Expat-ish

Expat-ish
On the Beach

Monday, 21 November 2011

A perfect beach day In Cape Town, or: Never Forget

On Saturday, the universe finally seemed to have sorted its issues out and we had an absolutely beautiful day in Cape Town- a perfect beach day. It was very warm and by the sea there was a gentle cooling breeze.

The effect of the beach on children never ceases to amaze me. At one of our closest beaches in Muizenberg there is a great jungle gym for kids but, to my mind, there is no need. My girls just see the sand, sink into it and that is pretty much the last I hear from the until we leave, save for requests for sea water deliveries for construction purposes.

For me, a person who was not raised by the sea, there is something extra magical about those kind of days. The smell of the sea and the sunscreen, the feel of the sand and the sound of children squealing against the background of the rushing sea: it must mean it is holiday time.

I have mentioned previously that I have wanted to live in Cape Town ever since I first set foot here on holiday many years ago. What made me want to move here? All the obvious stuff, really, the natural beauty, the climate, the atmosphere, the food, the people.  On the more recent holidays with my children I came to realise that Cape Town (and South Africa) is genuinely child friendly and that, actually, life for us could be much easier and much more pleasant for us as a family.  Having grown up in Jo'burg, I knew my kids would have a fantastic childhood in South Africa, in AFRICA where you can drive down a highway and see an elephant sauntering in the distance. You can!

Fortunately, for us, the planets aligned and here we are.

A lot of people move to a place on the strength of a few holidays and the results can be mixed. The effect can be that of a holiday romance that suddenly becomes an everyday relationship. All those things that seemed charming when you had all the time in world, are now annoying, they bother you. Or it can be like buying a souvenir on holiday, that seems like a great idea at the time but it just looks so wrong in your home. Who knew a 4ft beaded elephant wouldn't look in a Home Counties living room? Really, who could have predicted such a thing?

We have been very lucky: Cape Town has not disappointed, in fact, if anything, it has completely exceeded expectations.

But what has happened, is we have kind of forgotten where we are on a day-to-day basis. Kids, schools, work, grocery shopping,  trying to start a business- all that stuff that means modern life- means that you don't notice where you are as much as you should. Life just kind of gets in the way. It's very easy to forget that you live- are lucky enough to live- at the very end (almost) of Africa.

To end our hot, hot Saturday we went to my parents house in Somerset West and cooled down in the pool. After we EVENTUALLY, managed to put the kids to bed, we had a glass of wine of the terrace outside our bedroom and enjoyed the view. This is the very view that tempted us over and over again to come and live here, to come and live in Africa.

The trees around us, high up over the world on Helderberg, barely swayed  in the balmy breeze as we watched the last of the daylight disappear over the sea at the Strand, framed by the Hottentot Holland mountains to the left. Our soundtrack was silence- punctuated by Egyptian Geese, guinea fowl and a chorus of frogs.

Sipping my South African Sauvignon Blanc, breathing in warm summer air I was thrilled to be reminded that I am lucky enough to live here, at the very end of Africa, in this stunning part of the world, where I have always wanted to be.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

A note on the art of head massage

Worldwide, in hairdressers and beauty salons a "head massage" is very often thrown in as an additional "luxury" when you have a facial, a haircut, a massage or any kind of treatment. The idea is that it helps you relax.

Now, I'm here to tell you that that is not always the case and that untrained and insensitive hands have no business massaging my head or anyone else's. Aside from the few pleasant head massages I have had, there are, in my opinion, several types of undesirable head massage which fall into the following categories:

1. The pressure is too light and I feel like I am being tickled. Giggling like a 2 year old whilst lying on a bed, semi-clad, listening to "earth music" is not very becoming and, in the enclosed space of a treatment room could come across as a little weird.

2. The pressure is too hard: The Pimple Squeezer. This "massager" basically treats your head like a giant pimple with your brain being the pus. They push and they squeeze from all angles, perhaps in the hope that your brain will ooze out after enough pressure has been applied. I am far from relaxed and leave feeling as if I have pits in my skull.

3. The pressure is too hard: The Kneader. The person giving this massage is a frustrated baker. They actually knead your head. The pushing from side to side leaves you disorientated, bruised and  you leave with a misshapen head.   My focus during these is keeping my neck and shoulders very stiff to avoid, literally, losing my head. Not much R&R there.

I thought these were the only categories until today when I went to the hairdresser where, of course, an unsolicited  head massage is thrown in with the hair wash. The hair washer had a very unique style.

It started when she washed my hair, very vigorously and for a very loooooooong time. Her modus operandi would have been infinitely better suited to a dog grooming parlour or an uncooperative child with persistent nits. She scrubbed and rubbed until I must have had a large foam afro, kneading and kneading my hair until I feared that no amount of conditioner would ever untangle it. She did this twice. Perhaps the foam afro wasn't big enough or my hair tangled enough after the first round.

When, to my enormous relief, she started the conditioner phase she proceeded to SCRATCH her nails over my head. Finally, released the tyranny of her hands, I couldn't look her in the eye, feeling traumatised and manhandled.

She seemed terribly pleased with herself, as if, perhaps, she had just cleaned up some filthy flea-ridden St. Bernard.

My point (if there is any) is this:. Don't provide a free service if you can't provide it properly. A rubbish, unsolicited free service is just as disappointing as one you paid for.

And it may be less traumatising for your clients.

November was not happy..

It was as if November read my blog entry on Friday and, enraged by my mocking of his (because you know November's a boy, right?) inability to provide a half decent spring, decided to show me what he was really made of. He seems to have called in his friend November from the northern hemisphere and, after some discussion, they decided perfect way to silence that ungrateful blogger and teach her a lesson would be for it to HAIL.

Yes, ladies and gentleman, on this past Sunday  for around half an hour, ICE was hurtling from the sky. Hail the size of peas, no less. My children were fascinated and for a brief moment the hypnotic power of the super vile Agent Oso was broken as they stared out the window.

Just as an aside, why is it all programmes that children like have a theme song or riff that would qualify as torture in Guantanamo Bay? Any peace I may feel at my children having peeled themselves off me is immediately shattered as some revolting high pitched repetitive tune oozes from the TV at a volume that is unbelievable whilst watching adult programmes. Is it punishment from the parenting gods for having given in to the electronic pacifier?

Anyway, back to the weather: November, I now understand you are easily upset. For that I am sorry. No more hail, please.

It is now much sunnier but so windy. Never happy, am I?

As a friend said to me when I whinged about the weather: "Oh, I see, now the Brit is getting fussy about the weather!"

Friday, 11 November 2011

The mystery of who stole the Cape Town weather.

Would you like to know what I'm wearing...? OK....

Last night, a night in NOVEMBER (so the last month of Spring) I was wearing no fewer than 3 layers. And, frankly, I was still pretty chilly. Not quite the answer you were expecting, is it? (If you were expecting a different answer, suggests you should be hitting the "next blog" button until you find what you need...)

I am obsessed with the weather, I know. Comes from years in northern Europe where you do the opposite of a rain dance most of the time and strip virtually naked if temperatures dare to go over 18.

I just feel rather cheated, to be honest. The last line of my address is: South Africa. You, got it, AFRICA. That place of sun, heat and, er... HEAT. I'm not going to go into the fact that a lot of people would say that Cape Town is not actually Africa at all. My illustration works only as a generalisation and will crumble under meteorological scrutiny. I doubt many foreigners, when thinking of Cape Town would envisage strong, icy winds, cloud cover and heavy rain as typical late spring weather here and that's what we have.

As a former lawyer, I feel that the correct term to use is "Misrepresentation". This time last year, there I was in short sleeves, patting myself on the back for making such a meteorologically savvy move. More sunshine and warmth than we Europeans knew what to do with streamed through the windows and open doors of the house. Today, November 11th, my eldest daughter went to school in her winter uniform (ok, it's just a tracksuit, but still: WINTER uniform).

Now, I'm no fool, I watch enough CSI to know when a crime has been committed.

It seems to me that someone or something has STOLEN Cape Town's weather and replaced with their own, or, alternatively with whatever was left in the weather bucket after the rest of the southern hemisphere took what they wanted. It appears that this year, Jo'burg was first in the queue and left us down south rather short changed.

So, who are the culprits? Where does the evidence lead us? Well, London comes to mind first. With a  VERY hot spell in October, it's possible they swiped our warmth and heat, packed into a a few days and in return send us the low cloud cover we have been experiencing. Classic London November weather- feeling like the sky is on your head.

But that doesn't explain the icy winds. Perhaps Siberia has had enough and there are currently reindeer basking in a warm breeze, cruelly taken from under our expectant noses.

And the rain- where has that come from? I am sure those in Bangkok are asking themselves the very same question. It's like this year it July was a bit out of it and forgot to rain and now July has bribed November somehow into dumping July's excess rain which July can't carry into next year, according the Rules of Months.

If the weather has not been stolen, I can only conclude that it is the universe's way of punishing and ridiculing me for buying an extraordinary amount of exceptionally beautiful summer dresses for my girls. Every morning I weep as I bypass the funky floral print dresses, in favour of long sleeve t-shirts (which are almost too small) and long leggings or jeans.

Either way, Cape Town, please sort it out. My parents-in-law are coming soon and this weather is just embarrassing.