Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Ever since we moved here I've wanted to have a scavenger hunt on the island just across the water from us.
A public space, but a very well kept secret - it's a little slice of 'private', safe, natural wilderness (is that an oxymoron?) right on our doorstep.

8 felt like the right age to do it. A scavenger hunt birthday party.

First, a map. Aren't we lucky to have an eminent mapmaker in the family?

And a system of teams and colours and flags and lists and challenges. I fucking love this stuff.

As if in homage to my bright and sunny girl, her birthday day, despite being mid winter, is always warm, calm, welcoming and bright.

The teams set off - a couple of parents along for the adventure - a couple of power-tussles and just a smattering of whining.

Tasks complete, teams proceeded to the Extraction Point where The Boatman checked their lists and granted them safe passage over the straits and on to our lawn.

When I'd asked Frieda what kind of cake one had for a Scavenger Hunt party she'd rolled her eyes (8 is definitely a bit tweeny) and declared 'A treasure chest cake of course!' (but still totally not tweeny), and I couldn't have been happier.
I've always wanted to make one of these.

I think it was a hit.

And that right there? That sweet girl in the middle? That's her next face y'all - the turning point of a new phase, the next stage, another year.
Jeez I'm excited!

Monday, June 29, 2015


Used to be you couldn't get anything past her. From before she could talk she would fix me with a knowing stare and my gossip with a girlfriend, serious talk with husband, foul language giggle with brother would dry on my lips ... she was listening.
Oh yes, listening and absorbing.

She was a code-breaker, an ear-thrower (different to a voice-thrower in obvious ways), a listener through doorways and round corners.
We learnt to be selective with our words, careful with our tone and I've spent a lot of time stopping other people mid-sentence ... 'er, could we not talk about that now?'
She was listening.

But these days, not so much.

She's off. In that world, you know the one, all the friends and adventures and countries and experiences and feels folded between two pages, between your hands. 
The limitless span of eternity in the distance between your eyes and the page.

She'll read anywhere. She'll practically read anything. And when she's in that zone you can stand right next to her and sing out 'Chocolate ice-cream!' without even ruffling her brow.

When I turned 18 my parents gave me a birthday card which said Happy Birthday from them, and Laura and Jo and Anne and all the other friends who'd stood by me growing up. They got it so right.

I'm so, so excited for my girl embarking on that journey. 
Oh the places she'll go!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

tankwa karoo

Two weeks ago we headed out to the Tankwa Karoo National Park with my whole family - parents, brothers and sisters-in-law - for a long weekend.
It took us over 6 hours to get there.
Because? It's seriously very far from anywhere else.

That's our cottage in the background. 3 bedrooms, 1 kitchen/living space, 1 bathroom (for 10 people!), 1 small solar-powered fridge, 2 gas plates, a big indoor fireplace, 1 hot water 'donkey' (i.e. you have to light a fire and wait an hour for hot water) and one melodious 'wind pump' sighing and creaking outside.
The nearest neighbour 45+ km of bad road away.

Arriving in the dark on Friday night it seemed like we were surrounded by a whole lot of nothing. Waking up the next day didn't immediately lead us to believe otherwise - magnificent vistas and awe-inspiring skyscapes yes, but otherwise pretty barren.

Until you started to look more closely.

This vast land is filled with tiny little beautiful things. Random bits of magnificence dotted about the hugeness. Small things easily missed, but miraculous to discover.

And so started 3 days of hanging out together in the Tankwa. Having conversations in random places, stopping regularly to bend over and examine or exclaim.

Our vision, and photographs, continually jumping from LANDSCAPE ...

... to macro...

... and back to just, wow.

For the other thing this wild and lonely place is filled with is signs of human habitation. The most beautiful stone-packed walls, 'rubbish dumps' of ancient wind-tumbled glass bottles, broken bits of pottery and glass in blues and pinks and greens. Sheep dip stations, kraals and ruined houses.
It feels so desolate and yet so full of life - human, vegetable, animal.

It's all about water-retention is this near desert - lots and lots of curly little plants.

We saw gemsbok (or 'hemsbog' as my dear English-speaking 5 yr old calls them) with their eerie masks and flipping 'high-pony' tails.
Elusive ghostly eland - so huge yet so quiet. Apparently their hoofs make a tiny clicking sound when they walk and there's a story that this is the reason the original San language has so many clicks in it.
We saw jackel skulking and hartebees hopping, baboons up to no good (are they ever?) and zebra. A lone springbok frequented the water hole near our cottage and his many cousins took off in waves as we drove across the plains.

Late one afternoon we watched a family of bat-eared foxes for about half an hour, as they played and hunted and groomed in the scrub near our car.

We learnt anew that kids can have the 'best day ever' (Frieda said this at the end of every day) drawing vast pictures in the sand with a trailing stick and a canvas finally big enough to accommodate their limitless imaginations.

We made balancing stones ...

... and then walked away, leaving them to stand until wind or curious animal or time relieved their tension.

To celebrate two birthdays we had a tea party on the edge of a pan. Smoked salmon sandwiches, carrot cake, meringues, brownies, cheeses and salads.

And only afterwards realised we'd had another silent guest in the tree above us.

We took sundowners out to the rim of the world and watched night fall over the far off Cederberg mountains. It was cold cold cold in the evenings but that didn't deter the adventurous types (my youngest brother and eldest daughter) from hunting out deadly scorpions with a UV light in the dark.

But mainly, mostly and most marvelously, we just hung out. Caught up and 'leaned in'. Spent time with our most dearest, in a place so far removed from our everyday, that we were able to just be today.
That was the greatest gift the Tankwa gave us.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

words to live by

A new client asked me to quote on a job.

I did.

They came back asking if I could trim my quote.

I did.

They came back again asking me to motivate my fees.

I sent them this.

Okay, I didn't really. But I wanted to.

With my work I always use my full ass. It is generous, stable and reliable.

Anything less would be uncomfortable, for everyone.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

everything and more

You know someone's a dear friend when she walks into your room as you're dressing for your 40th birthday lunch and says, 'Cold enough for a polo neck? Really?'
Thank god (actually thank my friend) I didn't wear the polo neck. It was cold enough for one, outside, but inside it was warm and fuzzy and hilarious and wine & food-fueled and just toasty.

My magnificent collection of girlfriends is one of the proudest achievements of my 40 years. These women inspire me, validate me, entertain me, educate me. They are loyal and sensible, utterly hilarious and totally not full of shit.
These are the friends one welcomes into one's Forties. The ones to see me through middle-age, the ones I'm proud for my daughters to have as examples. The ones who get it.
Get me.

Lunch on Sunday was everything I'd hoped it would be and so much more. This bodes well for the next decade.
And with that my birthday is officially, and finally, over.
It was such a good one.