No filters here

Can we please take a moment to talk about filters? I have noticed that the pictures of my friends on ‘The Socials’ are becoming more and more air-brushed as the years tick by and it makes me mad. I know, I know … each to his own and all that, but, but … Here’s a photo of me trying to look like a rabbit, not very successfully, before I start my little rant.

Those of us of a certain age (and, as much as I still like to think of myself as part of the youth, I am most definitely not. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Hell, some of my peer’s kids are at ‘varsity already) have a responsibility, not only to ourselves, but to the generations below us, to age gracefully. And by gracefully, I mean realistically.

So, we have wrinkles where we used to be smooth, various body parts are a little saggy, others a bit (lot) more rounded, we have crow’s feet and laugh lines and frown marks. It’s okay. It’s a privilege to be able to grow old, and all of those changing bits and bobs are well-earned tokens of life – and they are beautiful – so let’s be proud of them, shall we, and stop powdering them over with fake filters?

In this crazy, looks-obsessed world that we live in, how can we expect our children to be confident in the bodies that they have, if we’re filtering our photos to fit in with some ridiculous idea of what beauty is, conceived by crappy women’s magazines et al?

Look, I get it. I hate photos of myself, and rarely post any that are taken of me because I am highly judgmental of my own looks (and there’s the small matter of my clinging to the dye bottle and not being able to let my hair go grey) and find something wrong in almost all of them and that’s because I’m a product of this world we’ve created. As proof, I don’t like the pic I’ve posted above, at all, but I’m posting it because if I’m going to rant about such things, I need to listen to myself.

Let’s do ourselves, our children and the world, a favour and stop it.

You are beautiful. Sans filter.


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Water baby lost. And found.

I have always been a water baby. One of my favourite childhood stories that my parents tell of me is about our holiday in Gordon’s Bay when I was 2-years old. Apparently it was really not their most fun holiday because they spent their time fishing me out of the waves only to have me toddle straight back in again.

Most of my sea-swimming was done in Port Alfred – the place of idyllic, long Summer holidays with sandy feet and sun-kissed faces – and the beaches surrounding it … Kenton, Kleinmond, Riet River. The sea there is temperamental, alternating between balmy and icy, calm and wildly filled with riptides. I learnt early on to listen to the sea, swimming way beyond the others, I was aware of her moods, knew she was far more fierce than me, and respected her.

My father taught us how to body surf as soon as we could swim. I think we learnt in Plett, at Lookout Beach, with it’s perfect body-surfing waves, on a holiday to my grandparents who lived there, back when Plett was a sleepy seaside village and Millionaire’s Row was still wild coastal bush. My love affair with the sea only swelled (see what I did there?), with this newly-acquired skill.

I don’t remember ever feeling really afraid of the sea, other than on three occasions: once, when I was stung by blue bottles and my brave sister pulled them off me, getting stung herself; the second, when I saw a man washed up on the rocks in Kenton. And then, the third: my surfing introduction …

At ‘varsity, I decided to try surfing. My friends were surfers and I regularly went down to Kowie with them for afternoons on the beach. No, Mom, I didn’t miss pracs to go the seaside. Well, not too often. Okay, maybe a lot.

On the occasion of my ‘learning to surf’, we all went down to the Fish River Mouth, to camp. I borrowed a wetsuit from one of my friends – he was 6-foot and I was almost 6-foot, so it fitted, but it had a hole in the bum, so wasn’t terribly effective. It made me feel surferry, though. A board was lent to me, and out we went, into the shark-infested waters of the mouth, me with my normal sea comfort.

What I hadn’t realised, though, was that the reason surfers have such lovely backs and arms is because getting a surfboard (and yourself) under a barreling wave requires a LOT of upper body strength. I don’t have that. Not then, and certainly not now! I made it through half the waves, then untied the leash from my ankle, leaving the board to make its own way onto the beach and carrying on out, happily, sans board. The boys weren’t overly impressed to find me bobbing around with them, boardless, but I had a fabulous time body-surfing.

I’m not a fan of talking about the things I lost after my accident because I don’t think anything good comes from dwelling on things you cannot change. Sometimes, though, I guess it’s okay to dive into it, briefly. After my accident, one of the things that made me most sad was the fact that I would never swim in the sea again. I went in the pool once, but I have no feeling below the top of my chest i.e. the bits where I can feel are frustratingly above the water, and not being able to glide through the water took the magic from it. I decided then, that the best way to deal with that longing for water, was to keep those memories in my head. But memories, unfortunately, fade.

And that’s why, when I watched the beautiful video I posted above, made by the children of childhood friends (in whose pool I regularly spent hours and hours in Small Town South Africa), I wept, big fat tears of pure joy. It allowed me to feel like I was back in the sea. So, I couldn’t feel the bursting of the bubbles, taste the salt, smell the ozone, but it jogged those fading memories, it flung me back into my cozzie, floating on by back, staring up at the Eastern Cape sky, with only the sound of waves keeping me company.

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And breathe … Petersfield

The sparkling light of the moon dancing on the surface of a lake when it’s full moon and there’s a slight breeze? That’s what the water that flows from the earth’s belly at Petersfield tastes like. And that’s not even the best thing about this little slice of paradise outside Citrusdal.

De Kom Cottage – one of four cottages scattered around Petersfield – is nestled in a rocky kloof and looks out across the valley to the Cederberg mountains in the distance. One evening I watched as the sun set behind us and night crept stealthily up the mountain from the valley, turning it grey then pink then bruised purple.

In the tree next to me, the birds noisily returned home, recounting the tales of their days and gradually settling in and quieting, interrupted every now and again by the shout of hadedas that echoed across the cliffs above which, during the day, eagles soar. It’s heart-squelchingly beautiful.

While I’m waxing lyrical about the views and birds and, and … That thing about bats getting tangled in your hair? Untrue. Or, I’m lucky. I love bats and, while I’m not sure I’d like one to run its batty fingers through my hair, I do like to watch them swoop and dive at dusk, so I sat out next to the pool as a flock of bats swept and swerved above the pool until the stars spattered the sky and the dark of the night swallowed the bats. Not one flew into my hair, and there were loads of them.

That’s the thing about Petersfield. It’s the perfect stoep-sitting (and hammock-lying) place, with stoeps both sides, each with spectacular views, day and night, all to the soundtrack of birds and a band of insects that sound like they’re playing tiny castanets. One afternoon I watched a locust dressed in a flamboyant red swimsuit munch his way along the grass. He did so for a good twenty minutes, possibly longer, but I had to go for a cooling outdoor shower before lying down  for my obligatory afternoon nap, so he may have done the same. It’s a siesta kind of place, too. The perfect unwinding, quiet space to breathe and rest and be.

*We were kindly hosted for two nights by Petersfield.

Wheelchair Accessibility

The main thing I look for – and I may differ from other travellers in this – is a place at which I can sit on a stoep and read my book and, well, watch locusts in flamboyant swimsuits and the like, get on with their days. Petersfield is this to a T.

There is a ramp up to the cottage from the parking spot, which is quite sloped but, with careful parking, you can park relatively ‘flatly’. Once you’re on the stoep, the house is flat and the rooms big, with plenty of space to move around. The bed is a great height for transferring.

The inside bathroom, too, is big, but with no grab rails and the shower has a step. The outside bathroom has a non-stepped shower and a view to beat all views. Getting there is a little tricky, down a step and a brick path, but it’s totally worth it! Look at this. Just look!

Petersfield is just lovely and the perfect space to go and breathe. The owners are fabulous and helpful, too. If you want any more details, contact me and I’ll happily chat.


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Culinary delights in Tulbagh

On our last visit to Tulbagh I fell in love with the little town, so I was ever-so-pleased to return, and even more pleased to be hosted at the beautiful Wittedrift Manor House. The only complaint I have is that we had to leave. Not only because Wittedrift was so lovely, but also because … food. There just wasn’t enough time to sample the smorgasbord of restaurants that Tulbagh has. I was astounded by the range of places to eat in and around Tulbagh last time, and now there are more!

We were only there for two nights, though, so not nearly enough mealtimes! Arriving on Saturday, serendipitously at lunchtime, we headed out on the Tweejongegezellen Road and were hosted for lunch by new kids on the Tulbagh block, Digger’s Home. What a treat it was.

Owner, Janet, and waitress, Franzelle, were there to welcome us and settle us at a table on their huge shaded stoep that has a gorgeous view across the valley. It’s a place for long, lazy lunches (LLLs). The tapas-type menu, too, is ideal for said LLLs. Don’t you like that little acronym I just made up? I think it should be a thing. It will go down in history as being coined at Diggers Home.

The food is made by Chef Andre. I have capitalised the C purposefully. It is divine. We were given a palate cleanser of charcoal vetkoek with farm butter and the most fabulous tomato jam. The charcoal vetkoek seriously looks like a charcoal brickette. I was expecting oil to squirt out as I bit it, my experiences with vetkoek harking back to my boarding school days, but this was the total opposite. It was light and fluffy and totally unoily. Delicious!

The farm has recently started producing its own wines, and has already won some awards, so I had a glass of their Unwooded Chardonnay while we had long chats with Janet, who is lovely (as is the wine). We struggled to decide on what tapas to order, because it all looked so good but finally settled on Flat Bread with Hummus and Olive Tapenade; Chicken Crepinette in Neapolitan Sauce and Fishcakes with Gooseberry and Tomato Relish. It was gorgeous, and fabulously tasty, all of it. If I had to pick a winner: the fish cakes (served in a perfect Lucky Star dish) with the gooseberry and tomato relish, which is seriously good.

After this feast, we had to lie down – Saturday naps are non-negotiable – so we headed back to the cool quiet of Wittedrift and reclined, in preparation for our feasting at the Tulbagh Boutique Hotel later in the evening.

We were hosted for dinner at The Olive Terrace, which is on the stoep of the Tulbagh Hotel. It’s gorgeous, with a fairy-lit tree in its middle and a view over old Tulbagh to the hill on the edge of town, behind which the sun slowly drops. Sundowner spot deluxe. It was lively and full with of locals and visitors (I know, I’m a chatter and a stellar eavesdropper, remember?) Manager, Lydia, and waitress, Natasha, treated us like royalty.

We’d been recommended the tuna starter by the locals, so we had it. The locals are not wrong. Perfectly seared tuna nestling on a bed of creamy avo, mayo and edemame beans. Too good. I had the mushroom risotto to follow, which I loved, so much so that I forgot to take a pic! GM had a steak and salad. It was thick and tender and basted with the most delicious basting sauce.

At that point, while I was tempted by their dessert menu (and my family have separate pudding stomachs) but I was truly too full, even with said pudding stomach. I will, absolutely, be back though, to try out the puddings!

Wheelchair Accessibility

Diggers Home has a dirt parking area on a very slight slope but there’s a nice flat bit on one side which is fine for getting out. There’s a ramp up onto the lawn and the tables are the perfect height (even for nearly-6-foot me).

The Olive Terrace and Tulbagh Hotel is within flat-ish walking distance of Wittedrift (and it’s a pretty walk). The hotel has a great ramp all the way up to it. It’s a little steep, so those of us who are less strong need a little pushing from behind, but the staff are lovely and helpful, so that’s no issue. The tables, too, are wheelchair-friendly.

*Feel free to contact me if you’d like more detailed info. I’m happy to chat.

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Being a ‘Lady of the Manor’ at Wittedrift

In 1969, the small town of Tulbagh was hit by an earthquake that measured 6.3 on the Richter Scale. It killed nine people, mostly children, and left heartbreak and chaos in its wake. Fires followed and, as huge numbers of the town’s people were put up in emergency tents (some had to live in temporary housing for years), the rains came down. The town thought it was Judgement Day and, according to one of the interviews we watched at the fascinating Earthquake Museum – pop in, it’s well worth a visit – ‘Toe gaan die mense Kerk toe’ (Then everyone went to church).

Soon after, restoration began, including that of the beautiful Church Street, in which all of the 18th and 19th century houses were returned to their former glory. Wittedrift Manor House, which sits just across from Church Street, looks like it should be included in the family album of those old houses. Interestingly though, the manor, with its thatched roof, Cape Dutch gables, huge wooden windows and spectacular high ceilings is but a teenager – without the rolling eyes and duck-faced selfies, thankfully – compared to the old ladies of Church Street.

I generally consider myself a ‘do it yourself’ kind of traveler in that, mostly, I prefer self-catering and ‘off the beaten track’ places. Then I go to a guesthouse like Wittedrift and realise that I love the more ‘communal’ kind of travelling too. By communal I don’t mean sharing bunk beds in a backpackers – one reaches an age where that kind of thing loses its glitter, and I’m that age (and some) – no, this is as far from that kind of communal as the English rugby team is from getting their hands on the 2019 Rugby World Cup trophy.

Wittedrift Manor is the perfect kind of communal. The one where you have the cool, quiet sanctuary of your en-suite room in one of the wings at the front of the house where you can lazily enjoy your peaceful privacy and, at the back of the house, the huge, friendly kitchen welcomes you – in winter, I’m sure the communing takes place next to the fireplace in the lounge, adjacent to the kitchen. Therein, you can often find the fabulous hosts, PJ and/or Carol and/or other guests, chatting.

A moment for the kitchen, please, which almost deserves its own full post. It’s huge and is the poster child for kitchens. The walls are chock-a-block with art; from the ceiling hang an array of kitchen equipment, art pieces and an old wicker pram; it has an enormous wooden table (how I wish that table could talk … the things it must’ve heard and seen) in its centre at which breakfast is served, communally, and sundowners and, and … gesellig, that’s what it is; and, most importantly, the aromas that float gently out of it are delicious, thanks to Carol’s talents. She’s the owner and chef at the renowned Readers Restaurant, a hop, skip and a jump down the road (and a must-visit for a meal).

The enormous bedroom, fully kitted out with a four-poster bed, as required by a ‘Lady of the Manor’ such as I now see myself, is also beautifully cool due to its high ceilings (a necessity … Tulbagh summers are hot hot hot) and has enough space to have a small party, should you wish to do such a thing. Speaking of parties, the Manor has played host to a range of celebrations: think weddings, special birthdays and, my best, Murder Mystery weekends. I can’t think of a better place for such a thing. I spent a happy afternoon lying on my bed gazing out of the window onto the lush garden, reminiscing about the endless games of Cluedo my sister and I used to play. She always won, being four years older (I refuse to admit its because she’s cleverer than me, even though she is). Prof Plum in the Conservatory with the candlestick, indeed.

Basically, Wittedrift is a blissful place to be, capably run by Carol and hosted by PJ, who is Irish and has the charm to prove it. Bonus … we were spoilt with massages from Celeste, who comes to you, there, and has perfect healing hands. I was just post-exam, so knotted with stress and she massaged it all out of my back and sent it fluttering to the floor. What a treat. Extra bonus (we were treated and treated, lucky us), was Sunday dinner around the table, en famille: fantastic food by Carol and great conversation. The perfect Sunday night, really

*We were hosted by Tulbagh Tourism and Wittedrift Manor House.

Wheelchair accessibility

The Manor House is built on a sloped property so the back entrance has stairs, but a little slope up the driveway leads to a level path straight into the wide front door and from there on in, it’s wooden floors, huge rooms and wide doors.

The four-poster bed, while gorgeous, is quite high, so if transferring is an issue, may be difficult. There is a perfect-height single bed in the room we had, though, so there’s that option. The room is beautifully big, with lots of space to move around and a large en-suite bathroom too. No grab rails but plenty of transfer room for the toilet and a step up into the shower – also no grab rails or seat, but a garden chair would fit easily.

Most importantly, Carol and PJ went out of their way to make it accessible and, why I was there, was to give them input on accessibility. As an example of their loveliness, the kitchen table was a little low for me to get under … at dinner, they had kindly put it up on bricks so I could get under.

The Earthquake Museum, which is well worth a visit, has steps at the front but, if you enter from the back, there’s a flat entrance.

Feel free to contact me if you’d like more in-depth info or have questions, I’m happy to help.

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Living my best loaf with Albany

I know, I know … that title is too much but how could I not? Let me explain. As a blogging type, I sometimes get fabulous invitations fluttering into my inbox, one of which was a – slightly unusual but, you know me … the more unusual, the better – request for my presence at a small do at the Albany Bread factory in Bellville.

The party was in celebration of their nifty new tamper-proof packaging – a laser heat seal that ensures safety, freshness and hygiene. And fret not, the useful little plastic tag (which, I hope you’re all recycling, ditto the bread bags) is still there.

After meeting Onthatile and Lola from Bullion PR and having a nibble from the fabulous spread (thinking about bread makes one hungry), we headed outside. There, KFM were rousing the crowd and dancing – including their penguin, who looked a bit hot in the sun, poor fellow – and they had one of those telephone-box-whirlwind things into which people were going and catching a flapping piece of paper and winning things. I thought those only existed on TV.

Willie, the factory manager, gave a short speech and then we headed into the belly of the factory for a tour, white-coated, hair-netted and ear-plugged, because bread is very noisy. Okay, bread-making is. Who’d have thought?

I learnt nine things that day:

  1. Bread factories smell divine.
  2. Hair nets are not my best look.
  3. The Albany factory makes 1.6 million loaves of bread a week.
  4. An enormous ball of bread dough looks very comfy.
  5. It is easy to imagine having a nap in a ball of dough.
  6. It takes 70 minutes for the bread to rise in a special, warm, rising room (it’s when the loaves get to kick back a little).
  7. Fresh bread is delicious. I did already know that, but this reinforced it.
  8. The Kfm 94.5 penguin must feel like an Albany Bread as it comes out of the oven in the heat!
  9. The staff on the floor of the bread factory are lovely, and happy to answer even the most bizarre bread-related questions.

And now you know why that title is totally apt. I really am living my best loaf.

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Seriously stylin’ at KolKol

Approaching from the Van Der Stel Pass road between Bot River and the Villiersdorp-Grabouw road (do yourselves a favour and drive the full road, it’s gorgeous), you can see the KolKol pods nestled amongst the fynbos up on the hill in the Groenkloof Conservancy. If I hadn’t known better, I’d have thought they were some kind of alien radio, with their beautiful curved-cornered-rectangular shapes.

They’re anything but an alien radio, though, once you’ve arrived at your doorstep. Made of concrete, wood and brick, with full-length sliding doors on the stoep side with the view, any alien (or human, I’m here to tell you) won’t want to leave.

I have never before been to a place where I wanted to touch everything. The new pods at KolKol are not only an architectural wonder – and ecologically friendly, to boot – but both the building itself and the interior decoration has the most amazing textures. The whole place is a smorgasbord for the senses.

The pods have everything that opens and shuts … think pizza oven, SMEG stove, perfect lighting, a couch that just asks to be lounged in, a ‘fatsack’ that requires the same, a bath-with-a-view, a shower that evokes a warm waterfall, a Marshall speaker so you can – most aptly – listen to Eddie Vedder crooning the ‘Into the Wild’ soundtrack when you want a little break from the sound of the wind through the fynbos and the twittering birds, and a stoep with views that’ll make you sigh blissfully, especially if you’re sitting neck-deep in the wood-fired hot tub on said stoep.

See? Heavenly view, perfect privacy, floor-to-wall glass sliding doors that open up the whole pod to said view … there’s even a picture window that is the poster girl for picture windows behind the kitchen sink which turns washing up from a chore into a dreamy experience. And don’t worry, when the sun sets over the hill behind you and Winter blows her chill down the mountain, there’s a huge fireplace between the lounge and bedroom area that makes the pod suitably cosy, so you can read your book listening to the night insects. Bliss.

And that sums it up, really: blissful.

Wheelchair accessibility

There’s a big step into the pod – sorry, I was too awed … I forgot to photograph it – but once you’re in, it’s smooth sailing around the whole place. There are a couple of carpets, but they’re loose, so if carpets are the bane of your life (I feel you), you can roll ’em up out of your way while you’re staying.

Both the kitchen table and outdoor table have nice clearance and I could fit under them and the bed, while fixed, is a reasonable height for transferring (and super comfy, with the softest, warmest blanket that I totally fell in love with).

The bathroom has no grab bars, but it’s lovely and big with a free-standing bath. The shower is large, but the gap between the glass and wall is quite small, so would be doable only if you’re able to stand. Did I mention the bath has the most beautiful view? The toilet has lots of space around it and would allow for front- or side-transfer.

If you’d like more info, feel free to contact me.

*We were kindly hosted by KolKol for the night.

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