Who says girls can’t camp…

By Julianne Alcott

We must have been a strange sight. Four women, two tents and a 4X4. The campsite certainly kept an eye on us the entire long weekend, as my friends and I made our home for the three days on a patch of lawn in the Royal Natal campsite.

We know that they kept an eye on us, because several of our fellow camp dwellers told us that they did! We put the tents up in record time, as a well-oiled machine, even though one of the tents had come straight from the shop. Women read instructions, you see.

The lady from the south side of the campsite remarked how quickly we had put the tents up. We had a gazebo too, that formed a shelter from the elements, and was a relaxing place to put our chairs.

Not that there were many elements to contend with. The weather was mercifully fine, and we had the added advantage of an amazing campsite. It was covered in velvety green grass, right near the kitchen and bathroom facilities, and with its own little White Stinkwood tree for shade.

It was such a perfect campsite, that an elderly couple (who had also been watching us) begged for the use of it once we had left. Their site was in the sun the entire day, and they had noticed that some part of our camp had shade at all times.

The lady from up by the fence was watching us, as well as the man from the tent by the pine forest. They commented on our fire-making abilities, and offered advice. We used our instinct though, when it came to keeping a fire going in the stiff wind that sprung up on Saturday night. A combination of shielding the flames with a car sunvisor, gentle blowing and a few extra coals ensured that our fire was still ready to carry on partying when we were ready for bed.

And it gave us the best toasted marshmallows ever! One of our neighbours even remarked on our delicious smelling food.

Someone was watching one of us dropping cigarette stompies in a neat pile next to one of the chairs. We came back from a walk to the Cascades, to find that all the stompies were sealed neatly in a Ziploc bag. Obviously that person was concerned about the cleanliness of our site.

Our nightly 30 Second games were observed by the rest of the campers as well. They were somewhat amused by the fact that we played it in the kitchen next to the sinks. Well, there was a plug point to charge cell phones, and we were in a non-electric site.

The man next door must have been watching us too because when we were packing up, he rushed to our aid with a device to take tent pegs out with.

We packed up and went our separate ways after a relaxing weekend, secure in the knowledge that we didn’t need a man to camp…

Or braai…

And at least we provided entertainment for the rest of the campers as well!Blog


A Mother Time

by Penny Mleaf2

While contemplating my next blog, I realised that I turned my new leaves over months before New Year’s Day 2014 had a chance to survive the fireworks and reverie. Resolutions were therefore not required. Now that we are in March, after a phenomenal couple of months, I feel I should mark the occasion.

For me, there are few places better than the UK for Christmas. I guess that’s because I was born there and have memories of my father sneaking up the stairs with the stockings at midnight, frosted glass and grass, baubles, tinsel, mince pies, brandy butter, gammon, cranberry jelly and roast parsnips. No matter how hard I tried to recreate the traditional lunch, it was never the same in the humidity of a Durban summer.Frosty Somerset morning

I began this year with my parents in their Somerset home, following a sumptuous meal with their friends at a farm in the English countryside. Above is a view of their back garden, my mother’s wonderland.

After several years of matchsticks until sultry midnights climaxed with self-imposed, lonely views of crackling gunpowder showers over the ocean, local sound effects and calls to children wherever they were, it was pleasant to spend New Year’s Eve with parents and people.

Until my son and then my daughter and her family emigrated to Australia, apart from each New Year’s Eve, and a few years (a couple of decades ago) when I was supposed to watch the share markets as a part of my job, I never seriously considered that anybody else, besides God, was awake when I went to bed.

 “Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.”
― Ray Cummings, The Girl in the Golden Atom

Communications became complicated. Melbourne, where my son stays, is eight or nine hours ahead of Durban and one or two hours ahead of Brisbane where my daughter lives, depending upon daylight saving. The UK is one or two hours behind Durban. My brother lives in California which makes it even more complex. To clarify then, as I write this in Brisbane at midday on Monday 17 March, it is one o’ clock in the afternoon in Melbourne, four o’clock in the morning in Durban, two o’clock in the morning in the UK, and seven on Sunday evening in California. I am literally way ahead of my brother.

For the first time since I returned to employment, a quarter of a century ago (eish!), I didn’t have to rush back from the UK for work, school or anybody else. It was like falling into a liquid-centred chocolate pudding. When I eventually emerged four weeks later and tripped back to South Africa, it was to organise my life prior to my trip to Australia. Five and a half weeks squashed into a couple of days of reality in between puddings. I have arrived in Brisbane for two months of mother and granny blessings, interspersed with tapping keys and swiping screens.

 Oh the bliss of being a writer no matter what the time and where. There is always somebody awake to ponder my musings.

 A belated Happy New Year to our precious readers
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Dr Seuss Days

 By Sue Trollip

My world has turned quite upside down.
My view has changed to country from town.


Blue city sky

Instead of sunshine warming my face
I look to the sky then run to embrace
my sheepy slippers and new warm coat
it’s no more mermaid, ‘Hello,’ mountain goat.
Day is night and night is day
and at 2am I’m up to play.


Mountain snow

It’s white and chilly in the shiny snow.
No longer the beach it’s the mountains that glow
with golden sunshine shimmering sweet.
The sky’s still blue but with a lot less heat.
My life has tilted from East to West,
and my sunrise is now a sunset fest.

Sunrise over the Indian Ocean

Sunrise over the Indian Ocean

The ice cream is good and the coffee is hot,
the sourdough’s superb although Bovril there’s not
From South to North my world swung around
but brave, I’ll plant my feet on the ground.
And after more coffee for certain I know
tomorrow, perhaps, I’ll frolic in the snow!

The Land of the Cheshire Cat

By Susan Roberts

Back in the 80s when I first moved far away from home, my only chance of speaking to my parents was to find a working call box and hope that they were at home when I made the trunk call between my erratic working hours. As time went on and I got my own place, it took several months to get a phone line installed.

A few years later, I moved to a neighbouring country and things became even more complicated. I worked in a noisy casino complex, miles from any city and with limited phone lines. The only call box available was in the resort’s Entertainment Centre which was surrounded by noisy games and pinball machines. Even though I had to work six days out of seven, the call box’s average working week was two days out of seven. On those days, I had to compete against the soundtrack of a Camel Derby and a shooting game called Mad Dog something. I used to despair of Superman ever needing a phone booth for one of his nifty little transformations if he happened to drop by into my so-called paradise.

If only we had had cell-phones, e-mail, and Skype back then, things would have been a whole lot easier. Or would they? We have all these things now, and yet I miss my family even more than I did then. Of course, my family’s profile has changed in those intervening years. Both my parents have taken their final trip to meet their maker and so have all their siblings. My sister and I are now the older generation.

Fourteen years ago I settled back in Durban – an hour’s drive from all members of my family – but in that time everyone else has begun the great exodus from my formerly safe little sphere. I have watched as, one by one, they have all moved away, leaving me behind. My sister’s husband packed her up and moved them both to Australia two and a half years ago, to join the rest of his extended family who had gravitated back there from all corners of the globe during the preceding decade or so.

My sister settled quickly into the family unit in Melbourne. Our impromptu, chatty calls and texts made the transition into lengthier, newsy e-mails. My new ADSL line was installed, and I learnt how to use Skype.

Once a week my sister and I chat across my dining table, and she takes her laptop through her Melbourne house, showing me their latest renovations, and even taking me outside so I can appreciate how the garden is growing. Simple, everyday pleasures are enjoyed, new earrings or scarves commented upon and much laughter exchanged. Sometimes I watch her cook dinner, or we nibble tantalising snacks in front of each other – biscuits or chocolates that are only available in our respective countries. She loves the sound of the raucous Hadidas crying outside my windows, and I ooh and ah over the groundcovers and roses she has spent her day nurturing.

So what am I complaining about? I don’t want to sound picky, but why doesn’t all this technology help to ease the pain of parting? Why is it that every time I have finished speaking to her, I spend the rest of my day in a slump, depressed that she is there and I am here without her?

One of my friends says it’s because you can’t hug on Skype. She’s right, but at least we can see and hear each other, and spend a little time in each other’s environments. But maybe that’s the core of the problem. I want to be where she is; not where I am. I’ve been lucky enough to fly to her country twice, but that fruit, once tasted, is longed for again. Like Alice, I can peer into the looking glass and wonder at the world beyond it but, unlike Alice, I can’t follow anyone through it.

The looking glass world on the other side of my computer screen looks so cosy, so complete, and so much like home has always looked, that I feel like I’m the little match girl standing in the snow; the outsider in an increasingly alien world that I can no longer relate to. My country’s government makes sweeping illogical changes while the crime rate soars unheeded and more people leave the place that they used to call home. My heritage has been steadily eroded, my family has gone, my dreams and plans for old age and retirement have been shattered. The carpet has been ripped from beneath my once steady legs, and I am struggling to keep my balance.

Every time I learn to cope just a little better, to lean on something, that vanishes too, like the fabled Cheshire cat that you think you can see because you’re talking to it, but one moment it’s there and the next, all you are left with is the memory of its fading smile, the blank Skype screen and the uncomfortable feeling that you might just have dreamed it all.

Young Women Relaxing In The Park Stock Photo