It’s exactly two months to the day that Mikaela and I jumped on that plane from Heathrow with our beautiful girls to Cape Town and what a rollercoaster of a journey it has been so far.
We’ve gone from two minute noodles that required a kettle to be cooked to three course meals on our new SMEG oven. We’ve gone from not knowing anyone to attending social events and being invited to kid’s birthday parties. We’ve witnessed the swift change of season from the worst drought for a century to a rainfall that could fill an Olympic sized swimming pool in minutes and the biggest change of all, living in a bubble as a family for 24 hours a day, seven days a week when we were more used to catching up for an hour a night after hectic days working in the big smoke.
Easy? Not quite!!
Everyone back in the U.K. asks us how it is going regularly and you tend to give quite wishy-washy answers but those who know us best will always ask ‘How is it REALLY going?’
Well I am about to tell you, warts and all, on how it’s REALLY going right now whilst also breaking my golden blog rule of not using sub-headings but as the title intimates, this may well be the only way to tell you.
It also has to be taken into consideration that we, myself especially, are coming to live in somebody else’s culture under somebody else’s rules so that has to be respected whether we like all of those rules and idiosyncrasies or not.
They are just my thoughts and frustrations and others may well not see certain things the way that I do so I am therefore trying to adapt to these things and certainly not trying to change them.
There is a lot of good. When I say a lot I actually mean tonnes of the stuff.
The weather is great for a start. We’re in autumn and it’s twenty plus degrees without a cloud in the sky which makes me smile from ear to ear. The other good thing is that when it rains, it rains with purpose. It’s lovely as it absolutely chucks it down and you know that the dam’s are getting filled up again even if it is only be a percentage or two.
In the outdoors is where we spend most of our time and Issy and Emilie are thriving in it. They still ask for YouTube now and again but way less than they used to in the U.K. The trampoline, gardening or playing Cricket on the Stoep is where their time is directed more towards now. I’m also not sure if they know where their shoes are anymore as being barefoot is how they love to be.
The people are so friendly and polite here and this is possibly one of my favourite things. You talk to strangers in the queue at the supermarket like you’ve known them for years and if you ask for advice then they’ll buy you a coffee, sit down with you for an hour and actually help you. This is worlds apart for me and from the tube in London or the lady that once told Mikaela in the Sainsbury’s till queue that she thought Issy being barefoot was unhygienic and unsafe.
The neighbours don’t invite you into their house, they just tell you the gate and door is always open to us and it doesn’t matter what time of day or night it is. It’s extremely comforting and makes us a very sociable and close knit community which is truly special to us. A 6pm text message to go round for a glass of wine is the norm an it also means that you have to keep a few bottles of wine chilled at all times so the spontaneity doesn’t catch you out.
The lifestyle is everything that I had wished for up until now and was very near the top of the list of why we should move here in the first palce. It hasn’t let us down and entertaining our girls is so easy and doesn’t cost a small fortune. It’s all very chilled and I can tell you one thing for sure, we are less stressed than we have been in London for many a year. Tonic for the soul if you will.
There are really only two things that grate on me more than anything here and that is the service and the driving. I say that they grate on me but I have to be honest with you, they infuriate me.
The service issues seem to be universal and everyone rolls their eyes at you when you bring it up in conversation. Supermarket checkouts are painfully slow and as for people not getting back to you, well don’t even get me started.
It’s like they just don’t need or want your business sometimes. I’ve had guys come and quote for jobs in the house, I’ve Whatsapped them my e-mail address before they have even left through the front gate and then I never hear from them again.
E-mails are just as bad. You apply to register at an employment agency, they never write back to you and then three weeks later, out of the blue, you get a phone call saying your CV is ‘WOW!’ and can I drive into Cape Town the following day to meet them?
I’ve heard of mañana mañana but this is on a new level that I have never experienced. I’m fairly laid back myself but some people are beyond the horizontal.
On to the driving and there can only be one word to describe this which is ‘lawless’. The amount of people on their phones whilst driving is scary. I’ve almost been driven into on numerous occasions as people miss STOP streets or even start veering into your side of the road.
Drink driving is a massive issue as well. We’ve seen some pretty bad crashes already on Motorways and lesser sized roads late at night which is a worry. The main reason though is just the sheer disregard for the rules of the road. There is no law to say you can’t drive without insurance in South Africa and only 15% of people are actually insured here so the likelihood of getting any money out of someone who has crashed into you is fairly slim.
Overtaking, undertaking and tailgating are the norm. I have never had to use my passenger side mirror as much as I have here and that is purely because you just don’t know where the next vehicle may come from. Throw a few Castle Lites and half a bottle of Klipdrift into someone’s system then you have a cocktail for disaster.
The first thing that makes me terribly sad in this section of the blog is the poverty and homelessness. They link in perfectly with the other ugliness which is crime or should I say the threat of crime.
There is homelessness all over the world and every one of those people have stories to tell as to why they are in the situations that they are but coming from the U.K. I have never seen it on this level. Don’t get me wrong, there are huge issues in the cities back home and that needs addressing but there is an epidemic here.
The recycling and refuse goes out on a Wednesday morning and within minutes people are siphoning through it looking for anything that may get them a couple of Rand at the recycling plant. It’s absolutely heartbreaking to see and when you realise how far they then walk to receive their ‘reward’ you soon realise how desperate their situation must be.
Then there is the begging at the gate which leads into the bottom of our garden. The problem with the beggars is that firstly you can’t help them all and if you give one some food and money there is the chance that they will come back again and again. I do realise how awfully crass that sounds of me but it’s all new for me and still extremely uncomfortable. We’ve had to lock our gate now even when we are in the house as they won’t hesitate to walk through the gate, up the garden and stand at the front door to beg. They are not violent or abusive but I have two children which make situations like that scary and let’s be honest, if I left this laptop out on view and had just popped inside for a minute then I doubt it would be here when I got back.
That’s the threat of crime I am talking about because mainly it is opportunism from a would be thief or naivety from a home owner that leads to things going missing. I have never in all of my years visiting here or now living here felt vulnerable or unsafe. Not for a heartbeat.
Of course there is mindless crime here. I read the papers and Facebook like everyone else but there is bad crime everywhere in the world. We were burgled in London, Mikaela witnessed a stabbing on the tube once and one of my best friends was mugged by a gang just off Leicester Square one early morning. I read a stat the other day that 68 people had been killed on the streets this year alone in London. Does this mean that no one should live without fear in London? What it means is be more vigilant, stay in large groups and don’t wander into areas where crime is rife. It’s no different here. We have to lock more padlocks at night than I would want to and I don’t particular like our burglar bars but that’s the level of vigilance that we need.
The one thing that I do have to say is that the good outweighs the bad and the ugly by a country mile for me at the moment but that’s not to say that those issues should be ignored and hopefully one day addressed for the better.
It’s certainly not stopping me fall in love more and more with where we live and the lifestyle that we are leading day by day that’s for sure.