a a key genetic factor that influences many areas of one's health and well-being.
When it comes to following a diet - and by that I mean how and what you eat - rather than following a set of prescribed rules a la Atkins, Banting, any random 'soup diet' (as examples) - to maintain and / or lose weight. I am of the thought that a little bit of everything, in moderation, will probably do you no harm; combined with some form of exercise that suits your lifestyle, then you're winning in my books.
I like to think I am doing my best in trying to put healthy, home prepared and cooked meals on the table for myself and Chris at the end of each day - there are and will always be a sneaky takeout ordered - but that's an exception, not a rule. I also have a soft spot for woolies chuckles and digestive biscuits. Chris loves his wine gums and potato chips. So invariably these, in some form or another, will always be in the house but I won't deprive ourselves of our little indulgences - what's the point of exercising and eating as healthily as is possible if you can't treat yourself? It makes no sense to me but then again that's just me.
I know I may sound like a stuck record but I am and will always be a strong proponent for trying to exercise on a regular basis - you can follow the strictest diet but if you're not burning more calories than you're consuming - you're never going to lose weight (if that's your goal). Mine is to maintain my weight and yes, I would never have had to lose the - roughly - 35kg's that I put on over the 2 1/2 years after the accident if I had not been in a self-induced funk and pity party of sorts; but for the almost 3 years since I started my first walking session I can proudly say I have managed to keep it at bay. I am certainly not as toned as I used to be, but I will never be that person again, nor do I want to be. I am as happy as I can possible be - right now.
I found walking enjoyable and eventually I returned to yoga. My yoga journey started almost 10 years back - yes, there was an almost 4 year gap in the centre where I didn't practice it - but the accident left my collar bone rather damaged and after the weight gain that followed, I felt really insecure about whether or not I could do it again. Also, if my arm could handle it without hurting myself. I have become so self-aware of my ever recovering injury and how it effects my day-to-day life. At my peak, prior to the accident, I was super toned and had rather good core strength. I had finally found a form of exercise that I loved and that felt right for me. At the time most people were like, 'yoga as exercise? that's so out there, how esoteric of you, that's so new-age, how can bending and stretching - coupled with measured breath - be considered an exercise'? It had me thinking.
I digress though.
Me, doing the hands to feet pose back in the day!
Whilst I was injured and indulging myself, the Atkins and Banting diets started gaining traction and it seems everyone and their dog is either following one or the other. Truth be told, I can't be bothered to weigh out this amount for veg, that amount for protein, etc. I won't lie, and fully admit that I haven't delved too much into the respective theories behind each diet. In the interests of enquiry, I have done some light research - nothing annoys me more than someone who has an opinion on a topic they haven't even read up on - and the one thing I have noticed though is that they tend to focus only on what you eat and how it affects you, as opposed to taking a holistic approach to it. I like looking at things as a whole, instead of in isolation.
I don't believe a one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition can work.
Over the last year or so I have started developing an interest in the living - note: not just eating - according to your blood type theory - again, it's just a theoretical approach to a certain lifestyle. I am not saying the one is better than the other - my choice does not necessarily suit yours, but what I do like about living according to your blood type is that it is centred around you as a person and not just around watching what you eat as most other diets do.
Here are a few interesting facts that I have come to learn.
Your blood type may predict your susceptibility for certain diseases.
Various research has indicated that individuals of certain blood types may be at higher risk for certain diseases; studies have found that people with blood type O may have a lower risk for heart disease but have a higher risk of developing stomach ulcers. People who are blood type A may have a higher risk of microbial infections and those with blood types AB and B may have a higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
Your blood type may indicate how you react to stress.
People with blood type A naturally have higher levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in their bodies and produce even more in response to stressful situations. Whilst people with blood type O have a 'fight or flight' reaction to stress - which in turn results in them overproducing adrenaline - which then extends their recovery period from said stress as it is more difficult to clear the extra adrenaline coursing through their bodies.
Your blood type antigens (molecules capable of inducing an immune response) are not just in your blood.
They happen to be everywhere in your body - particularly in the surfaces that interact with the environment - think of your digestive tract, your nasal passages and lungs, not to forget your mouth through to your intestines. These blood type antigens are everywhere and they influence how your body reacts to the food you eat through several factors. As an example, the lectins (a type of protein that can bind to cell membranes) in certain foods adheres to your blood type antigen and can cause your blood to agglutinate (just a fancy word to say that your blood cells clump together) which can result in feelings of fatigue, headaches, digestive issues and skin problems - to name a few.
Gut bacteria is related to blood type.
People with different blood types have different gut bacteria and this originated from our ancestors whose digestive tracts developed to accommodate one type of diet over the other. As an example, in blood type A individuals the micro-organisms developed to break down carbohydrates much more efficiently than people with blood type O, who tend to store carbs as fat.
I could go on for a while describing everything - but this isn't a dissertation, it's merely an introduction - below is a quick summary of the different blood types and what best suits them.
Type O: People with type O blood benefit best with intense physical exercise - ideally aerobics, running and contact sports - and on a diet of animal protein. They don't do so well on dairy products and grains, with their leading weight gain factor being the gluten found in wheat products.
Type A: People with type A blood are more naturally suited to a vegetarian diet and tend to be predisposed to heart disease, cancer and diabetes. They also derive significant benefits from calming, centering exercise such as yoga.
Type B: People with type B blood have a generally robust immune and a tolerant digestive system and tend to resist most of the severe chronic illnesses - or, at the very least, survive them better than the other blood types. They fair best with moderate physical exercise requiring mental balance, namely: hiking, cycling, tennis and swimming.
Type AB: People with type AB blood - the most recent blood group in terms of evolution - is the most biologically complex. People in this group fair best a with combination of exercise and dietary habits taken from blood types A and B.
I am type A and Chris is type O, so on paper we are on the opposite ends of the dietary and exercise model for living according to your blood type. I'm suited to a vegetarian diet whilst Chris can handle animal protein better than I can; with exercise I'm more suited to yoga and walking whilst Chris benefits more from a plan that includes physical activities like running. We try and meet someplace in the middle; some meals may be more veggie packed than others and we team up to do our jogging at Parkrun every Saturday and try walking with the hounds at least twice a week - I slot my yoga in and around this schedule.
That's the thing, for us as a couple, it's not about religiously following a diet it's about working one around us - as individuals - to suit our needs and that works for us.
In closing, and totally off topic: I achieved my personal best time at Parkrun this past Saturday, it took me 24min 53sec to complete the 5km course! Well done me!
Until next time,
We find ourselves in 2000 this week; the year that my dearest Chris received his Diploma in Financial Planning at University of the Free State.
Chris, circa 2000.
Until next time,
Don, this wedding card really brought a smile to my face!
Just in case you're not friends with Chris on Facebook and missed his announcement, we secretly made our union official on Thursday,
28 April 2016!
When people ask me and / or Chris how long we've been together - we tend to usually answer by however many Christmas's we've spent together - this year's upcoming one will be our seventh. It's not because we starting dating around that particular festive period, it's just easier to remember the years like that - the first Christmas was spent road-tripping from Durban to Oudtshoorn; the second was spent in the UK; the third was hosting Chris' folks and some friends of ours for a lunch; the fourth we moved to Johannesburg; the fifth one we brought Mom out from the UK and the sixth was our first one back in Durban. Simple, logical reasoning behind our train of thought. After about the second year of dating, we started having to dodge the 'are you two thinking of getting married yet?' question. We managed to dodge that particular question for a whole fours years and that's where Cape Town and it's surrounds comes into play.
Cape Town holds a special place in both our hearts, We spent our first (of a few) holiday there, a very dear friend to the both of us - Shaun - calls it home, we've seen if from the sky in a helicopter and Chris proposed to me in Muizenberg.
It was late September 2014 when Chris had to attend a conference that lasted a few days in Cape Town, ending on a Friday - the company he used to work for was sponsoring some tickets to a SA vs Australia rugby match at Newlands Stadium that following Saturday - so he had planned to return the Monday following. I wasn't too fussed, he often goes away for a day or two maybe three for work - but just before he was meant to leave he invited me down, from the Friday for the weekend. To put this into perspective, I am not the greatest flyer and if a destination can't be driven to in a day, then I very reluctantly board a plane. As it was only for the weekend, it made no sense to drive the Johannesburg - Cape Town route, so I thought about it and agreed. I'm so glad that I did! Chris used the excuse of us both being able to watch the SA vs Australia rugby game in person - he seemed really keen, so I thought why not? I could watch a rugby game at Newlands Stadium, right?
I still remember the day clearly in my mind - I left a sunny, Spring Johannesburg Friday morning only to arrive in a windy, miserable Cape Town afternoon - Chris collected me from the airport and we set off for lunch in Muizenberg (I love that little hamlet or is it a suburb?). We hadn't booked anywhere, we just arrived and had a look-see. It was grey and overcast and windy as can only be expected along that part of the coast. We stumbled into the cutest looking place we could find, Knead Bakery - Chris would later go on to tell people that he started off his asking me by saying he 'kneaded' me in his life... how sweet! - just to set the scene: owing to the weather all the stacking, folding doors were closed and the restaurant was packed, the noise of a busy feeding trough surrounded us and to top it all off, we were seated at a table right in the centre of things - safe to say I didn't suspect a thing. By that stage we had already been together for almost four years, so marriage, let alone an engagement was the last thing on my mind.
Chris looked at me and started off by saying how much he needed me in his life, how good I had been for him as a person and that he never wanted to lose me - I was now thinking, hmmm where's this going - and then he looked me in the eyes and and asked quietly, 'will you marry me?'. I said yes without hesitation, in retrospect I should've made him sweat it out for a minute or two longer but oh well! I then looked around and through all the chaos that comes with a busy seaside restaurant on a chilly day - we quietly had a life changing moment occur - in and amongst all the noise around us. It was very precious and I shall always remember it.
Chris has never been one to wear jewellery - apart from his watch and on the odd occasion the earrings for both his ears - but when he asked if we could go buy him a ring to wear, to show everyone that he was taken, my heart melted. Little did I know I would have to wait another 15 months for my engagement ring but in the end, all things good come to those who wait.
It was a very busy 19 month engagement, we bought two houses - in two very different cities - we bought a business and relocated to another city. I repeat, it has been very, very busy.
So when we decided to draw up our will a short while back - we took a long, hard look at everything - at this stage in our lives, we have three adorable godchildren (plus one adopted godchild) and a nephew that we wanted to include as beneficiaries of our estate - not to mention nominating a caregiver to the hounds, should something happen to the both of us but the one thing that kept holding us back on completing it was whether or not we should get married first, as opposed to having the will drawn up only to have to amend it again once we were married. We tossed and turned between both ideas but being ever the pragmatists that we are, logic won out at the end of the day.
I'm not saying that we didn't want to have a big ceremony and celebrate with friends and family afterwards but we've been so focused on the business and making a life for ourselves that when we did indeed decide to tie the knot it just didn't make sense for us to go the traditional route, in a way we're fiercely private individuals - says I as I type a blog that chronicles mine and by default Chris' life too! - and this may come as a surprise but we both don't like being the centre of attention. So it was a win-win situation for us.
We decided to elope instead - the only arrangements we needed to make was booking accommodation for us and Margot (our best woman) and sorting out flight arrangements to get her to and from Bloemfontein to Johannesburg. Donovan (our best man) lives there and Iain, another good friend (who also happens to be a Marriage Officer) did the honours - under a tree in his garden, with two of our dearest friends as witnesses - on a gorgeous, sunny, autumn Johannesburg late-afternoon. The rest of our time in Johannesburg was spent largely unplanned. We took in a lot of sights and kept everything super casual - eliminating any stress that is normally associated with weddings.
Selfie at The Wilds Nature Reserve mere hours before tying the knot!
At the end of the day getting married, or should I say how you want to get married, is entirely up to you as a couple - there is no right or wrong way to do it - no opinion other than yours and your partner counts in this regard. Did we cop out and go the easy route? No, not at all. Did we do what we wanted to do on our day, for sure. Did we keep it a secret after the fact, no we did not. Would we do it all over again exactly the same, no doubt in my mind.
April is now forever cemented as the most important month on our calendar - we celebrate not only our marriage but also both our birthdays - but from now on as Hurford-Douglas.
Until next time,