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,
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!
This week's #tbt takes us back to December 2014 - Chris took this candid (read: funny!) photo of me standing outside our then newly purchased house in Johannesburg - the SOLD sticker had recently been stuck over the FOR SALE sign. It's odd looking back at a photo like this; because I was attacked barely 7, maybe 8 weeks before this and I looked terribly thin - I obviously wasn't eating much but, safe to say, I am looking healthier now.
I can't seem to recall what I was saying to Chris but by my body language and hand gesture, it was obviously some grand design for our then newly purchased property!
Until next time,
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,
Spending the day in a snowy Drakensberg a few years back
I recall a good friend of both Chris and myself (who I see once a year, when she takes her leave and comes back to South Africa - my dear friend, I do miss you so) saying to me a few years back that her mother had questioned her about what I do on a day-to-day basis to validate my existence - I vaguely remember telling her something along the lines of that I look after Chris, the hounds and make sure that everything is running smoothly around the house. Which is completely and undeniably true.
I also remember feeling slightly annoyed by that statement / question - that somehow working a regular 9 - 5 job in some way 'validates one's existence'. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't annoyed with my friend nor her mother - whom I adore just as much as I do my friend - it's a question / statement that, fortunately, doesn't get asked or stated anymore as the years have gone by but it is annoying nonetheless. Why do we - or any couple for that matter - have to explain the inner workings of our relationship? Or to justify it? Luckily those close to us have come to realise that both Chris and I support each other wholeheartedly - just not in the conventional (whatever that may mean?) way.
It's not as if I haven't worked before, if anything I am a good worker. I remember when I was working and studying to become a high school educator, I was studying full-time through UNISA and working a 3/4 teaching timetable, 5 days a week - the last year, before I became disillusioned (and finally chose to leave the field) I was in charge of the Grade 8 English department. Essentially I was doing all the prep work for the entire grade. It was exhausting.
Donating all the supplies that we managed to accumulate from the various regions that Chris was GM of in Johannesburg to aid the owners of the dog kennel that the hounds regularly stayed at when they took in over 30 abused Greyhounds on behalf of the SPCA last year.
Then I did a complete u-turn and found myself managing the front office of an Architect firm - I had never answered a phone for a living prior to this - but I excelled and was, by the time I left a few years later, in charge of the front office, assisted in the creditors and admin department and was the PA to both the partners of the firm.
Then I was involved in the accident that put me out of commission for a year. When you can't use one of your arms - it limits what you can do. So Chris and I managed on one salary and we made it work. I was traumatised by the accident and went for counselling - we then added Max, Cleo and shortly after that Jessie to the family. So in short, by the time I was physically able to work we had a pack of dogs that needed constant attention - I still maintain to this day that our Jack Russell's are so chilled because they weren't left alone during their formative years.
At Wimpy on the Durban Promenade, many moons ago!
Before we started our company, Chris worked for a big corporation that required him to move from region to region, as and when they needed him, so with me not working it made it easier to follow his rise up the ranks - which I totally supported - we wouldn't be here today if he had not taken those opportunities and ran with them.
Late 2014 I found myself being offered a position as a PA to a tax practitioner - by this stage I hadn't worked for at least 2 years - thoughts of 'Can I actually do this?' ran circles around my mind but I gave it a go and enjoyed it, there were days that I was like 'I can't do this!', 'I'm exhausted!' but one gets on with it. Then we started the company and because of Chris' previous employment contract, we weren't allowed to operate within a certain radius of where he was previously employed - so we headed back to the East Coast - I handed in my resignation to a very sad ex-boss but I did it because Chris needed me, I could have easily stayed on in our home in Johannesburg with the hounds whilst Chris sorted business out down here but it has never worked like that with the two of us. We're in it together.
A couple of months later, my ex-boss contacted me and asked if I would be willing to return back to Johannesburg and work for him again, with him giving me a certain amount of leverage to negotiate a deal that suited me too - I toyed with the idea, I turned him down, he approached me again and I have sort of left it there. As exciting as it would be be, my place is here - with my partner in life and best friend, Chris. Some may see it as me halting myself to put Chris first and to a certain degree that may be true but I believe that Chris wouldn't be where he is now without my support and encouragement driving him - I wonder if he would agree with that statement? He probably would. I am not saying it has been plain sailing all the way, I'm a wilful Aries but so is Chris!
At an award evening in Cape Town, where we met Ryk Neethling.
It is so easy to question a relationship or partnership that doesn't quite fit the mould - where outwardly it appears as if one is giving more than the other - you may be pleasantly surprised to find out that all is not what it appears and that sometimes in order for one partner to give, the other needs to sacrifice.
Until next time,
We are on the move, again! Say hello to our new home!
It's no secret that Chris and I have moved around a lot over the years - either for work purposes, as our family has outgrown our rentals (read: acquiring more pets) or if we've had landlord issues - and then we finally bought our own house in Johannesburg, at the beginning of this year. Sadly things change - as per life, these things happen - but the opportunity to start our own company, that would buy a franchise in Durban was too great a deal to miss out on.
We've been in a rental in Morningside since arriving here in early August but as previously mentioned in another blog, it's just too big for us - not the property size per say - which is about 1/4 the size of our property in Bramley but the actual house. It literally takes me a good part of a whole day to clean: Yes, no domestic worker or gardener for us - we fortunately (or is that unfortunately?) are both control freaks and find it hard to let go of anything, apart from ironing - that gets done at the local laundromat down the road!
All rentals we've stayed in aside - which have always served as a means to an end - has made us realise what we want and don't want in a property to buy. The house we bought in Johannesburg had last been sold in 1968 - so we are the third owners of that house, I know it may sound silly but knowing that the house has not changed hands often is what attracted us to it. It was a family home right up until we bought it - it had never been rented out - not to mention the 43m long driveway, sprawling front and back lawn, the century old Oak Tree in the front garden that I can hug without my hands touching, it even has all the keys to every single cupboard in the house.
See?! Super long driveway and one can even see the top of our massive Oak Tree peeking over on the left
It's now a rental to us and I have made peace with that. It's an investment for our future
Chris mentioned to me that a house had come onto the market a few weeks back in Glenmore, an area we both adore from an architectural point of view. In relative terms it's a new suburb - formed in and around the 1960's - think mid-century style, sleeker lines and newer types of materials used in construction as apposed to Morningside, Umbilo, Glenwood and Berea, which are as old as Durban itself.
Our current rental was built in the 1890's and most of the properties in Durban's older, central suburbs suffer terribly from Wood Borer - unless the owners have totally gutted their home and rebuilt - which is sad, as you lose the charm of these older homes but in some cases there's no other option.
Back to the Glenmore house that WAS on the market! So we went and had a look-see at this house - turns out it was master-built by the current owner's late husband in 1969 - 70, i.e. the house has never been on the market before now and has never been rented out - ticked a box. It is above road level, another box ticked. It is a corner plot, another big box ticked. It has a huge but shallow swimming pool, another box ticked. It has the classic garage under the house design, another box ticked. Does it need a bit of sprucing up, yes and is it in good condition? Absolutely! Bar replacing the oven and stove and a coat or two of paint, and freshening up the open plan en-suite - oh, and fencing in the property at the back - which just goes to show that Glenmore hasn't earned a reputation as being one of Durban's safest suburbs for no reason if an elderly lady could stay alone in the house without an enclosed back yard!
It also has one of the most well supported community watch forums in Durban - so I shall be baking treats to sell at the stall they have just around the corner every Friday afternoon - with all proceeds going to Blue Security who actively patrol the suburb and have been doing so since 1997.
So... one cheeky offer placed, a counter offer made, we counter offered that offer and boom! house sold to us!
See below for some photos of our new soon-to-be home, obviously the decor is not ours, but just to so proud of both myself and Chris that we've managed to not only start a company this year but have also managed to buy two houses - feeling very blessed and scared and excited and everything all rolled into one!
Our deposit has been paid, all lawyer's documents signed - just have to wait for transfer - which should take place in January.
So, do I have the energy for one more move? Yes!
Could I potentially have a mini-breakdown in the process? Maybe...? Let's see how it goes.
Just thought I'd share our good news with everyone reading.
Until next time,
Our gorgeous rental in Morningside, Durban has been a fantastic place to live - bar the odd noisy evening emanating from the hub that is Florida Road - which is to be expected from living in the centre of things.
She's a well proportioned home, consisting of 4 1/2 bedrooms, 3 1/2 bathrooms, a lovely upstairs balcony leading off the master bedroom and my creative, office space - upper right hand side in the photo - but she's just too big for the two of us and the hounds. There, unfortunately, wasn't any other suitable options for us at the time, so we have been very creative in decorating the rooms - two offices, a guest bedroom, a library, etc..
Don't get me wrong, Morningside is so central to everything; the office is a short 2Km drive away, the Durban-Folks are about a Km away - in fact, everything is mostly a walk away from us - which has been fun.
We've even managed to walk the hounds down to the beachfront, we just follow along Argyle Road, over the Umgeni Road intersection and boom! at the beach. One of the funniest moments was us walking the hounds past the Stables along NMR Avenue and us passing a paddock with about 10 or so horses grazing in it and having them all gravitate towards the fence, following us along as we passed by - just watching and following us. It was so random, having these beautiful animals curiously following us go by.
I have even started walking by myself again and have been doing so for about the last 6 weeks - something I would never have done in Johannesburg, after the attack anyhow - so am very pleased to see that my tan is coming along nicely, I even have my various routes all planned out (I use a pedometer, which captures the amount of steps one takes and I try to do 10 000 aerobic steps, which is essentially non-stop steps as opposed to stop start - I try as much as is possible to jog a bit too but it invariably turns into a combination of the both, which I fondly call 'wogging' - jog for the duration of one song, walk for two songs, etc. All depending on how I feel and also depending on the heat - its been super hot down here along the East Coast!
We even had to have curtains made for the lounge and dining area - our curtain drop is a massive 3,2m - which is crazy, we have never had curtains made, let alone having them the size of theatre proportions! But if we look after them, they should last us 20 or so years and at what they cost to make, they better!
It's no secret that I found this particular move very traumatic to my person - up until recently (i.e. being prescribed sleeping pills) I was on a daily basis getting up anytime from 02:00am onwards - which was starting to wear me down - as would anyone who was totally sleep deprived - but we soldier on! We've now been here almost a whole four months and I don't regret our decision to leave Johannesburg. In fact, my recent trip up there confirmed this - I naively thought I'd arrive there and immediately miss all that we had become used to - apart from Super Sconto (my go-to Italian delicatessen and pantry stock up shop - which I shall always go to when up there to stock up on pasta, chick peas, anything Mediterranean) which Durban unfortunately doesn't have - and taking a drive by our rental - I miss nothing! If anything, I had totally forgotten about the horrendous traffic, traffic lights out at every second or third intersection and the constant smell of exhaust fumes (I know it's weird but the smell of those fumes drove me mad! Aircon was always on.) Amazing what one can forget in four short months.
Our little Johannesburg home
All stocked up whilst sipping on a cappuccino in the canteen above the store - Note some was for my Durban Mom
Dawn and myself went there last year on my Birthday for a quick something something to eat and drink
Dawn - my true Italian friend - we ate a lot that day!
Later that day at Tashas with Dawn again, the restaurant where Oscar infamously fired a bullet whilst it was packed with diners!
Chris' father asked me to join both him and Chris in growing a moustache for Movember - along with a small donation to a cancer research organisation - so... both Chris and myself are 23 days into Movember, along with Totes - so look out for a mo' photo coming soon to a blog post near you!
I have added a comfort food recipe, some vintage finds and a collection of photos of Chris under my Media page - just because I can! - ok, off for my daily walk soon, then some gardening and then some baking - shall be working on our company accounts later in the week, so getting some things out the way early on in the week.
Again, really, nothing comes close to living on the East Coast!
Until next time,
As my week long road trip is starting to draw to a close, thought I'd put some of my thoughts down on the events that have taken place in the last few days.
Firstly, my heart goes out to all those innocent souls who were mercilessly mowed down at their respective venues in Paris - whilst enjoying dinner or a concert - none of those people deserved to die so, so tragically.
This had me thinking about what's happening in South Africa - yes, we have load shedding and water issues and mismanagement of state owned entities - but is it not better the devil we know, than the devil we don't know? That goes to all of our friends and family who have given up on our beautiful country for greener pastures - which is totally your own decision and you are all fully supported - but what irks me is this preconception that all is better on the First World side of things - when indeed the wheels are obviously starting to shake and wobble a bit. All I ask is that we don't have it shoved in our face that South Africa is a bad place, when it is plain to see that each and every country is battling it's own war; war on terrorism, war on inequalities, war on tyrannical leaders, war amongst each other - just because a country has public transport that runs efficiently, as a random example, doesn't make it the bees knees.
Saying that, I really wonder why France - not that I particularly would ever want to visit that country - is being targeted? Is it just a decoy to throw authorities off the real target? My conspiracy theorist mind at play? I don't know but what happened in Paris could happen anywhere. I sincerely hope that all the heads of the world's various states are putting plans in place to step up security at all public venues, this includes softer targets, like schools where security is minimal - at best.
Again, France you're in my thoughts.
Back to my trip - I usually don't travel without Chris but as he has been very busy with work - I needed to go this one alone. A whole week without him and the hounds. The longest we've ever been apart is when he left on a trip to Munich a few years back for 10 or 11 days. Bless him, he has been a trooper looking after the company and the house, not forgetting the hounds. Thank You, Chris. I miss you muchly!
Speaking of being a trooper, I bravely set out from Durban to Bloemfontein without filling up completely (Note: I did check my tyres though!) See photo above for my petrol gauge as I drove into Bloemfontein. Shew! That was a close call! Maya (as in Maya the Bee - I drive a B Class - see where her name comes from? Maya the Bee, Maya the B Class?!). I started to stress 20Km outside of Bloemfontein but all for nothing. My little car bravely got us there.
Maya, the day we saw her on the 'pre-owned' lot
Chris has the Discovery Insure tracker attached to our cars - it monitors speed travelled, handling, braking, acceleration and phone motion - the better one drives, the more points are earned and knowing that your driving is being monitored - one is inclined to drive with more attention to detail such as following speed limits, avoiding harsh acceleration and the dreaded phone motion - luckily having bluetooth, handsfree in my car, I always score 100 / 100 for that but what intrigued me was that Chris was able to locate my car right to the street that I was parked on in Bloemfontein - I was visiting my Goddaughter, Morgan (more about her in an upcoming post) for the first time - she turns a whole 1 years old month-end). I was very impressed with that feature, not that he was checking up on me mind you but that should - heaven forbid - someone steal my adorable 'mom's taxi' I could potentially be able to locate it with minimal trouble. or if I get stuck someplace or have an accident and am unable to make contact via a phone, Chris will always be able to find me. Which is very comforting to know.
Plus, as it records all my trips, I have travelled 1287,5Km so far since Thursday last week.
I'm now in Johannesburg, finishing up some business related tasks - I highly recommend staying at the Sandton City Lodge, just off Rivonia Road - brilliant service, food to die for and so, so, so centrally located. I even managed a 45min jog on the treadmill in the fitness room yesterday and this morning!
The cheese and bacon bun-less burger I had for dinner last night - very tasty
I have also been on the hunt for a decent tea pot and as I had to stop in Melville on business, I took a stroll down 7th Street and walked into a charity store (knowing that part of the proceeds go to charity also warms my heart) I found this gorgeous, vintage Pyrex 6 cup tea pot - I snapped it up! - I don't know it's age or the history of it but I have never seen one before.
Looking forward to having my hair cut later today by Sandy, at Franco International Cresta - She's an awesome stylist - if you're on the look out for a new hairdresser in Johannesburg, go see her - tell her Rev recommended her.
Looking forward to seeing Chris and the hounds tomorrow - missing my not-so-little family terribly.
Until next time,
November used to be the month that I'd reflect on my scooter accident that took place on 3 November 2010 - it may have been the 4th of the month for all I know - it was a blur of Morphine, hospitals, operations, Tramacet, anti-anxiety medication, having my arm in a sling for almost the entire following year and - of course - the associated weight gain that took place.
Last November, the 6th (I think - again, another blur) added another 'I'm going to learn a big life lesson moment' when I was attacked, stabbed and robbed, whilst on my daily exercise walk - all the while in broad daylight with people driving by. Not really caring. Not offering any help whatsoever - I will never forget how I ran all the way home straddling the white, dotted centre line of the road in my socks, sans stolen shoes - it wasn't until Chris pointed out that I was bleeding, did I realise that in the mayhem that was the ambush and attack, I must have put my hand out to block the knife and was stabbed (superficially luckily, but still). Traumatised.
Above is my Big Boy scooter - we still have him - admittedly he hasn't been driven in a while, but he is safely parked and covered and will always be my first mode of transport. He has become a part of the family really.
Prior to the accident, I honestly was under, underweight - at my skinniest, I weighed about 65kg (for someone who is over 6ft tall) - I recall a friend of mine saying once that one could see my hip bones sticking out on my back. I did a lot of yoga - on top of - three times a week, I would go to gym, set the cycling machine on it's highest tension setting and cycle 10km but every time I would try and improve my own 'record', think I managed at my peak just over 10 minutes - not too bad considering I survived on coffee and cigarettes, well mostly.
Then I was involved in the accident, all activities came to a halt - in fact - I had no choice but to just stop. At the time, some people would ask why my collar bone was taking such a long time to heal - I had crushed (think bone disintegrating) it, not the usual snap - so essentially I had a 3cm gap in the centre that was missing. Never underestimate losing the ability to use a limb for a year. Also, just my luck that I'd crush my bone as opposed to a simple break that would've healed in six weeks!
The Titanium plate and seven screws holding it in place - note the gap between the 4th and 5th screw - that's where my collar bone disintegrated - the first operation, my surgeon attempted to bridge the gap with synthetic bone material in the hopes that my collar bone would regenerate - think along the lines of a grit of sand getting lodged inside an oyster and forming a pearl - that in theory - was what my surgeon thought would happen but alas.
Me, shortly after the accident.
The December after the accident, Chris thought it would be a good idea to get away for a few days - so we road tripped down from Durban, ending up at Oudtshoorn. One night, whilst on the trip I woke up in agonising pain - a screw had started to work itself out of my collar bone. Pain. Pain.
After a second opinion, because I was not convinced that my first surgeon knew what he was doing, it turned out that the synthetic material had been rejected by my body and so after 6 months with my arm in a sling - I had to have surgery again but this time bone was removed from my hip to build up my collar bone. All the while, I was being less active, as at this stage I had my arm in a sling, was walking with a crutch and on very heavy painkillers and anti-anxiety meds - which left me no other choice but to turn to the one thing I found (and still do find) comfort in. Food.
The bruising after they removed roughly 3cm of my left hip. The body weight gain was considerable - hell, I was so skinny people would've noticed an extra 5kg but as I don't do things half-measure - I gained over 30kg in that year.
It's sort of surreal looking back at these photos, to think that I had allowed myself to balloon to - at my heaviest - roughly 112kg. What compounded it was the fact that I was originally on the opposite side of the weight spectrum but as I mentioned earlier, all or nothing for me.
I am the first to admit that I allowed it, like I had an excuse - a valid reason - naturally this was distorted in my own mind as I obviously had and still do have self-image issues, as I'd never have been so skinny to start off with in the first place but I reached a turning point - I needed to lose the weight - my 'fat years' were coming to an end.
So after many km's walked - I also eventually found an awesome Yoga Ashram in Johannesburg, which I relished for the last few months of us staying upcountry - the weight started to melt off.
The two photos above represent my 'after photos' - I have managed to keep the weight off (give or take a kg here or there).
Before starting this post, I even climbed onto our scale to see what I weigh. I can gladly say that I am currently 80kg - that means I have lost over 31kg - or 62 blocks of 500g butter.
Yet, the odd thing thing is, if you're underweight you worry about picking up weight, and if you're overweight you worry about losing the extra kg's. It really is a fine line and I empathise with both sides - as I have been both thin and fat.
I like how I look now, I will never be skinny again - nor do I ever want to be but I will never be borderline obese again. Never. Promise. Hopefully!
It is about finding that balance, which is never easy.
Until next time,
PS: Can anyone in Durban town recommend a good Yoga school?