Woodburning Bliss!

Winter has been a bit stop start so far this year but we're not complaining as it's not been as cold and wet as normal (although the dams are surprisingly full). Having said that the weather took a turn for the worse today and it's been raining quite a bit with a strong and cold northwesterly wind blowing.

It's times like this we're really grateful for our woodburning stove!
I had the pleasure of taking our Trail-a-bike into school today to talk to Eli's class as well as Nursery and Reception.

Eli was my very able assistant and helped to show how the trail-a-bike works. The kids particularly like the flag at the back and guessed correctly as to its purpose. After discussing a bit of bike safety we went to the car park where I gave rides to those who had a helmet with them (thankfully only a few did so my legs were saved).

It's always a pleasure to go into the boys school to help out wherever we can but it was a double privilege to take a bike in and talk to the kids about it.

Leah looking forward to her ride


Eli demonstrating how to sit on the trail-a-bike. Aunty Lisa (Eli's teacher) was giving the instructions

Bottlebrush Tree

Our Bottlebrush tree is finally back in bloom again. Last year it was a major disappointment with hardly any blooms so it spent most of the year bare and looking scraggy.

This tree isn't actually native to South Africa so we shouldn't celebrate it but we do because we like it. There's a big drive in SA to remove all plants known as 'alien invaders' as they have a detrimental impact upon the indigenous vegetation and the water table. Thankfully however the Bottlebrush tree doesn't have a big thirst so there's no need to get rid of it.

Here's some info from a horticultural website: Bottlebrush is a small but spectacular evergreen tree or shrub. Of the family Myrtaceae it is well known as Callistemon or Bottlebrush Tree. It is easy to grow and loves warmth, moisture and sun. Bottlebrush is native to Australia mostly growing in moist soil in open or woodland sites.

Eli The Stuntman


Jackass The Movie has nothing on us!

Bike Races

Here's a sight that warms my heart!

It seems like my boys haven't ridden their bikes for a while, partly because the weather hasn't been great but also because Eli's bike was broken and I only just got around to fixing it.

The weather was perfect this afternoon at 24°C (it was freezing this morning) so with their fixed bikes both boys were off charging up and down the drive on their bikes. I pity the neighbours as the boys don't tend to do things quietly especially when they're competing in their own bike races.

Eli is delighted to have a new saddle on his bike and having replaced his rear inner tube too it's going like a dream again. Joel insists his bike needs fixing too and won't listen to Daddy who knows better. When I ask him what's wrong he's not too sure but it definitely needs fixing!

Looking at these pictures you'd never know it's mid-winter here. Amazingly despite how little rain we seem to have had Cape Town dams are 99% full which is great news!

Dancing Skeleton

Joel and his Dancing Skeleton, additional silliness provided by Eli

We've just had a wonderfully relaxing couple of nights away at Buttonquail Nature Reserve about 30 minutes from home. This was the prize dean won in the parents bike race at the boy's school recently. We knew Buttonquail was remote but weren't prepared for just how remote! As we began the descent into the valley we realised that simply popping back into town was not a realistic option so we felt forced to stay put. Shame! Amazingly in this modern age the reserve has no electricity other than a bit of solar generated stuff for night lights and there was no cell phone reception. Fantastic!!!!!!

Joel & Eli loved every minute of it as it was a very safe place for them to be (as long as they stayed away from the river, which they did). Joel had a few plans of his own, hte main one being that he wanted to tell some ghost stories around the boma once it had gone dark. He told two great stories followed by Eli telling a non-scary story. We were also able to do some satelite spotting and saw two very clearly.

On Saturday we spent the whole day sat around the boma keeping the fire burning. We suspect that they've never used as much wood before in a single 24hour stretch. Dean really enjoyed teaching his boys about fire and hopefully instilling a healthy respect for it. Paula enjoyed much coffee and reading her book.

Put your hands up!

Breakfast at the boma

Almost time for scary stories


The night sky as seen with no light pollution. Taken with a 30 sec exposure. Can you spot the Southern Cross?


The weather has improved in the last 24 hours so we've been able to do some essential weatherproofing work on two of our church members houses.

Both were leaking really badly in the recent rains making life for their occupiers horrible. One of the families suffered so badly that one of the children is now in Hottentots hospital with a respiratory infection.

Michael was an absolute star and joined me yesterday and today to do the jobs. I couldn't have done any of it without him.

Melvyn (one of our elders) also helped which was a real blessing today as we were also able to sort out one of the doors.

A comedy moment whilst in Macassar this afternoon, the Imam at the mosque started his prayer call and moments after he started all the neighbourhood dogs began howling along with him. Priceless!

The wendy house before being weather proofed..


..and afterwards with its new 'hat'


The hokkie before being weatherproofed..


..and afterwards. That's Melvyn in the doorway sorting it out


My bakkie has many different uses!

More pictures posted on Facebook

Hope In Despair

I've been going into Chris Nissen Park for five years now and I love the place and the folk that live there. I've seen it in all its splendour and grottiness but today it was the bleakest and most depressing I have ever seen it.

Many of the houses are soaked inside because the construction is so poor the water seeps in through the foundations. The top soil from the gardens and surrounding land is being washed away leaving brown rivers flowing down the roads. It's impossible to walk anywhere in the community without getting very wet feet!

People are huddled around braziers trying to stay warm and get dry, mostly without success. When I got home Paula said I smelt of CNP because I'd been sat with Michael, Joyce & Anne (one of our HOPE carers) around their fire.

Despite the despair and bleakness about CNP I always feel there is a sense of hope because of people like Michael and Anne, part of our home based care team.

Whoops!

The driver of this car got into an unfortunate pickle yesterday while it was chucking it down.

Apparently the access road was so flooded it was not visible so the driver had to take a chance as to where the road might be. Sadly he made the wrong choice, much to the amusement of the garage staff.

Rain Rain Go Away!

Whilst the rain is seasonal and desperately needed I fail to share the average South African's view that it's a good thing. I guess my Britishness has taught me to loathe the rain from the first drop to the last. However, the dams are very low so we need a lot of rain over the next couple of months to prepare for summer.

One of the things I don't get here is that life virtually shuts down for so many folk. Certainly my cycling buddies think I'm mad as I'm willing to ride in all weathers. But as I often explain, in Blighty if you let the rain stop you from doing stuff you'd never get anything done.

The two leaks in our roof seem to have stopped, we're wondering whether they were exceptional leaks as the rain was coming horizontally on the wind at times. Time will tell.

Whilst I'm moaning about the rain please spare a thought and a prayer for our friends in Chris Nissen and other townships as these guys really suffer in this weather. I'm guessing there's a lot of flooding in some of the townships right now.

Pirate Experience

After a great morning in church we took the boys for a half-term treat to the Boswell Wilkie Circus Pirate experience just outside Cape Town. Wow, what a show! The boys were spell bound by it and were on the edge of their seats all the way through.

It was a real surprise for the boys and we smuggled along all their pirate dressing up clothes so they were able to get into role for the show.

Dean really appreciated the skill of the jugglers whilst we all marveled at the sheer athleticism of all the performers. If the circus is ever passing your way make it a priority to go and see!

Dean managed to take some photos, discretely without the flash as they threatened anybody using a flash with walking the plank! Consequently they're a bit blurred in places but give a good feel for what the show was like.

Avast!


Pirates came to threaten our pirates (update: the pirates are Tsogt Bayasgalan & Karen Wilkie)


One of the many acrobats


Four pirates hanging off the main mast


The pirate ship in all its glory


Mind the fire!!!


Fire dancers


Juggling pirate


The show closed with the trapeze artist

Cape Eagle Owl

We quite often have an owl sitting on our roof just after sunset so this evening I was able to quietly slip out, set the camera up and get a photo of it.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to focus 100% but still got an OK shot. The shutter was on 10secs at f5.6 and an ISO of 800. The shutter was so long that if you look carefully you can see how he moved his head. I'm sure I could have got a better shot but time was of the essence. Hopefully I might get a chance to get a better shot if I set the camera up in daylight and then wait for the owl. Wish me luck.

5th Blogoversary

We've been running this blog for exactly five years today at 3:11pm, see us at Blogoversary. When we started blogging we were aiming specifically at family and friends but beyond that we can't really remember what we were hoping for the blog or what it would end up looking like, but five years on we're quite pleased with what the blog has achieved and how it looks today.

Our first post was entitled: Welcome To Our Blog and back then we were getting ready for our imminent departure from Blighty. We arrived in South Africa on the 16th July '04 when Joel was a mere 16 months old and Eli was a very distant dream.

Blogging has changed since we started as more people are doing it and many many more people actually read blogs on a regular basis. We've grown more comfortable with the material we blog about and have come to understand the limitations of blogging. Privacy is a continual concern and we try to protect ourselves whilst allowing family and friends to keep up to date with what's going on in our lives. When we started Dean didn't have a clue about editing the code behind the blog, today through much trial and error but mostly error, he's quite adept at editing HTML and CSS code which is how he's edited the template into a distinctive and unique format.

When we started the blog for family and friends we hadn't considered the fact that it would be available to anyone anywhere in the world with an internet connection. As a result we now have regular readers in Argentina, USA, Russia, New Zealand, Mexico and South Africa. Recently we even had a visitor from Iran which really excited Dean. We're able to track where visitors come from, how long they stayed and their IP address which is amazing. We can also see how visitors arrived via any of the internet search engines and what internet browser they are using.

The future of blogging will be interesting. For years we've been telling people about our blog often with little success and yet many of our friends will use Facebook and we think services such as Facebook and Twitter are probably the future, certainly they seem to be more popular. Consequently we can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Thicko - Not!

Just did this for a bit of fun:

IQ Test
Free-IQTest.net - IQ Test

Go on, give it a go.

Paula's Birthday

This morning we celebrated Paula's birthday by going out for breakfast at Jenna Viva's a local coffee shop in Somerset West. We had a wonderful time and the food was excellent!

Paula celebrated with a glass of bubbles whilst the boys had huge bacon and maple syrup flapjack stackers. Eli ordered seconds!

Daddy settled for a full English breakfast and wasn't disappointed. The grilled banana added a slightly unusual dimension to it.

We both loved the loose leaf Rooibos tea which also came with an hour glass timer to ensure the leaves didn't over infuse. The boys loved playing with the timer.

Sadly we can't go out tonight as we have our mid-week small group meeting (we really need to come up with a better name for it than that).

Eli likes to drink the milk from the jug, such a sophisticated lad


Joel playing with the egg timer


Mummy with a full English


Blowing bubbles in his drink, really sophisticated!


Eli with his stacker

We're Back

Our few days away in Greyton were fantastic for a number of reasons. Firstly, we're really jealous of our family time and guard it carefully. Secondly, we all relaxed very quickly and enjoyed just chillin' together, we really enjoy just being with each other. Finally, Greyton is a gem of a village with friendly locals and some of the best cafes and restaurants to be found anywhere in SA. The two highlights of our time eating there were Vanilla Cafe and Peccadillos Bistro both of which provide sublime food at very reasonable prices. Vanilla have hit it just right in how they cater for families and the more sophisticated clientele. The garlic soup at Peccadillos was amazing.

Our highlight was our walk up a big hill in the nature reserve, the charge up the hill was led by Joel whilst Eli led the charge back down. We were really pleased with how far they both walked so hopefully we can dust of our walking gear and take them on some other longer walks.

The boys really enjoyed the break and although we didn't do much, there's not much to see or do, they seemed to enjoy just being with us and having a laugh together. Joel particulalry enjoys quality food so he really appreciated the various cafes and restaurants, we're teaching them well.

The weather was amazing for the time of year. We were expecting it to be raining and very cold at night, but it only rained once which was overnight and the temp was very mild the whole time which was a real blessing.

Marching up a big hill


One of the many spectacular views from Greyton


On the way back down


Enjoying the garden at Vanilla


Vanilla also had a bouncy castle which was a huge hit with our boys


Eli bouncing


Joel, king of the (bouncy) castle


Ice cream slips down well


Making friends in Greyton

We'll definitely be back in Greyton soon!