URGH!! I’m sorry I’ve posted a grand total of nothing in the last few months. I’m sorry, but it simply has not been possible, I’ve had loads on. On the other hand, I’ve also has like minus 10 motivation. So, there it is, I’ve been honest with you and I am sorry, but such is life. Some days one has the motivation, some days one doesn’t. Some days, one refers to oneself as “one”.
Anyway, I’ve had loads on at work and I’m in the process of trying to own an abode. Which is a distinctly long and dreary process. It’s also stressful, because you have no idea what any of the words mean that people are saying to you, and because you don’t want to sound like a complete idiot, you nod along knowingly when estate agents are talking to you about square footage and the like, whilst secretly having precisely no idea what any of this means. What does a square foot look like? I have no idea. Each time I try and envisage said square foot, all I end up doing is picturing a particularly square foot. Why does my brain do this to me? Sigh.
What I am trying to say here, in a roundabout way, is that I have been very busy with other things and my mind has been very busy with other things. This has resulted in me not really having time for other things, or space for other things in my brain, for that matter. But I’m back now and that’s all we really need to worry about, isn’t it? You’ll have missed me, of course you will, but I’m here now and you don’t need to worry any longer. Your mind may rest. It may rest assured, that for at least another few months I will be here. And if I am not here, you will at least know I am trying my best to be here, even if I am failing to achieve that. That will be a comfort to you, I’m sure.
Also, I’m writing a book! I’m not 100% sure what it is about yet, or where it is going or if I will finish it, or if I will really start it in all honesty. But I have some words on a page and I can now say I am writing a book, which makes me sound a lot more impressive than I actually am. AND it gives me something else to talk about, other than the usual nonsensical rubbish I usually talk about, so we can all be glad about that, can’t we?
Gluten free is becoming more and more popular. Some people are going GF as a dietary choice or to have something to hashtag on Insta, and some people are actually real gluten free-ers. I’ve a mate who is a real gluten free-er, and she was saying she hadn’t appreciated mince pies enough before she had had to stop eating anything with gluten in it, so that got me thinking. Surely gluten free pastry can’t be that difficult to make, can it?! Plus, I’ve just made more than enough mincemeat to feed an army, so I need to do something with it. You can find my recipe for homemade mincemeat here on my blog, it’s so yummy and it will beat any shop bought version hands down, and it’s simple to make too.
So, I got Googling and I found a few recipes for gluten free shortcrust pastry. They were all much of a muchness, with xanthan gum cropping up in all the recipes I read through. I got some gluten free flour, which, by the way, is the weirdest thing to touch ever; it feels like cornflour when you touch it and it made my insides feel uncomfortable when I was rubbing it into the butter.
In the end, I decided to follow the gluten free shortcrust pastry recipe from the Tesco website, and you can view the original here. The reason I chose this one was because it got 5 stars, whereas others had got 4.2’s and the like. Moi being moi, I changed the recipe a little bit, as you know, I find it impossible to follow a recipe to a letter. I added some lemon zest to the pastry because no Christmas recipe is complete without some sort of zest.
I like a mini mince pie, and for multiple reasons; they look super cute, people will be really impressed at their miniatureness and you can have more than one and not even feel remotely guilty about it.
225g gluten free white flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp xanthan gum
110g cold butter, cut into small chunks
1 tbsp caster sugar
Weigh the flour into a large bowl and add the salt, xanthan gum and sugar.
Tip in the butter and, using your fingers, rub the butter and flour mixture together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Add the egg and combine until you have a smooth ball of pastry. If the mixture is dry and crumbly, add a teaspoon of water at a time until your pastry forms a smooth ball.
Wrap your pastry in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 170°
Flour your surface (making sure you use your gluten free flour) and roll out the pastry until it’s about the thickness of a £1 coin. As I was making mini ones, I rolled it out even thinner than this, but for a normal sized pie, the thickness of a £1 coin will be about right.
Grease the pie tin you are going to be using, and cut out rounds of pastry and press them evenly into the tins.
Place a spoonful of mincemeat into the pastry. For my mini ones, I used a teaspoonful of mincemeat. For larger ones, it will be about a dessertspoonful.
Cut out the stars to top your mince pies, and place them on top, pressing them down slightly to secure them.
Brush the tops of the mince pies with a splash of milk to give them a bit of a sheen and place them in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until they are golden brown.
Leave them to cool for a bit in the tin and then remove them to a rack to cool completely. Dust them with some icing sugar before you serve them, and I promise, everyone will have more than one!
I found it was a little difficult to handle the gluten free pastry in the beginning; it was cracking when I was trying to put it in the tin. After I’d kneaded it a bit more and re-rolled, I found it much easier to handle – so, I would suggest giving it a little bit more of a knead than you would your usual pastry, before you start rolling it out. I shaped the pastry slightly before I pushed it into the moulds, to try an combat a bit of the cracking – which worked quite well.
You could put proper tops on the top of your pies if you wanted, but I prefer the stars. This is mainly because I can never manage to keep the mincemeat inside the pies when they have a lid on, and it always seems to sort of explode everywhere and look like a complete brown car crash on the plate (yuck). The stars resolve that issue, and they look nice and festive as well.
We love this mincemeat at home – it beats any mincemeat in a jar, absolutely hands down. It’s beyond tasty, and the nice big chunks of fruit and almonds in the mix make it even better. Plus, there is no suet in this mincemeat recipe, so its suitable for vegetarians and you don’t have to eat chunks of actual animal fat – winner! This is also the only recipe I have seen with cranberries in, and I can tell you; they make all the difference.
I’ve found dried cranberries to sometimes be tricky to get a hold of. You should be fine over the Christmas period, but they aren’t standard stock in some of the smaller shops, so you are best going to something like a Tesco Extra (other stores are available, teehee). Oh, and make sure you have some jars to store your mincemeat in. We always have tonnes of empty jam jars hanging around in the cupboard, but this recipe will fill 4 jam jars, so make sure you have enough!
it’s so simple to make, all you do is add all the ingredients to the pan and cook it for 10 minutes once the butter has melted – it is genuinely that simple. I made the fatal error of not selecting a late enough pan, so I had to tip the mixture into a bigger pan. I wonder if this ever happens to Mary Berry? I doubt it, she is too good to make such rookie errors.
I doubled up this recipe because we make lots of mince pies in the run up to Christmas and we keep making them after Christmas as well! Plus, we had so much dried fruit in the house, it wasn’t all fitting in the tin, so I used this as an excuse to get rid of a fair few bags of the stuff. This recipe is from Mary Berry (gotta love Maz), and the original recipe is here if you want to take a look at it. It’s pretty close to Maz’s original, but I can never leave a recipe untouched, so there are some small changes.
175g dried cranberries
100g chopped mixed peel
1 small cooking apple
125g butter, cubed
50g whole blanched almonds, roughly chopped
225g light muscovado sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp mixed spice
grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
Peel and core the apple, then chop into small chunks – about the same size as the sultanas.
Measure all the ingredients (apart from the brandy) into a large pan and heat gently, until all the butter has melted.
Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, then leave to cool.
Once the mixture is cool, stir in the brandy.
Spoon your mincemeat into sterilised jars and you are good to go!
When you stir in the brandy, you’ll probably think it looks like a lot – but trust me, it’s just the right amount. If you don’t have any brandy, you can use either sherry or rum, they work just as well, but will give a different flavour.
This mincemeat keeps forever; we still have some in the cupboard from last year. The combination of the butter and booze allows it to keep well. You can make it well in advance if you are one of those people who is very organised and prepared (I am not, as you may be aware).
Each year I make my own Christmas wreath to hang on our front door. There are tonnes of beautiful wreaths out there to buy, but I always find they are a bit expensive and they are never quite how you want them to be. Plus, I enjoy making my own one and I get a lot of pleasure out of making a gorgeous wreath for everyone to see when they come to the door. You might have found the thought of making your own Christmas wreath a bit daunting, but I promise, if I can do it, anyone can! The main point here, is that you have fun with it, and I’m a fan of anything which looks rustic at Christmas anyway.
I have been doing this for a while now, so I have all the bits I need, but there are a couple of things you will need to buy before you get started:
Wreath ring; the one I have is 20 inches across, but it will depend how big your door is as to what size you will need. Take a look at the one I have from Amazon, here.
Binding wire; this is the wire florists use to make their arrangements. I tend to go for wire like this, it’s dark so you can’t see it.
Wreath hook; trying to hang thig on the front of your door with a piece of string will be a complete nightmare (I promise, I tried) so a wreath hook like this is what it’s all about.
It’s important to have an idea of the kind of look you want to achieve before-hand. You need to think about the kind of foliage you are going to use and how you are going to decorate it. I tend to keep mine pretty simple, but you can add as much to it as you like.
Here are a few photos of ideas I have seen online that I think are super cute:
I mostly use ivy in my wreath, and there are a couple of reasons for this. One being that our garden is full of it, so I don’t have to go trekking high and low to find it. I also really like the different colours in the ivy and the different sizes of leaves – this helps it hang nicely on your wreath ring. It’s also very easy to work with as it’s so bendy and flexible.
I decorated it with a red bow made out of a length of red ribbon and some pinecones. I used to use holly when I first started doing this, but we have a door knocker instead of a bell and I got a few complaints about people being speared in the hand when they tried to knock on the door (all part of the fun I say).
Once you have sourced all your bits and bobs to decorate your wreath with, head out into the cold and cut yourself some foliage. If you want to use bits of Christmas tree; head to your local seller and ask if they have any bits you can use that have been cut off or have fallen off. If you notice a holly tree in someone’s garden, knock on the door and ask if you can cut a sprig or two off the bottom – most people have been more than happy for me to do this in my experience. And you can always rummage around in the garden of friends and family for bits of tree.
The first time you do this, you will have no idea how much you need. But, to give you an idea, I used about 20 lengths of ivy which were about 1 foot or a foot and a half long. I headed out to the garden in my sexy plastic gardening clogs and dressing gown, and released a tree from the clutches of a load of ivy, and headed back inside.
I cut off some lengths of binding wire, between 2 and 3 inches in length. I make sure I have these ready, as by the time you are grappling with branches and wreath rings, you don’t want to be snipping up bits of wire.
I start off with some thicker bits of ivy to give myself a bit of a base and some coverage. Plus, it’s easier to wind your wire round these big bits when there is nothing else on your wreath ring. I hold the ivy up to the wreath ring, then bend a length of wire around the ivy and twist the wire together at the back to hold it in place.
I keep going round and round in circles until my wreath ring is completely covered, and I don’t have any bare patches. At this point I then go and put it on the door. This gives you the opportunity to take a step back and make sure you are happy with your wreath. I often see parts that need a bit more added or a bit taking away. If one bit has too many leaves, you can snip off any you don’t want.
Once I’m happy, I add my decorations. This year I only wanted to add a couple of pine cones at the bottom and a big bow, but you can add holly, baubles, ribbons, or even some battery-operated lights! The opportunities are endless with your wreath! Last year I used holly, some extra red berries and a little robin (who I couldn’t find this year). I wanted it to look a bit wild and unkempt this year, and I think I achieved that. Next year I am sure it will look completely different and I will be coming at you with something that doesn’t even look remotely similar. If you want to make your own wreath and you do have a go at it, please let me know how it goes!
The work Christmas party was on Wednesday. Ohhhhhhhh the work Christmas party was on Wednesday. That was days ago and I am still not okay. Who even knows what happened that night? Not I! I thought I didn’t drink that much… Turns out that was a lie! Christ.
I woke up the next morning feeling a bit tired, but that was about all. But, as time went on, I started feeling a bit retchy and my tummy a bit churny. No bother – I’ll just have some water and that will sort me right out. It didn’t. Just a little bit more water, that won’t make me feel sick at all. It did. I’ll just sit here for a moment, next to the loo and I’ll rest my eyes for a bit – I won’t be sick. I was. Hell. HELL. Urgh, but at least I wasn’t sick ON anyone this time, so I’ll take that as a win. I shoved all my stuff into my bag and met the girls downstairs for a spot of breakfast. I kept retching at the breakfast table which was less than glamorous, and I could barely manage half a slice of toast on account of each bite resurfacing in a less than lovely manner.
Dress is from Zara (but I bought it like 6 days ago and obvs it’s already gone from the site) and boots are from ASOS. I do love a boot at a party, because you can wear socks and socks are comfy and I love them. Plus, no one likes chilly toes. But, I digress.
There was a coach taking us back to the office in the morning. I made it down the stairs with a bit of retching along the way and managed to deposit myself on the coach without too much mishap. The coach seemed to go over every bump possible and round every corner as fast as possible. It was like the driver was trying to make me vom as fast as possible. It’s any wonder I didn’t vom all over the girl in the seat in front of me, I would have done as well if she’d carried on shouting over my head. It got so bad that I had to stop talking because I feared that opening my mouth may result in sick coming out of it, and I NEVER stop talking, ever. So, it was bad.
I made it to work without being sick in the coach, but I didn’t last much longer. I stumbled off the coach in a daze, by this time, it was now tipping it down with rain. I grabbed my sodden bag and dragged myself up the steps and into the office. I ditched my crap, threw of my coat and legged it to the loo just in the nick of time. Charging to my favourite cubicle (far right-hand side), I threw myself through the door, locked it behind me and made connection with the cool white ceramic. Ah heaven. As I retched up the half a litre of water I had drunk on the coach I wondered what it was like to feel well. When was the last time I had felt well? Was it when myself and one of the girls had pushed the button for the lift, got in and pushed the button to go one floor up, travelled up, got out of the lift, only to realise we’d stayed on exactly the same floor and we had stumbled out on to the same floor we were just on. However, I don’t think anyone noticed. All they noticed, was us bent double, laughing so much we could barely walk straight. But I’m sure they were all none the wiser as to what had happened.
Anyway, where were we? Oh, that’s right, I was clinging onto the loo. Sicking done, and mouth wash swilled, I headed back out into the office and switched on my laptop. It was then that another wave of nausea hit me and I had to make it swiftish back to the loo. Clinging to the loo again, trying to remember the last time I felt well. Was it when myself and my team were headed to the photo booth? It might have been. We went in there and had a few photos; we all had turkey hats on in one of them (we fondly call that the triple turkey). On the way out, I leant on the wall of the photo booth, only to quickly find out it was an inflatable photo booth which wasn’t at all ready to hold my weight. At that point Ben came running out for a photo, absolutely smashed. We raised this point, at which point he informed us he wasn’t at all drunk, and proved that point by throwing his whole glass of wine over his shoulder.
Anywhere, where way we? So, I was vomming in the loo, then I went out for a bit of fresh air. I had a bit of a retch out there and I was worried I was going to be sick in the top pocket of my dungarees. At this point, the decision was made by my manager that I should take the rest of the day off. I can tell you now, it was a sorry Uber ride home. I got straight into bed, after drinking about 3 points of water, and slept until 6 pm. I don’t know where all that water went, but it didn’t even generate a wee!! How dehydrated was I?! I struggled downstairs to heat myself some chicken soup (which took me about 3 years to eat) and I was back in bed again. I had more water, but I think had turned into some kind of sponge, because I was still absorbing it.
I made it to work and planted myself at the desk. Ready for a fruitful days’ work. And then it hit; The Hangover 2. I could barely finish half my breakfast and the retching was happening again. I was slumped down on my desk when it started snowing – I could barely muster half a level of excitement at the arrival of snow. The retching happened again. I managed to force down a sausage roll at lunch time and dragged myself out for a walk with Ellie and Ben. It was freezing. Freezing I tell you. The rest of the day passed in a blur. I’m not sure what happened. Did I do any work? I couldn’t say. I got my emails down from 125 to 70, but I can’t tell you whether that was because I replied to them or because I just kept opening them, reading them and never responding to them. Either way, I’ll take it as a win as I have less emails than when I started.
Finally, the retching has stopped. But I keep having horrifying flashbacks. Like, flashback to the time when I told this guy that “his name made him sound better looking than he was”. Genuinely horrified at myself. Genuinely horrified. But, at least that is one less person I have to be nice to, because he will just ignore me forever now. And that’s a small win, right? Not really, but I need to put a good spin on this. Sorry bro.
I wanted some ripped jeans, but A) I can never seem to find any I like, B) if I manage to find some I like, they never fit, and C) I feel like paying for jeans with holes in, is a rip off (literally). The other day I bought some new black jeans as my other ones were a bit on the faded side, so I decided I would make my old black jeans into ripped jeans. If you want to learn how to make your own ripped jeans, then I will warn you – this is no comprehensive guide. In fact, this probably more of a description of how not to do it.
But, I was pretty sure this was a good idea, because it’s thrifty, I could have them exactly how I wanted them and they would be one of a kind, and I really like wearing and having things that no one else has. Making my own ripped jeans – what could go wrong?
I had no idea how to go about this, so instead of looking it up or watching a helpful Youtube video on the matter, I decided to go straight in with it and “use the force”. I thought about using scissors to do it, but I decided a Stanley knife would probably be easier and work better. My thinking on this was that I would end up with strange angled, and very straight slices on my jeans, and I wanted more of a “rough” look.
I got up a photo of some ripped jeans I liked the look of and used that as a reference, and I just started attacking my legs with a Stanley knife (clearly safety was not a concern for me). I started off with the rip on my right knee. I pinched the fabric so I didn’t slice my kneecap off, and punctured the fabric with the Stanley knife. I widened the rip so it was nearly reaching the seams, but not quite. I wanted the hole to be quite big and to have a fair bit of knee on show (oioi), so I made another puncture a couple of cm down and extended that until it met up with the sides of the previous rip. I kept doing this until the hole was big enough and basically my entire right knee was out.
Next, I did the rip on my left thigh; making sure it was in the right place, I pinched the fabric and made the incision. At this point, I got a little bit more nervous about actually hacking into my flesh and puncturing a vital blood vessel, but that still didn’t stop me. I informed a few mates that I was doing risky things with knives (just in case the worst case to the worst, they would at least know what happened and would be able to tell my parents it wasn’t intentional) and I felt a bit better. I kept widening the rip until I had achieved the desired size, and I moved on to the next rip.
The next one was the top of my right thigh, and I repeated the process. I then decided I wanted to be pure gansta and make a rip where the front pocket on my left thigh was, so I could be super cool and have the pocket lining poking out the hole. This needed a much bigger hole than I had ever thought (turns out there is quite a lot of pocket). I took it a little bit too far, and now I need to be a bit careful about which pants I wear – because if I wear my Bridget Jones knickers you will be able to see them through the pocket hole… But no matter, I shall wear uncomfortable pants, because I am told fashion hurts. And I am a fashionista to the core (I’m not).
I decided I needed a bit of hole action in the shin area, because it was all looking a bit smart below the knee, so I poked some holes (very haphazardly) in the shin area. I had to take off my jeans to do this, because there was no way I could poke holes with a knife without poking holes in myself. I expanded the holes a bit and made sure they looked nice and rough. Perfect!
I made some more small holes on the back of my right calf, because I always think ripped jeans look insane when they are perfectly preserved at the back. It looks like whatever caused the rips at the front just didn’t bother to scuff up the back. Like, you got mauled by a bear and at no point did it come into contact with the back of your jeans? I think not. Anyway, I did another rip on the back of my right leg in the thigh area, about half way between my knee and my butt.
I thought I would go all out and make these super saucy jeans (no ketchup, just sauce), and make a rip pretty close to my right butt crease. It’s not high enough up so you can actually see right butt crease, but it’s closer than not close at all.
I’m not going to lie, I am pretty damn pleased with how these turned out. I had visions of accidentally ripping too much, and ending up with a strange pair of shorts. Or one normal leg and one really short leg. Yeah, I probably should have done a bit of research before I started, but I was confident in just going for it. This was probably down to these jeans being super old, and the fact that they would have ended up in the bin anyway, so if it went horribly wrong, it didn’t really matter. I almost think that if I had thought about it too much, it probably would have been a whole lot worse, and I took it slowly, so it was fine.
My top tips for making your own ripped jeans:
Have a photo you can copy
Make small rips at first – you can always make them bigger but you can’t make them smaller
Add some rips to the back so they look a bit more original
I am looking forward to wearing these – I think I am going to team them with my new burgundy fishnet tights. So, I will probably look like a very festive prostitute (ho ho ho), but equally I don’t care, because I have my very own ripped jeans, and you do not. Please, refer to me as the new Alexander Mcqueen from now on, as I am pure fashion and sooooooo extra (not).
Does anyone else have comfort food? I know we all eat comfort food to make ourselves feel better (or try to, anyway) but does anyone else have a meal or a snack they turn to, that makes them feel better?
I have two which I turn to in a bid to make myself feel better, and both are equally disgusting or delicious, depending on who you are, and whether you are a gluten free/vegan/plant based diet/thin person. My go-to comfort foods are heavy in the carb department – as all good comfort foods are.
My first comfort food is Marmite pasta; and you’ll either love it or you’ll hate it. There’s something about this beige/brown bowlful of food which is incredibly comforting. I don’t know if it’s the simplicity of it, or whether it’s because I link Marmite with childhood, and allowing those Marmitey childhood feelings to resurface makes me feel better. But once I’ve eaten it, feel better I certainly do. Funnily enough, having it in the chipped bowl makes me feet better too. I feel like the chipped bowl gets me, it knows me.
If you’re interested, all you do is cook yourself a portion of pasta. Then, over a low heat in a small pan, warm a spoonful of butter and a spoonful of Marmite together and stir to make a sauce. Then pour the salty goodness over your pasta. Tuck in and you will be in heaven, unless you hate Marmite, then in which case, you will be in hell.
My second comfort food is a ravioli in tomato sauce, from a tin. This old chestnut gets carted out when we are in dire straits. When all hope is lost, or I am feeling very unwell, the tinned ravioli never fails to make an appearance. I’m sure a lot of you will think tinned ravioli is truly grim, but again, it has positive childhood connotations and memories for me. I had tinned ravioli for lunch today. I drove past Sainsbury’s on my way back from work and all of a sudden, I needed it.
But I’ve gone from using ravioli to make my tummy ache better or my sore throat better, to using it to make my head better, or my mind better. Is that a good thing? Is that a bad thing? I’m not quite sure, I’m not sure if it matters either. There’s something about eating ravioli from a tin, wearing your jim-jams, sitting in your bed, snuggled up in your blankets that gives me a feeling of safety, and safety is akin to comfort, right?
Now I’m thinking about it, I don’t know if these are comfort foods, or more foods that I use to tell people I’m either feeling unhappy, or I’m feeling ill. The second I get the ravioli out my dad goes “that’s when I know you aren’t feeling well”. So, maybe I use these things to signal to those who know me best, that I’m not alright, and I probably need a bit of help. Sometimes I guess I don’t even need help, but I just need someone to ask, “are you okay?”, or “what’s up”. Having someone recognise that you aren’t alright, and to make themselves available for you to not be alright and have a little cry, is what we want really, isn’t it?
These things don’t really make you feel better, but they make you think you feel better. Kind of like a placebo effect, but instead of taking sugar pills, you are eating pasta out of tins. They are creating a reaction inside your brain, and your brain is tricking you into making you feel better or happier for a moment. I’d imagine all of these comfort foods are attached to a nice memory or a nice time in our lives. As long as they work for you, that’s the main point.
We went for a walk up Box Hill this weekend – turns out it isn’t a hill and it’s actually a mountain, but that’s another matter and far be it from me to email the National Trust and ask them if “hill” is really an accurate representation of the facts. But walking up Box Hill is one of the top things to do in Surrey (apparently), and you should do these things at least once, shouldn’t you? It was my turn to drive and I was weirdly nervous about it. I say “weirdly” like I never get nervous about anything and it’s totally out of the ordinary for me to worry unnecessarily about things (it’s not, as you know). But, WEIRDLY I was really nervy about driving and I kept worrying I was going to forget how to do it because that does happen sometimes. I feel this is on account of driving being a learned skill. It’s not like creativity, you can’t forget how to be creative, you are just a creative person. But you can forget how to drive, because you aren’t a car. So there. It’s a thing and it happens and I definitely can’t be the only one this happens to. It probably happens to Lewis Hamilton as well. Probably.
As it turns out, I didn’t forget how to drive and all my driving was impeccable I’d say, and I didn’t struggle too much with the sat-nav and managed to follow it quite capably. I seem to find it hard to have both the verbal directions and the screen directions, and I can’t concentrate with them both and I end up paying zero attention to the road, which isn’t ideal, so I tend to mute the woman and just look at where I am supposed to be going. Also, I don’t really like her telling me what to do and I feel I should be able to make my own decisions, and that by muting her, I am taking back some ownership.
Wait. Let’s back track for a moment. I said “we” went to Box Hill. “We” as in two people, two people as in a couple and half of this couple isn’t one of my weird selection of friends, for once. The other half of this couple is a real boy! Well, man really, but I am just trying to assure you he is a real person and not a cardboard cut out (he isn’t, I promise), but I’m now worried that I have promised when I didn’t need to and now you don’t believe me. ACK! Oh well, believe what you want, but he’s real, I promise… Christ. Oh, and not only is he real, but he is hella handsome. So step back bitches – he’s mine. Don’t make me hurt you.
Anywho; we (yasss!!) got to Box Hill in one piece and started on our (yay!!) merry way along the stepping stones walk. Our “merry” way lasted for approximately 6 seconds before the path turned into a treacherous set of steps, slick with mud and the souls of those who had fallen. Seriously, I have slipped about less on an ice rink. The situation was diabolical and I am genuinely surprised I didn’t end up on my arse, caked in mud, next to the skeleton of the last girl who slipped as a result of her inappropriate footwear and never made it out alive. Some of us ended up on our arses, but it wasn’t me… HEH.
Watching people slip and slide around activated my inner cringe gauge and I genuinely have aching abs from all the internal cringing I was doing, plus all the laughing I was doing at people falling over. I did a lot of laughing. I laughed until my face hurt and I couldn’t really breathe much and I lost the ability to walk (see, the learned skills just escape me).
We got to the stepping stones and I was silently willing someone to fall in. I know it’s not right to will people to make a fool of themselves, but I genuinely can’t help it and I couldn’t stop my mind urging them to make a fatal error and slip into the water. Alas, no one did, and I know I shouldn’t say it’s a shame, but it’s a shame. I posed for a quick photo on the stepping stones, which turned out to be the only in-focus pic of me from the entire day (thanks hun, the next David Bailey you are not).
Finally, we were on firmer ground. To have grass beneath my feet was for the world to be right again. I was living the dream. There was a cute little footbridge, upon which I challenged my masculine company to a game of Pooh sticks. The masculine company didn’t know what that was, so I graciously explained the rules of Pooh sticks to the obvious newcomer to the field, then selected my stick. I released my stick from my grasp, sure that I was going to win (considering I had experience on my side) then dashed over to the other side of the bridge to await my sweet victory. Shit. I lost. Can you even believe I lost? I lost!!!!!!! I hate losing. I’m convinced it was a fix, there is no other explanation. How did he win????????????????
After the Pooh stick fiasco, we headed on up the hill. Oh wait, not the hill, the mountain, and not just any mountain, it was akin to trekking up Mount Everest. I was half expecting Sherpa Tensing to pop up and offer to carry the bags. If only he had, it may have reduced the amount of sweating that was done. I had to take my coat off half way up. I had to stop and take a photo of some cows, not because I wanted photos of cows, but purely so I had an excuse to catch my breath.
I’d got to the point where I couldn’t really get a decent lungful of air. Every breath hurt, and I was 99% sure I was close to a lung collapsing. To our shame, as we got to the top of the hill, we were met by a literal granny, who was bounding up the hill, assisted merely by the arm of a woman I assume to be her daughter. If I can get up a hill with breathing apparatus at that age, I will be impressed, let alone walking unaided – which I struggle with now to be honest.
Why are Malteser reindeer so good? Why? They are other worldly in comparison to other festive chocolate treats. I am convinced they are a gift from the heavens. Nothing this tasty can have been created by one of us mere mortals. These came from a higher being; of that I’ve no doubt. I am surprised they haven’t been depicted in paintings of the birth of Jesus, and I’m equally surprised that they weren’t given at least one mention in the Bible. I’m fairly sure Mary whipped one of these bad boys out of her knapsack whilst she and Joseph were travelling on the donkey.
I’ve done a serious amount of thinking about why they are so damned delicious, and I have come up with a few reasons. These are the kinds of things I think about when I am sitting on the loo, treating myself to a change of scenery for five minutes. I feel my best work is done seated in the cubicle on the far right-hand side of the ground floor ladies’ bathroom at work. Many an epiphany has been had with my back resting against the cistern and my head resting against the loo roll dispenser. Possibly not the most hygienic of places to do great work, but I doubt Einstein would judge my choice. Whatever works for you, right?
I digress; I was supposed to be explaining why Malteser reindeer are the tastiest deer in all the land, and now I shall. Hold onto your hats people, because this is going to be a bumpy ride.
Chocolate to filling ratio
In comparison to your average run of the mill Malteser, the reindeer has a distinctly thicker chocolate coating and this makes a huge difference. The thicker chocolate layer protecting the delectable creamy Malteser filling is a deal breaker and a maker. It takes this treat from average to mind blowing in the first bite. Just thinking about taking a bite of one of these bad boys is genuinely causing me issues in the world of excess saliva production.
I am 100% sure that when a snack if shaped as something cute, like a little reindeer, it tastes 100,000,000 times better. No lie. There is something inherently enjoyable about decapitating a reindeer in one bite. Also, because it isn’t a uniform shape, there isn’t a strict uniformity in biscuit to chocolate ratio. Every mouthful is different, yet equally enjoyable.
They are only available once a year. Yes, they get reinvented at Easter to become bunnies, but the scrummy reindeer is only available for a couple of months of the year. The second Halloween is over and the Christmas treat aisle is at full capacity in Tesco, it’s game on. The most wonderful time of the year has begun. You can never over indulge to the point where you will never want another one. They are only around for 8 weeks. That is not enough time to eat so many that you will never want to look one square in the eye again. There is an extended “off season”, where you have 10 months to recover. To forget about their chocolatey goodness, then start to yearn for a taste of sweet reindeer as the weather starts to turn colder and the nights draw in. The once-a-year deer know the game, and they play it oh so well.
There is no greater feeling than tearing open the wrapper on the first Malteser reindeer of the season. The scrumptious waft of deliciousness emanates from inside the wrapper. It’s an “eyes closed” moment as you take a bite of your first reindeer of the festive season. This moment is almost akin to love making. The passion I feel for these things is near to unrivalled. Are these better than sex? Well, no, let’s not be entirely ridiculous. These are not better than sex. They come close, I’m not going to lie, but they haven’t quite made it to that level yet. Can the two be combined? Is that a thing that can happen? (if you’re reading this, I think we need to talk, because I’m not sure I’m going to stop thinking about this as an option any time soon). Anyway, they aren’t better, unless you are having terrible sex, in which case they might actually be better than the sex you are having. If that is the case, have more reindeer and that will probably make you feel better about the whole sex thing. And at the very least, you will eat so many that you will feel entirely sick and your “not tonight dear” won’t be a falsity this time.
One of the guys at work is having a baby. Well, not him obviously, but his wife is. I say obviously, but there was that time when that man had a baby, so you can never be overly sure with these things. Anyway, I digress. I feel like the perfect gift in this situation is always a hamper, it can never not be a hamper. We knew the little one was going to be a girl, so I set about getting a collection going at work to get a few bits to buy them a present. I sent a card around with a ‘collection’ envelope, entitled “Ross is having a baby!”. Someone very helpfully changed my post-it note so it read “Ross’s wife is having a baby!”. Thanks pal, I’m not sure that was necessary, but I’m really glad you did that in your tiny scrawly penmanship. I’m pretty sure everyone knew what was meant, but TY bro. Not.
But whatever, let’s not put a damper on my hamper, because I LOVE choosing presents for people. It’s genuinely one of my fave things to do, and I think I am pretty good at it (most of the time, anyway). I put a fair amount of thought into these things and always try to go for something which they will like and use, rather than it just being your average gift.
So, I always prefer getting lots of little bits and pieces when it comes to a gift, so a hamper is ideal. You can fill it full of cute little bits and bobs, and it doesn’t have to cost the earth if you are on a budget. I had a browse through the likes of Tesco, Boots and Marks and Spencer and here is a list of what I ended up getting:
Cotton wool pleat
Johnsons baby powder
Johnsons baby bath
Ultra-soft baby wipes
3 pairs of socks
Polar bear towel
Dress, babygro and tights set
The trick here is to get items of all different sizes and shapes so you can display them nicely in your basket. You need some small items to fill up gaps, some taller items to give you a bit of height and some soft items that you can use to pad out the bottom and drape here and there.
I started by draping the cute little towel over one corner of the basket, and using the rest of the towel to pad out the bottom of the basket so you would be able to see everything once it was all in there. I then spent ages fiddling about trying to display the dress set nicely. I started off by taking the hanger out and draping the outfit over the side, but it looked a bit weird. It looked a bit sad and droopy and I wasn’t a fan of that; it looked like it had given up the ghost. Kind of like when you see someone come out of a bar really drunk and they just “rest for a moment” over someone’s garden wall until 7 in the morning. So, I actually ended up putting the hanger back in and using it to support the dress so it stood up nicely.
After wrestling with the dress for a while, I got it in place and I set about adding the rest of the items in. It was pretty plain sailing from there. I put the cotton wool pleats over the other side to give a bit of height, and then popped in the wipes, the baby powder and the bath stuff. I propped up the sterilising tablets. I propped up the sterilising tablets again. Then I propped them up again, until I lost my patience and quickly shoved in the Sudocrem at the front to support everything.
All I was left with was the bunny, the bibs and the tiny little sockies. I slid the bibs in at the back and arranged the little socks at the front. Lastly was the pink bunny toy. This was harder to position than I had imagined, mainly on account of it being literally the softest toy in the entire world, and wherever I placed it, it just slithered out. I eventually managed to jam its leg behind the bath stuff to anchor it in. I felt a bit sorry for the bunny, but it was being difficult and I feel it deserved what it got in the end.
When we gave it to him, he was so pleased with it. He had such a big smile on his face and I was so happy for that. This is why I like gifts. When you give someone something they weren’t expecting, or something really thoughtful, and they have that look of pure joy on their faces; that’s what gifts are all about. I guess what I am trying to say, is that things don’t have to cost the earth, and it really is the thought that counts.
I had quite the weekend of socialising this weekend. On Friday night Claire came round and we made pasta and drank prosecco. Finally, I’ve found two things I am actually good at – drinking prosecco and eating pasta… Perhaps I should have been Italian.
The requirement for a second bottle was unexpected, and we had to emergency chill it in the freezer. There was no space in the freezer, so the peas had to take one for the team and make their new home on the floor, rather than in the bottom drawer of the freezer, but I’m sure they were fine with that, it was so we could have prosecco after all.
Two bottles of prosecco in and an artfully made pesto pasta down, we went out for a couple of cocktails. As we got there, Claire realised she didn’t have her ID and she’d left it at home. We knew we wouldn’t get in without her ID, but it was worth a shot anyway right? You never know! We tried, and as expected we failed. Even offering photos of Claire’s 21st birthday from her camera roll did nothing to sway the bouncer, so off we toddled to give Claire’s boyfriend a call and rectify the ID issue.
We managed to source a drink in another bar where the ID process is distinctly more lax, so we were satisfied for the time being. We used this time to have a goss and a bitch sesh; because what else do girls do over a cocktail? Claire’s ID turned up (thanks Pete) and we were on our way to the bar. We had a couple of drinkies, but to be honest, all we wanted to do was goss, and it was a bit loud in there – so we made our way to a pub where we could bitch to our hearts were content, without having to shout over a Calvin Harris remix.
After what I can only describe as the most disgusting glass of wine I have ever had the misfortune to sling down the hatch (which I didn’t hesitate to mention to the bouncer who was hanging around), we needed another cocktail.
I couldn’t even tell you what we ordered, but it was probably the least tasty cocktail I have ever experienced in my life. We got talking to a table of randoms and managed to palm off our drinks on them, in return for something that was distinctly more to our taste.
All of a sudden it was 2am and we were in McDonalds procuring ourselves a chicken legend meal each. The Uber turned up and it wasn’t long before I was getting more chicken legend meal on the seat than I was in my mouth. Apparently, I refused to drink any of my diet coke and Claire was left with more diet coke than anyone can drink and a tip was required to satiate the aggressive Russian Uber driver and stop him from giving her a 1 star rating.
The next morning, I was suffering, I’m not going to lie. I woke up and tried to get out of bed and I simply couldn’t. There was no way I could get up without vomming, so I had to retreat back under the covers and lay there and question what I was doing with my life until I could slide out of bed and get myself a drink of water. I couldn’t make it all the way to the sink in one go, so I had to have a rest on the loo for a bit and press my cheek against the cool tiles until I recovered enough to make it to the sink and turn the tap on.
It took the whole day to recover, multiple naps and some pop tarts to get me back up and running again. It was Tara’s 21st birthday so there was no way I could cancel, I simply had to go out. I got all dolled up; pink was the theme this evening, so I had a pink skirt on and I went all pink on the eyeshadow front. PINK PINK PINK. I started off lightly and had a diet coke, I was feeling like I needed to ease myself in.
Tara’s mum was practically forcing alcohol down my neck. All of a sudden there was a glass of prosecco in front of me and the thought of drinking it was turning my stomach. But, because I am a trooper, I forced it down the hatch.
The night went on and we headed into Kingston, to da club. Tara got a tonne of free drinks cos she had that 21st badge on, and I got precisely no free drinks. But, there was a point where she couldn’t drink all the free drinks, so I did end up with a free drink, but it wasn’t intended for me, but I’m not sure that’s the point.
We had a good dance, and I mean a GOOD DANCE. So much so, that by the time we got home we were pretty much sober. We had a cheeky chicken wrap before we started the Uber journey, because basically the entire reason we go on a night out is for the food at the end. We had Imran the Uber driver, and I have to say; genuinely the best Uber driver I have ever experienced in my life. Us and Imran, we put the world to rights, and we even gave him a “compliment” as we exited the vehicle, and I have never given an Uber drive a compliment in my life. You should take that as a compliment in itself Imran.
When we woke up I made Tara a birthday bacon sandwich and put some candles in it.
Because when you don’t have a cake, birthday bacon is probably the next best thing. In fact, I am now starting to wonder why we even bother with birthday cake, and why we don’t just have birthday bacon sandwiches instead.
I think that would be a better way to celebrate. I’m going to make it a thing starting from now. I can see no situation where this wouldn’t be a goer… Unless you were a vegetarian. Or worse, vegan.
There’s a tonne of other things that have made me happy over the last month, but these are just a few of them, and the ones I had photos of to show you. It’s the little things in life that make the biggest difference I think. These are some of the little things. These little things have created some of the biggest smiles this month. I’m not 100% sure why I have decided to post about this, but it has been a really nice post to write and I think I will make it a monthly thing.
I guess it’s because I have been feeling really good this month; way better than I have been feeling at other points during this year, and I thought that was a worthy thing to shout about. Maybe this will inspire some of you others to write about things that have made you happy this month. If it does, then you people pay way too much attention to me 😛
My new tiara:
So, a little story behind the tiara. The long and the short of it is, I met this guy on Tinder and we arranged to go on a date. We went to an Italian and I was super nervous (obvs, because I get super nervous about these things), oh, and coupled with the fact that he’s possibly the most beautiful person in the world. It is safe to say my nerves were no longer nerves, and they had escalated into major nerves. I’m not sure if any of the words I was saying were making any sense, but oh wells.
Anyway, he bought me a frickin’ tiara. A frickin’ tiara. A TIARA. Uhm, yes please. Firstly, no one has ever bought me anything on a date ever. Secondly, no one has ever bought me a tiara ever. And thirdly, no one has ever arranged for a tiara to be brought out to me by a waiter on a plate. I want to wear it forever but I don’t want to ruin it. I legit want to wear it to sleep because it is that glorious.
IT’S A TIARRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!
I deleted Tinder:
Tinder is a dick; nuff said. I am so glad to have that little flamey icon gone from my “entertainment” folder. The fact that it was even in that folder shows how little faith I had. I feel like I am slating Tinder, when I actually think it is a kind of good idea. Places like POF where anyone under the sun could message you, I was certainly no fan of. At least with Tinder, you know you are attracted to them and they are attracted to you and it means you don’t have to have those awkward conversations where you basically have to tell people you don’t like their face, but by saying things like “you aren’t my type”. Non-fan of dat. So, byeeeeeeee Tinder and all my matches, I hope life treats you all well. Unless you were a dick, and in that case I hope your lives are merely “fine”.
I got some clothes made smaller:
This was a really nice feeling. I had a few pairs of trousers and a jumpsuit that were way too big for me around the waist, so I took them to the tailors and had them made smaller. They weren’t super expensive or anything like that, but one of my pairs of trousers were pink and I couldn’t give those up, and I had never had a chance to wear my jumpsuit and I think it is pretty fierce, so I want to give it an outing. It was the best feeling to get these taken in, and it proves that going to the gym and eating vegetables rather than pizza, has paid off. Yay!
It is autumn, and that means it is boot season. So, I have been busting out the boots at every available opportunity. I seem to be a fan of an ankle boot, and I have accumulated more pairs than I thought I had. Oh, and stacked heels. I am such a fan of a stacked heel, there are no better heels in the world. Stacked, stacked, stacked.
This little note made me happy. Things like this make my day, if not my week. One of the girls at work always gives me the crusts from her pizza. This might not seem like something to gush over, but I think it is the best thing in the world. Getting someone’s leftover crusts might not seem like a huge thing, but having someone that thinks about you enough to save their food and leave you a little note; they are the best people in the world.
Okay, so I made this and it is pretty damn tasty. It is the perfect way to use up some of your Halloween pumpkin, because let’s be honest, no one ever knows what to do with that. It’s nice and decadent and it’s a bit different from your usual pie fillings. I really like this, and it makes a killer photo with all your pumpkins scattered around.
It doesn’t take too long to make, maybe an hour and a half all in. It would have taken me an hour and a half if I hadn’t had a major disaster in the middle of it. I had made my pastry case, and I was just getting it out of the oven having blind baked it to perfection, when my entire brain shut down and I dropped the tin on the floor.
Had it been anyone else, I am sure the tin would have sailed straight down and landed on its base with no harm done. But, obviously, that didn’t happen. The tin came crashing down on its side, making a proper racket and causing the cat to hurtle out the cat flap so fast, he nearly took it off its hinges. The perfectly baked pastry case flung out to the left-hand side and plopped unceremoniously into the cats’ water bowl. WTF. There was no saving the pastry case, so I just let it drown until I could bear to begin the clean-up operation.
This recipe is a bit of a mash up of recipes from here, there and everywhere. Plus as bit of my own, because I can never follow a recipe to the tee and I always add or change something. So, enjoy making your pie. Oh, and don’t drop your pastry.
For the pastry:
225g plain flour
150g cold butter
25g icing sugar
1 large egg
2 tbsp water
For the filling:
1 (400g ish) tin condensed milk
175g soft dark brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp nutmeg
Pinch of salt
You will need:
23cm deep tart tin
To make the pastry, cut the butter into cubes and add it to a large bowl with the flour and sugar. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg and combine until it forms a smooth ball. If the mixture is still too crumbly, add a tablespoon of water to bring it together. Wrap your pastry in cling film and leave it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Whilst the pastry is in the fridge, you can make your pumpkin puree that you need for the filling. Cut 500g of pumpkin into small chunks and place in a medium pot. Cover with water and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the pumpkin is tender.
Drain the water from the pumpkin and using a blender or a stick blender, puree the pumpkin until the lumps have gone. Set this aside to cool down.
Get your pastry out of the fridge and roll it out on a floured surface until it is about the thickness of a £1 coin. Place your pastry in the tin and press the pastry into the tin, making sure you press it into the edges. Put the pastry back in the fridge for 15 minutes to chill.
Heat your oven to 180c. Once your pastry has chilled, line the pastry case with foil and pour in your baking beans. Blind bake your pastry case for 15 to 20 minutes, until the case is golden.
Whilst you are blind baking your pastry, you can make your filling. In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin, condensed milk, sugar, eggs, spices and salt. Whisk together until the mixture is smooth.
Remove your baking beans and foil from the pastry case, and pour in your pumpkin mixture. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the filling is stable and a knife inserted comes out clean.
Then enjoy! I left mine to cool most of the way and then cut myself a big old slice and served it with a dollop of crème fraiche. Crème fraiche is a bit more acidic so it goes nicely with the sweetness of the pumpkin and it’s not as luxurious as cream, which I am not a major fan of. Oh also, it was lactose free crème fraiche, because my body is not a major fan of the whole lactose thing.
A quarter-life crisis. Who even knew that was a thing?! Well, it turns out it is, and I am having one. I want to change my job, I want to stop doing stuff, I want to start doing different stuff. I’m not sure what is happening. I thought this was only supposed to happen when you were about 50 and you went out and bought a convertible car and got your nipples pierced. I’m not going to buy a convertible, because quite frankly I can’t afford one, and I’m not going to get my nipples pierced (although I did consider doing so when I was 16).
But this is weird right? Has anyone else experienced the quarter-life crisis? Is it just me? Or is this actually a really normal thing for a 23-year-old to experience? If it is, then I am wondering why I haven’t heard about it before. But here I am, sitting in front of Strictly Come Dancing with my cat, alone on a Saturday night, watching Aston Merrygold do a spooky Halloween themed paso doble, criticising his leg extensions, accompanied by a cup of tea, pretty much questioning my entire life. Maybe this is a mid-life thing? I shouldn’t be so concerned as to whether Anton Du Beke has had a face-lift, should I? No other people my age are worried about things like that, are they?
But anyway, back to my quarter-life crisis. I want to quit my job, mainly because I hate it, but also because I feel like it’s just not creative enough for me. But I also don’t want to quit, because I have no idea what other jobs to look at, let alone actually apply for. Is there anything else I can do? What skills do I have? Will anyone want to employ me? What can I actually do? I genuinely have no idea. Will I be able to make any friends at my fictitious new job? Or will I end up having lunch in my car because no one likes me? Because that is a definite possibility.
I’m in on a Saturday night, looking like a complete crazy cat lady. Sitting in my jim jams on the sofa, blanket tucked around me, with panda eyes so dark, that I’m not even sure I look human anymore, and I may have actually started morphing into a panda. I’m 23 and I am in on a Saturday night. This shouldn’t be happening. Why aren’t I one of those popular people who have a tonne of superficial friends they can call in times like these?
I’d like to learn a new skill. I really want to learn how to sew, like proper sewing with a sewing machine so I can make my own clothes and alter stuff. But when is there time to learn how to sew? I feel like I don’t even have enough time to go to sleep, let alone learn a new skill. There are so many things I want to do and learn and see, but when is there time to do all these things? I can’t do all this, have a social life, go to work, go to the gym, eat and sleep, can I? There is simply not enough time in the day.
Urgh. My mind went spinning out of control so I thought I would go for a nap. I laid there for a bit hoping I would fall asleep. Obviously, I didn’t. What actually happened was I laid there for an hour staring at the ceiling, singing my own version of Calvin Harris’s “Feels”, where I replaced the word “feels” with “ceilings”. I can promise you now, that “don’t be afraid to catch ceilings”, will be top of the charts in the not too distant future.
Anyway, so I haven’t really solved my quarter-life crisis. All I’ve done is watch Strictly, stare at the ceiling and change one word in a song to make it my own. So… yeah, that was my evening. Productive eh?
Why are people afraid to enjoy things? Why are people so afraid to be passionate about things? I don’t get it. Okay, I kind of do get it. I understand that sometimes people don’t have the self-confidence to be positive and vocal about the things that they enjoy and are happy about. They worry people are going to think they are “sad”, or that they are “losers”, or that these people are going to look down on them because they are interested in more than just Love Island and wine (which are completely legitimate interests by the way).
Well people, I am going to tell you that worrying about liking something and being passionate about it because people might think it is stupid, sad or boring, is completely counter intuitive. It’s completely and utterly counter intuitive. If you are defensive when someone tries to talk to you about something you enjoy, YOU have already decided that you are the loser. Not them, not anyone else, no one but you. You have already made the decision for them – that they are going to find whatever you are talking about boring, or think you are a “weirdo” for liking it. They weren’t thinking you were a weirdo before, but now they are thinking you are a weirdo for shutting down a conversation about something that you like. Have some self-respect here, stop putting yourself down on this one.
If anyone actually says you are a loser for liking something, or tells you that you are weird for liking something, then are they really worth talking to about anything? I doubt it. If they can’t be bothered to have a conversation about the fact that you like trains, or photography, or makeup or whatever, then they aren’t even worth having a conversation with about anything. I think often people are jealous that someone has a passion. They don’t have anything in their lives they are excited about, and you do, and they don’t like that. So, they shut you down by calling you a “loser”, a “weirdo” or sad.
I’ve got to the point where being called a “loser” is almost a compliment to me. It means I am interested in something and you aren’t. It means I have a passion and you don’t. I enjoy my life and all the things in it, and you don’t. You’re jealous. If I had £1 for each time someone had called me one of these words, I would be a millionaire by now. I get called a loser/sad/weirdo on a daily basis. But you know what, that’s actually okay; I’m cool with it. I’m reading a Japanese crime novel which has been translated into English, why’s that so weird? My pen has a unicorn on the top of it, why’s that so odd? My hairband matches my shoes, and apparently that’s weird. These things aren’t weird, but so what if they are?! Yeah Bonnie’s weird – cool story bro… come up with something new already.
The definition of weirdo: a person whose dress or behaviour seems strange or eccentric.
Is liking to read strange or eccentric? Don’t think so. Is enjoying black and white films particularly out of the ordinary? Nope.
Let’s take a look at some synonyms for “weirdo”: individualist, nonconformist, free spirit.
In my book, these are all positive words. So, I’m weird and that makes me an individual and that means I am different to you. Well, good! Because I don’t want to be like you if you are horrible to people for being interested in things.
I don’t get why we shame people for liking things. Fortunately, I’m not worried enough about people liking what I like, and I don’t mind if people call me a loser. But not everyone is like that. Some people will take it to heart if you say their hobby is “sad”, and they will be afraid to ever mention it to someone again. If you are one of those people who shames people for being into stuff, then stop it. Stop it right now, because it’s the most ridiculous thing, and you saying that is way more telling than someone getting excited about something they are interested in. Like “OMG you are so cool, I love that you just made someone feel really bad about themselves”. Legit get over yourselves. These people are mean, and they don’t have real friends, they are literally just people who hang around with a bunch of people who are scared of them
And, if you are one of those people who stresses when someone says you are “sad”, a “loser” or a “weirdo”, you know what? Chuck it in the fuck it bucket and move on. Tell someone who cares; because lots of people care.
My standard response to someone telling me I am any of these things, is to go “yeah I know”. They never know what to say to that. They aren’t expecting that, they are expecting you to get defensive about it or to go quiet. So, do neither. I propose a new way of thinking, where the people who don’t like anything apart from making you feel bad, are the weirdos.
Anyway, rant over, for now at least. Cheesy grins people.
I was HANGING at work the other day, not going to lie. I’d been out with some of the work lot the night before and drunk A LOT. Like, really a lot. I didn’t get into work until 9 that morning, and considering I am supposed to start at 7.30, turns out I was a little late. But no matter, we will press on with the day. I was fine, sitting at my desk quite happily, until we got to about 11. This is when everything started to go a bit downhill. I started getting a bit of a shake on and my eyes weren’t focusing on the emails I was pretending I was reading. I needed a break, a few minutes away from my desk – that will sort me right out. Did it fuck.
I went to the kitchen area to get some water from the water cooler, and low and behold there was precisely no water left. I could see there was no water left, but I had to press the button down just in case there happened to be a secret store of water that would mean I didn’t have to change the bottle. But I had no such luck. Not even a drip was relinquished by the water cooler. Urgh.
You aren’t supposed to change the bottle on the water cooler yourself, because it’s heavy and whatever, and you are supposed to call one of the maintenance guys to come and do that. But nobody got time for dat. When you are experiencing the unquenchable thirst, the pain of having to wait for a heavily tattooed Polish man to come and assist you is a no go. Water simply must be had.
So, I did it myself. Normally I’m fine and I switch it over no problem, but today was a different story. I took the empty bottle off the top with minimal trouble, and after a bit of wrestling, I managed to peel the sticker off the bottom of the new water bottle. Here’s where it started going a bit awry. I grabbed hold of the handle of the water bottle and gave it a bit of a lift (testing the water if you will). It was no heavier than usual, so I engaged in the lift and hefted the new bottle off the rack and in the direction of the cooler. It was at this point, that I lost it. All of a sudden, my arms failed me and I seemed incapable of lifting the bottle any higher than my waist. Crap. I really had to engage the core to heft that water bottle into the right position. Clearly, I need to work on my clean and jerk, because this was not happening, and I had visions of me dropping the bottle with an almighty bang and me having to chase a rolling bottle down the corridor.
Anyway, somehow I managed to get the bottle into the cooler, and I stood waiting for the water to filter through the system. This can take a bit of time, so I assumed a leaning stance against the counter top, much like a cowboy leans against the bar in a Western, but probably much less cooly. Elaine the cleaner sauntered around the corner and I geared up for our daily chat which consists of one of the following three options.
Option number 1: Elaine proclaiming “Aint it hot in here?!”, when it really isn’t, but obviously I just agree because I am polite and British. I strongly suspect this has something to do with her being “that age” rather than it actually being warm in the office, but we won’t mention that.
Option number 2: Elaine asking if “I’ve much planned for the weekend”. This one usually first rears its ugly head on a Tuesday, when I obviously have nothing planned, and surfaces on a pretty much daily basis until I come up with an answer which satisfies her. I’m not sure I ever satisfy Elaine with my weekend plans, as they usually consist of “nothing much really”.
Option 3: she says something which I have no idea how to respond to. Well, I do know how I would like to respond to it, but I often can’t say what I want to out loud.
Option three is what we came up against on this day. I was standing near the water cooler, having just replenished it with a fresh bottle. Elaine saw me do this, as she reminded me I shouldn’t do this and I should get one of the maintenance blokes to do it. I glossed over this comment, as Elaine and I have discussed this many a time before, and she is well aware of my feelings with regard to waiting for people to do things for me.
As I stood there with my bottle in hand, waiting for the water to filter through so I could fill my bottle with the cool refreshing liquid I had just hailed up there, Elaine did a thing. She did a thing that would change my feelings towards this woman forever. She took a plastic cup from the dispenser. This may seem like a small thing, but the act of removing that plastic cup from the dispenser carries big meaning. But, not only did she take one plastic cups… She took two.
I stood there with a look of fire in my eyes. I knew where this was going. I could tell what was about to happen without her even opening her mouth to utter those words. I was steeling myself for the question; I was staying as calm as possible so as not to flip my lid. Just as I had thought the moment was going to pass, the words came. The dreaded words, “do you mind if I go first?”. The torrent of abusive phrases that swam through my head at that point don’t even bear thinking about. Somehow, I managed to keep my mouth shut, how I did that I will never know.
Through gritted teeth and the most clenched jaw you have ever seen in your life, I uttered the words “sure, not a problem!”. Not a problem? Of course it’s a bloody problem Elaine. Who on Gods earth do you think you are woman? You have quite literally stood there and watched me struggle to begin the process of quenching my thirst. You have unhelpfully reminded me that I shouldn’t be taking action to quench my thirst – which is precisely no help to a thirsty person, and now, NOW, you are going to actually ask me if you can have first go at the water?
You know what Elaine? You know what? Have it. Have all the water. Just go straight ahead. Don’t mind me or anything, you just take what you came for and leave. Don’t worry about the fact that I have gone to a serious amount of effort to get us to this point. Don’t you even bat an eyelid. There are words for people like you in this life. I didn’t want to say it Elaine, and I didn’t want it to come to this. I am ashamed to say that as she pottered back to wherever she came from (hell most likely), that under my breath I uttered the words “liquid larcener” at her back.
Started the day off with a major hunger on. The fry up called, and I answered. I treated the three of us and cooked breakfast (don’t say I don’t treat you guys).
After that the sink broke a little bit. The pipe underneath the sink appeared to be leaking, and there was rather more water outside of the sink pipes than there should have been. I informed Les of the sink/water situation and he attended the scene. Much swearing ensued, and after calling the sink a “bastard” approximately a thousand times, the issue appeared to be fixed.
It wasn’t. The water was spewing out. The sink was even more of a bastard than it ever was before. Many sodden tea towels later, a rather red in the face Les managed to staunch the flow and fixed the bastard sink. Bastard.
I wanted to go to Bushy Park today, but I felt like I needed to give Les a hand with some gardening before I went out. Seeing as the bastard sink had put him a couple of hours behind, I thought I would oblige and assist him. I donned the gawjus Tesco tracksuit bottoms and the sexy Eminem t-shirt and headed into the wilderness.
It was my job to pull up the carrots and beetroot we were growing. I always think it is an excellent idea to grow things, until you have to look after them and water the plants and weed the earth. My god I HATE weeding. But somehow, some stuff had grown, and there were some healthy-looking beetroot specimens and some things which I was told were carrots.
I was quite pleased with the beetroot, but I am not going to lie – the carrots are shit. Some of them are so short and fat and don’t really resemble carrots. One of them is miniature and would probably win an award for the “longest time growing for nothing” award. One of them looks more like a turnip, and one of them is actually yellow. WTF.
I thought I had done my time, but I hadn’t. There was weeding to be done. Oh hell (remember I hate weeding). I did my best, but I am not going to lie, there were a lot of weeds interspersed with actual plants which needed to stay in the ground, so it was pretty hard going. I weeded this bit for approximately 5 hours and hardly made any progress. When I say 5 hours, it was more like 15 minutes, but time takes on a whole new level of slow when you are crouched in the mud pulling up what you are hoping is grass and not a flower.
I finally managed to escape to Bushy Park with Gail. The whole reason I wanted to go was because it was rutting season and all the boy deer would be out doing their thing and showing off to the ladies. There is definitely a joke in there somewhere about them being horny, if only they didn’t have antlers.
We saw some of the lads out and about in the park, making that weird mooing sound, I’m not sure whether the girls find it attractive or not. I don’t know if I would be overly keen on a giant antlered man mooing at me whilst I was trying to eat my grass, but who knows – the ladies like what they like.
A couple of the boys had a bit of a to do and it call kicked off when one of them gave chase and started pelting after the other one. Nothing much happened in the end, and it was a bit disappointing. I feel like it was all for show, and the ladies barely even looked up as it was going on.
We went for a wander through the park and did our best to avoid getting run over by kids on bikes. There was one hairy moment where there was a kid coming at me from behind on a tiny bike, he was bending and weaving like this was the slalom section of the race and I had to take a dive into the long grass to avoid being taken out.
As he whizzed off with his mum following closely behind, another kid tried to take her out, but on a much bigger bike. My internal organs all simultaneously cringed as her foot got caught on the wheel of the bike. All I could imagine was her foot getting caught in the spokes and her going flat on her face, and me not being able to do a single thing to help because I was laughing too much. Somehow her foot managed to untangle itself and we were safe.
After Gail and I had taken a romantic turn around the grounds, we headed out and stopped for a coffee. In this coffee shop, I actually had a smoothie called a “Cool Pina”, which had lime, pineapple, cucumber and almond milk in it (unfortunately no alcohol). It was really tasty and I imagine it would be described as “refreshing” if they were to make an advert for it with many descriptors. I felt refreshed as I sipped this refreshingly fresh fruit smoothie.
I was jazzed today. I went into work feeling GREAT and I was sure I was going to get as much done as humanly possible. As you can imagine, it didn’t really work out like that, as usual. There was a ridiculous amount of traffic on the way this morning, and a journey which usually takes me 10 minutes, ended up taking me 40 minutes. I was not happy about this. There were temporary lights (which I am pretty sure should be in Room 101 – no justification required please Frank Skinner) and I crawled all the way there. In fact, crawling would have been quicker, I’m sure of it.
Eventually I got to work, and I remembered that we had a 2 hour long gathering of the whole company, so watch presentations about all the new stuff that is going to be happening and how good or badly we had done over the last few months. Now, I am super sad, and I love watching these things – all my mates think I am a complete loser. But I like hearing about what other departments are doing, and I like watching people speaking. Also, there are always videos to watch, and I LOVE a video.
Turns out, 2 hours is a long time to concentrate, and I did have to glance at some graphs on a screen, which is quite a distressing thing for me to have to do, and by the end of the 2 hours I was slumped in my chair and staring blurry eyed at the ceiling. Even the complimentary breakfast was doing nothing to keep me from losing concentration. That took us up to 11, and then it’s pretty much lunch time, so there was no point in really starting anything.
It was katsu chicken curry on the menu today as well, and one never gets much work done in anticipation of katsu. No one. It didn’t even bother me in the slightest that I had to queue for 15 whole minutes to get my lunch. In fact, all it does it prove that katsu is THE BEST and it simply cannot be beaten, ever. I ate it all and I felt sick, but it was worth it. I’m still not sure it’s gone down.
Ellie and I went out for a walk at lunch and discussed the finer points of whether it is easier to walk with fast feet and slow arms, or slow feet and fast arms. It was quite a conundrum, and a puzzle worth solving I feel, so we gave it some thought.
Our reckoning is, that it is easier to walk with fast feet and slow arms, because you can almost waltz it, but if you are fast-arming it, your feet have no choice but to engage in the fastness, and you can’t stop yourself from zooming along like a complete cretin. By the way, to get to this lofty point of knowledge, we had to test our hypothesis, and unsurprisingly, walking like this down the road gets you a lot of looks from the people driving past… A lot of looks. Especially when you are walking past a hospital. I’m not sorry about it though, despite the fact that we must have looked like we were clinically insane escapees, we have done some ground-breaking work on the matter. And that, friends, makes us pretty much scientists.
After all that walking, and at various speeds, I was rather tired, so there was next to no chance of any achievement happening after lunch. Plus, there is only so much you can achieve in one day, and no one likes an overachiever do they?
I was back at work today. My God, I did not want to go. I even had a tiny cry last night because I didn’t want to go to work – just like a kid not wanting to go back to school after the summer holidays. How sad is that? No need to answer, I know it is sad, and I know it is crazy, you really don’t need to tell me.
I got to work and I took the greatest pleasure in deleting all of the emails I got whilst I was away. I couldn’t remember how to do anything at all, and it took me about 10 minutes to figure out where I needed to save this document, after not having to save it for a month. I wasted a lot of the day on staring blankly at me screen, not being able to recall what I was supposed to do with something, after I had got it.
I also wasted a good amount of time perusing the Macmillan coffee morning charity bake sale. I had completely forgotten about this, so I didn’t have any change, so I had to hit up my contacts and I managed to source myself £1 to get a gluten and dairy free brownie, which was actually surprisingly nice.
Finally, after many hours of waiting, it was time to go home. Well, not quite, it was actually time to go swimming. Seeing as I haven’t done any exercise whatsoever in a month, this was a fairly daunting prospect. I told my friends that if I didn’t make it in tomorrow because I had drowned, that it had been nice knowing them.
I got to the pool, got changed, and quickly realised that I had forgotten to bring a hair band. After scouring the surfaces, the hairdryer area and the showers, I could not locate a hairband. I even went out to reception to see if there was a spare one, but to no avail. Nuts. Trying to swim without my hair tied back isn’t really an option. I have a lot of hair, and if I leave it down, it’s like trying to swim with a bucket of cement on the back of my head. Which is hard, as you can imagine.
I couldn’t see an option. There didn’t appear to be a way around this. Until I looked down at my swimsuit. Now, this isn’t the usual swimsuit I wear, normally I wear a sporty one that flattens everything out and makes you more streamlined, whilst simultaneously squeezing all your back fat out of the back of your costume in horrifying lumps. But today, I had a more fashionable swimsuit on, because I couldn’t find the ghastly sporty, back fat enhancing number.
This swimsuit had a lace up bit at the front. It is like a v neck one, but with some loops and a bit of string that you can use to make cleavage by tightening it up, I guess. I’m sure you already know what I am thinking here. I’m thinking, that I will untie the string bit, take it out of the loops, and use it to tie my hair up. It’s a brilliant idea! What could possibly go wrong? Don’t even start, I know I’m an idiot. I know. I KNOW.
So, I action my plan, and after a bit of fussing I have my hair tied back, and what is now a swimsuit with a VERY deep v neck. I plop into the water, and let’s just say, there were a certain degree of movement, which wasn’t present when the string was instated in its rightful place. I’m not sure I can swim like this; the nips are barely covered. I’m convinced that if I push off from the wall that my swimsuit it going to slip and I will basically be boobs out in the swimming pool. Lifeguards will be looking on horrified and small children will be heard crying in the background.
But, I’m here now, so I might as well make the most of it and try and swim. I tentatively push away from the wall, and everything is going swimmingly (pun intended) so far. Everything is remaining in place, all is where it should be and life is good. I swim for a bit, I do a few lengths, everything seems fine.
I push off from the wall a bit harder, and all of a sudden everything is distinctly less fine. Very much, distinctly less fine. There was a certain coolness against the skin where there wasn’t before. Chillier in places than one is perhaps used to. And when I say that, I mean that nips weren’t in, they were bordering on the out. I didn’t want them to be out. I very much wanted them to be in and a woman was heading towards me, and she was wearing goggles, and she was most definitely going to see, and I was most definitely going to die of embarrassment.
I stopped in the middle of the lane, pulled my swimsuit up violently (and in the process, gave myself a minor wedgie) and scrambled back to the wall. I think I had managed to preserve my dignity, somewhat. Christ Bonnie.
First thing we saw today were a couple of giraffes having a cuddle. I’m sure they weren’t really having a snug, but that’s what it looked like to me, so that’s what I’ll say they were doing. Anyway, it looked CUTE, with their necks kinda twisted together.
We were out looking for a leopard today. There had been some sightings, and we were combing the area looking out for those beautiful spots. The other guests who were in the truck with us hadn’t seen a leopard yet, and they hadn’t done any other game drives, so the ranger was trying his best to find one.
We found some more elephants. There were two young boys play fighting with one another, which was so cool to see. I’d never seen them do that in real life – they were just like human teenage brothers! They were pushing and shoving each other and one of them turned and ran into the bush, swiftly followed by a tusk in the rump from his playmate.
They thundered off into the trees and we could hear them messing around in there; crashing into trees and crashing into each other it seems. There was a little one in the herd who was just staring to learn to use his trunk to strip leaves from branches. It was so endearing watching him learning. Struggling to control his trunk and tackle the branches, was just CUTE. They are so like humans in so many ways.
We stumbled upon a hyena laying out in the open. He was so chilled, and it turns out he wasn’t far from their den – so it looked like he had been kicked out. Maybe he came home late or something and Mrs Hyena wasn’t happy? Who knows!
Not long after that, we got a call telling us there were some hyenas feeding on a baby giraffe. They couldn’t tell whether the hyenas had taken down the giraffe themselves or whether they had snaffled it off of a leopard. Poor little giraffe. But that’s life I guess – and it’s interesting even if it is a bit horrible, so we decided to head over there to take a look.
On our way over there we hit a roadblock, a giraffe roadblock. There were 6 giraffes standing in the road in front of us, and more to the left and the right of us. They were non-movers.
We had to wait until the one at the front decided they were going to follow the rest of the group, and ran towards us and went to our left. Soon the others followed suit and the road was clear. These guys were probably the group that the little one was taken from – which would explain why they were acting kinda strangely.
We got to where the hyenas were feeding on the baby giraffe and they were all laying around on the ground. Their tummies were so full that they couldn’t get up, they looked like they had swallowed footballs! They were fit to burst, and all they could manage was to lift their heads and glance at us when we arrived.
They soon lost interest in us when the pups arrived and started squabbling over the remains of the giraffe. Mum had to wade in, and one of the little ones didn’t take kindly to her interference and started trying to bite her ankles – which was hilarious to watch. He was snapping and snarling at her as she tried to stop them arguing with one another.
This was a really nice sighting for our last one of our holiday. We have been really lucky with everything we have seen. Seeing the Big 5, then the Super 7 and only being one off seeing the Dangerous 9. All we need to do is stumble upon a Nile crocodile and we will have a full set (somehow, I don’t think that is likely). Some of the sightings we have had of these animals have been one of a kind and once in a lifetime kind of sightings. They haven’t just been glimpses of tails and ears in the bush, 300 metres away. We have seen animals up close and doing their thing. Which is beyond amazing.
I am really going to miss waking up each morning and seeing all these amazing animals. Going back home and opening the curtains to the odd one-legged pigeon and urban fox rummaging through a bin, isn’t quite the same. I’m sad to leave. I’m really, really sad to leave.
We are at a new place now, which is a lodge rather than a camp. I have to say, I much prefer the camp. There were loads less people and the whole experience was much more personal. We got here yesterday afternoon, so we had a game drive in the evening. I got a really good photo of a giraffe as the sun was going down, with the last of the sunlight on his face.
We also saw a hyena going down to the water to drink, which was pretty cool. I hadn’t seen one in the light yet. There was a hippo in the water, and they are super territorial, and as soon as the hyena had started drinking, the hippo was on its way over to it.
It got closer and closer to the hyena, until the hyena decided it was time to scoot off, well out of the reach of the hippo. It sauntered off up the bank and disappeared into the bush.
The next morning, we were out nice and early, and the first thing we saw was a hyena. They aren’t usually out and about at this time, so it looked like she was coming back from a hunt. Kind of like a “morning after the night before” thing.
We saw some more white rhino, which were lazing about and chilling. After our rhino encounter, we saw some elephants, and there were little babies! I don’t know what it is about baby elephants, but they are so endearing.
Just as we were heading back to the lodge, we found some buffalo. This now means I have officially seen not only the big 5, but the super 7 too! There were about 150 buffalo in the herd, and we watched them for a while.
It was interesting to watch the birds on the buffalo picking off the ticks and parasites from them. Their bright red beaks stand out against the brown of the buffalo.
Buffalo weren’t as ugly as I thought they would be, and their horns reminded me of an old fashioned Swiss milkmaid.
That afternoon, the first animals we happened on were a group of lesser mongoose. I love these little guys, as the interact with each other constantly. They are always chattering away and playing. Pulling each other’s tails, chasing after one another and engaging in a bit of rough and tumble.
We saw another hippo in a watering hole, and a giraffe came down to drink at the edge. It isn’t often you see a giraffe drinking and it was cool to watch the way they have to splay their front legs so they can reach the water.
Both hippo and giraffe kept a beady eye on one another, but there was no aggression shown by the hippo. I guess this must be because the giraffe doesn’t really pose a threat.
Just around the corner from these guys, were some lions. Yay, more cats!!! There were a few females and a male.
I still can’t get over just how much they are like out domestic cats at home. They do all the same things, and it’s so cute to watch.
Watching them stretch out and move around is beyond enjoyable. They all had a good wriggle and stayed dozing in the last of the afternoon sun.
After yesterday’s game drive, some elephants visited my tent. Eek! As it happened, I was in the shower. The showers have glass doors which look out into the bush, so, if an animal happens to wander by, you can see them whilst you are having a shower. An elephant walked past, just as I was rinsing the conditioner out of my hair. I wasn’t quite sure what to do. Do I run for the camera? Do I just carry on washing my hair?? Do I just stroll out there naked??? Who knows.
In the end, I grabbed a towel and wrapped it round me, and walked onto the veranda, dripping with water, to watch the elephant go about its business. It wandered on by, and went to find some food down the other end. I was just about to get in the shower when another elephant appeared. I wasn’t going to let this one go without a photo, so I grabbed the camera from inside.
The elephant walked down towards me, stopping to snack on some leaves and things as it went. I think it stopped to look at me for a bit, we made some pretty intense eye contact, and then the elephant wandered on by.
Another one came down, and the same thing happened, but there was less pausing this time. I guess because the other ones had proved it was safe to come through, so the elephant didn’t feel the need to eye me up in such great detail.
That afternoon on the game drive, we also saw rhinos. I’m not going to put any photos on here, because of the whole poaching sitch, and I don’t want to be the person that hashtags it on Instagram and points poachers in the right direction.
But we saw white rhino and we saw black rhino too. Funny story actually, we had seen the white rhino and we were driving off to our next port of call. I just happened to look over my shoulder, and I saw some rhino running along behind us. I had just assumed they were the same ones, so I didn’t say anything, and as it happens, the girl behind me in the truck saw them too and we both thought the same. It wasn’t until one of the guys told us what we were looking for, that we both piped up and said we had seen them.
The guys practically had their jaws on the floor, and I don’t think they believed us at first. But low and behold, there they were. Cool little fact about the rhinos, they are actually called wide lipped and hook lipped. It is thought that the Afrikaans word for wide was accidentally mistranslated to white, and from then on, they were called black and white. Another theory, is that because the black rhino is so aggressive, people thought it had demons in it, and it was possessed. And that the black and white thing was a bit of a ying/yang concept.
The next morning was out last game drive here in Thornybush game reserve, and I will be really, really sad to leave the Chapungu camp. As it was the last day, we decided to go searching for the final thing on our list; cheetah. The last cheetah sightings were way down in the south of the camp, literally as far as you could go. It was going to be a really long drive there to try and find these guys.
We drove for what seemed like forever. We stopped for a coffee and a leg stretch at a watering hole with some hippos in it. I was about half way through my coffee, when Jacques (the ranger) herded us into the truck and packed all of the coffee stuff up. We were driving at the speed of light, bouncing over the bumps in the road and narrowly avoiding thorny trees and branches. We slowed down and approached another truck which was stopped on the side of the track.
On our left-hand side was a female cheetah, making her way along through the bush. Shortly followed by 4 cubs [insert major heart explosion here]. These little ones weren’t even 2 months old yet, and they were still sooooooo teeny.
They are heart meltingly cute. They little tails stick up in the air when they run and they are so fluffy. They were all bounding around and playing with each other, just like little kittens. They were scrambling up trees, pushing each other out of them, and clambering back up again. They break my heart. It’s like they hold actual power over me.
We couldn’t get close because they were so small, and the guys don’t disturb them when they are that little. But just seeing them playing with each other, was enough to seal the deal for me, and ensure that I would definitely be coming back here again.
I didn’t want to leave the camp, I’ve had such a wonderful time there. I just wish I could stay on forever. It’s the best place.
We were up and away quickly this morning and out looking for a leopard. The guys were determined to find one this morning, and I think they were willing to go on all day to look for one of these elusive cats. We started off where we had lost the male leopard last night, and spotted a couple of warthogs on the way, having a munch.
It turns out, he is new to the area and hasn’t quite established a territory yet, so he is keeping himself to himself. We followed some tracks, but they disappeared across some hard ground, and we couldn’t see which way he had gone from there.
We drove down the riverbed looking for more tracks. It seemed that the leopards had been out in force this morning and there were loads of calls on the radio for leopard tracks leading in every direction. Out of nowhere, we were racing down the riverbed. Someone must have heard something on the radio! A leopard had been spotted, and the guys weren’t taking the chance of a leopard eluding us again.
You could tell how excited the guys were, and we raced towards where this leopard had been spotted. We rounded the bend and you could see her. Wow. She was so gorgeous. And accompanied by her 6-month-old male cub. OMG!! I nearly had a heart attack there in my seat. I love cats at the best of times, but these kitties are so beautiful. The markings on them are out of this world and the way they move and act just makes me want to explode, they are just like kitties at home, just bigger, and so beautiful.
The little one was feeling playful and affectionate this morning, and he kept walking in front of his mum and brushing up against her. He was stopping her to try and get her to play, but she wasn’t having any of it.
He was bounding around, just like a little kitten. Playing with things on the ground, running up trees, and generally making a nuisance of himself. They were chatting with one another and you could hear the little one calling and purring to his mummy.
He started jumping around in the trees and trying to jump on his mum. This made my heart MELT.
His mum stopped and he carried on walking, he had spotted a bird up ahead. He made a good job of stalking this bird, but to no avail, as it flew off as he was about to pounce. Mum looked on in amusement.
It was time to make ourselves scarce and leave these two to it, so we headed off in the direction of some elephants. We drove into the riverbed and waited. One elephant appeared and made its way up the bank.
The another one appeared, and another one and another one. They were all sliding down the bank on the left-hand side, and walking back up the bank on the right-hand side to feed.
There were lots of mummies with their babies. They looked so funny when they were trying to slide down the bank after their mums; we even saw one sliding on its bum.
One even trumpeted at us and tried to charge at the vehicle. He was a boisterous little one and he ran off to wreak havoc and bother the other little elephants.
There was one female digging for water in the river bed, the dug down far enough and was drinking water from the hole she had made. Her baby then came to try and get some water, its trunk was too short and the little one ended up having to get in the hole to get something to drink. Sooooooo cute!!
In total, there were about 30 elephants in this group. We didn’t count them exactly, but there in front of us, we counted 20 and a few had already wandered past and were straggling behind.
On the way back we saw some more zebras who looked like they were cuddling. They were actually grooming each other’s backs and getting the spots they couldn’t reach by themselves. Apparently, they sleep this way sometimes, and it’s kind of like a combination of a pillow and “I’ll watch your back, you watch mine” situation.
We saw a few vervet monkeys in a tree and a huge male kudu, just as we pulled into the camp.
We’d had some lunch and chilled for a bit, and whilst we were sitting at the lodge some ngala came up really close to us and were eating some of the vegetation nearby. These creatures are so sweet and they have such endearing faces and eyes.
The wind was still up and it was looking fairly overcast, plus it was quite chilly. We went out to see if we could see a leopard. Victor (the tracker), or Uncle Vic as he is affectionately known as, found tracks of a female leopard. We couldn’t quite tell where she was headed, but he made a guess and we scouted about for a bit, but didn’t see anything. He guessed that he had probably headed off in a particular direction, and we would come back later to see if we could find her.
We saw a few giraffes on the airstrip, which was cool. Apparently, they are a nightmare when light aircraft come in to land and the guys need to clear the runway. The giraffes come straight back onto the tarmac as soon as they are shooed off and they have to be kicked off again.
There wasn’t much to see this evening as it was still windy and it makes the wildlife go to ground as they can’t hear and smell as effectively. We drove around for a while following various tracks of various animals, and came up with nothing. We were trucking steadily along when I happened to look up at something which had caught my eye (I assume it was a bird) and my hat flew off. Rats! I wouldn’t have worried about it, but it was brand new and I was using it to try and protect my face a bit from the windburn that was removing my top layer of skin. We skidded to a halt and the hat was retrieved, in one piece, but somewhat dusty.
We headed to a small body of water, where we managed to see some hippos. Hippos are the most dangerous animals by far in Africa, particularly when it comes to humans. They are exceptionally territorial, and if you get to close or upset them too much, they will try to kill you. They don’t eat meat at all, but they don’t think twice about getting rid or something causing them bother.
The guide told us a story about an impala he had seen running away from some wild dogs. The impala had tried to swim across the water, but the wild dogs had met it at the other side. It tried to swim back, but the hippos had had enough, and killed the impala right there in the lake. They then wandered off to the other side of the water. This goes to show how angry they can be.
We also saw a tawny eagle standing at the edge of the water, taking a drink.
We trucked on for a bit and came across some wildebeest running around madly in a clearing in the bush. They were playing and chasing after one another, and kicking up quite some dust. They kept running around in circles and butting in to one another, it was really funny to see. We also spotted some hyenas running down the road and they crossed in front of us. We suspected they were heading towards the giraffe upon which we had seen the vultures feeding earlier.
We followed the hyenas, but as soon as we got back to the giraffe, we got a call on the radio about the leopard we had been tracking earlier. It turns out she had done exactly what the guys had thought she would do, but we had missed it. We raced in the truck to see if we could make it to the area before she disappeared (having to dodge a few bushes along the way), but we missed her, and she disappeared into the thick bush. Damn.
After that, we got another call from one of the guys saying that a male leopard had been sighted next to the airstrip, so we went that way as fast as we could. By now, you could feel the guide and the tracker getting frustrated, we had been after a leopard all day and we hadn’t managed to see one. As we got to the area where the leopard was sighted, we couldn’t see anything. He’d slipped into the bush and the guys were struggling to locate him in the dark, and the dense thicket. All of a sudden, we managed to catch a glimpse of the male leopard, winding his way through the undergrowth, but it was only for a second. Just enough for me to recognise that it was a leopard.
We’d lost him again and we really couldn’t see him this time. In multiple locations, we tried navigating through the bush using the truck. We came crashing over fallen trees and poor Victor on the front was having to fend off the branches and thorns like a madman, practically bending over backwards and laying on the bonnet to avoid being attacked by a tree. I came a-cropper on a number of branches, including one which decided to spear my hood and strangle me a bit.
It started raining, and it was decided it was time to head back to camp. You could feel the guys were raging about having not been able to see the leopard, and were upset that they hadn’t been able to show us. The elusive leopard strikes again! Funny, considering they are the most abundant cat in the area. But you don’t get to be the most abundant cat in the area for nothing. To be honest, I think we all thought it was a great laugh crashing through the bush and getting impaled with branches. Well, I did anyway.
We had a 5 am wakeup call this morning. When I say wakeup call, I mean someone came and knocked on the door of my tent to make sure I was awake. At 5.30 am we had coffee and rusk (which is a little bit like biscotti in the sense that is hard and best dipped in your hot drink), up at the lodge, and we jumped in the truck and we were on our way.
The guys had been hearing some interesting stuff on the radio last night, and we were in for a long and fast drive, to try and see something special. They wouldn’t say what it was, because they don’t want to disappoint you when you can’t see what they were looking for, but they were clearly buzzing about it and were super excited. I had my suspicions it was a cheetah, whereas Les thought it was a rhino… we will see!
We saw some zebra on the way, which the guy called pyjama donkeys (such a good name). Zebra are so vibrant in comparison to the other animals in the bush, and once you have spotted them, they really stand out against the background… If you can spot them in the first place!
We then spotted some elephant in the bush, it looked like there was only one or two about. The guys wanted to keep on trucking to catch up with whatever we were chasing, so we left the elephant and carried on. At about 7.45 we got to what we were looking for – a pack of wild dogs, amazing! Apparently, these guys haven’t been seen for in ages, they have been up in the northern area for a long while and this is the first time they have come back south in a long time.
They need an area of around 20 hectares in which to hunt, and they have the highest success rates of all predators. Some packs of wild dogs have a hunt success rate of 97 percent, how good is that?! They have incredible stamina, and they work together to run their prey down. The lead dog follows the animal they are chasing, and the others work to cut the prey off on the left or right-hand sides. They also use slipstreaming to help conserve some energy, and the lead dog switches over with one behind, to give itself a break.
There were a group of 6 adults and 7 pups. They had started off the season with 12 pups, so they have had a better than 50% survival rate, which is really good. They were so sweet, with their giant ears and all laying on top of one another in a big bundle. They were beyond cute.
We started off on the chase after the thing we were originally chasing, but over the radio the guide had heard no trace of the animal we were after, and seeing as it was another hour away and the wind was getting up, he decided not to continue going after whatever it was. We had the fortune of coming across a mummy giraffe and her baby, alone in the bush. The baby giraffe was less than a week old and he was still unsteady on his legs and was sticking close to his mum.
This little one was so beautiful, and I could have spent all day watching him. His legs were all gangly, and he looked so ungainly when he was running to catch up with his mum who had crossed the road. They are such wonderful creatures, and the height of them just seems impossible.
We drove down a bit further and saw another, slightly older female, who was expecting a little giraffe, or “carrying”. She was very tall and she had beautiful markings, which were so different from the giraffe before.
We saw an eagle in its nest in the top of a tree, and then we spotted an elephant. And then another elephant. And then a whole herd of them!
There was a little one too, who trotted across in front of us. They are so sweet and they always look like they are smiling and happy.
There was a young male who flapped his ears at us and trumpeted. The males stay with the herd until they are about 22 years old, after which, they get pushed out by the females to go it alone.
A young female legged it across on front of us, and I got some great photos of her in action, with her ears flapping and her tail swinging around.
We watched them roaming around in the bush for a while and doing their thing, then carried on up the road. We saw a female lioness with her two cubs, a boy and a girl, who were about 6 months old.
They were laying out in the open because it was windy, and this gives her better visibility and makes it easier for her to protect them when she can’t hear as well. These guys “belonged” to the male lion we saw yesterday. It turned out, he was just around the corner, and was fast asleep in the grass.
He has a big gash on his leg (which looks worse than it is), but it is taking a long time to heal because he is travelling so much.
They guys took us to a giraffe which had passed away from natural causes (a big male), and it was surrounded by vultures. They were stripping the meat from the carcass and fighting with each other. The giraffe had only been there for a day and a half, and it was already pretty much gone.
The vultures make such a racket, and they bicker with one another constantly, and I can’t say they are the most attractive of birds. They don’t have any feathers on their necks like the long ones on the rest of their body; this is so that they don’t get covered in animal innards when they are scavenging inside a carcass.
We saw a few warthogs and I managed to get a really good photo of a hornbill, who had been proving difficult to get a good snap of.
Considering this was all between 6 and 10 o’clock in the morning – I think we did pretty damn good. Oh, and it turns out that the animal they were looking for this morning was a female cheetah and her cubs. Ousshhhhh – I win the wager!!
Today we fly from Port Elizabeth to Hoedspruit, which is around the Kruger National Park area. I can’t say I am sorry to leave Port Elizabeth. There is nothing there and it is one of my least favourite places I have ever visited. We fly from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg and from Johannesburg we fly to Hoedspruit. The plane we took from Joburg had propellers – it has been a very long time since I have flown in anything with props. I think the last time I flew in a plane with props was when we were in Canada when I was about 10 or 11.
We had a wait of a couple of hours in Joburg airport, and we sat and had a coffee and I caught up on a few bits of life admin. This coffee place is the second place I have been able to find almond milk on this trip, so I was a very happy bunny.
We boarded the plane and set off to Hoedspruit. The airport there is so cute, it’s arrivals and departures “lounge” and more of a garage, it’s tiny. It reminded me of when we flew to a place in Australia and we had to take our own luggage off the plane. This wasn’t quite so involved, and they brought our luggage round on the back of a tractor.
We jumped in our hire car and set out to find the place we were staying; Thornybush Lodge. This turned out to be more easily said, than done. The instructions we had were not helpful, to say the least. We ended up driving round in a big circle, only to realise we had driven past the lodge right at the beginning and hadn’t clocked it (thinking it couldn’t possibly be that close). We eventually got there, after driving down loads of bumpy, dusty dirt roads. Which was really fun, well, for me anyway; not so sure about those in the back.
We spotted a fair few animals on our way, seeing giraffe, impala, and warthog. Quite a find, considering it was the heat of the day and it was about 33 degrees when we got there. Giraffe are so majestic, and it was amazing to just see three of them nibbling leaves off the trees as we drove past.
We get to the lodge and we are greeted with homemade lemonade and lunch. The lemonade is delicious, as was the lunch, and there are different salads to choose from and light bites. Super scrummy. We then had 30 minutes to sort ourselves out, and we were out on an evening game drive at 4 o’clock in the afternoon.
We are in what is called a “tented camp”, but to be honest, these tents are so posh, they are more like houses! They have proper beds and showers, and I even have an outside bath. The rooms point directly into the bush, so there is a chance you might see some wildlife wandering around when you open the curtains in the morning.
Whilst we are out, we see different types of antelope in abundance, including the tiny Duiker, which is very shy. We see loads of birds, including the Hornbill, who you might know from the film, The Lion King. We tracked some Elephant for a bit, but they were much faster than we were, and they made it across the border before we could see them.
By far the best experience though, was when we paused in the truck and a huge male lion leaped out from the river bed to our right-hand side and strolled straight in front of our vehicle. He was massive! The size of his paws was incredible, and he had a big gash on his right hind leg where he had been protecting his Pride from neighbouring male lions.
We followed him along, and he led us to where 4 members of his pride were laying out, snoozing in the sun. There were two young males, who were about 18 months old and two females. In a few months’ time, the young males will be kicked out of the pride to fend for themselves, as they will be well on their way to maturity.
The lions lolled about in the sun, laying on a nice flat bit of ground where we could get a really good look at them. We were so close, it was unbelievable; I had never thought I would be that close to a lion in my life.
After a long time watching the lions and learning about them (did you know that male lions could form a coalition? And they will look after multiple Prides of female lions in the area together? No, me either!).
We headed on for a bit, and found a good place to watch the sun go down. The sunset here is beautiful, and it is wonderful to watch the vibrant colours as the sun goes down, and the stark contrast of this in comparison to the dark trees in the foreground. We had a cheeky little alcoholic beverage as we watched the sun set, and I walked around the area and found some giraffe bones that were 5 years old to take a good look at.
We set off again and came across some baboons playing around in the trees, so we stopped to watch them for a bit. It always amazes me how agile monkeys are, they seem to defy gravity as they are leaping through the trees.
It was dark now, and we were looking for a leopard around the dry riverbed. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much luck, but we did see a tree frog, a hare and a cute little bushbaby chilling in a tree!! We headed back to the camp, and the first thing you notice is the sound of the frogs. They are SO loud, and they don’t stop. The only time they stop croaking for a bit, is if someone disturbs them. They stop for a few moments, but soon enough they are at it again. I wonder if it is all a big game to them, and whether they think it is hilarious to croak, knowing we can do precisely nothing about it.
We had some dinner, and then we were off to bed. We’d been up since 5.30 this morning, so we were fairly knackered. I sit here writing this, to the sound of a symphony of frogs. I wonder if they will ever stop, or if I will be dreaming of frogs… Or dreaming of throttling frogs.
Again, we attempted to find something to do in Port Elizabeth, and again we failed. We ended up stopping at a beach for a bit, where it seemed like everyone who had nothing to do hung out. It was overcast and really windy, so we didn’t end up staying for that long.
We went for a wander down the beach, and there was loads of coral washed up on the pebbles. I hadn’t seen any coral washed up on any of the beaches before, so this was interesting to me. There were all different types, and it was everywhere you looked. I would like to know why it was washing up on that beach in particular, but I can’t come up with an answer… It must be something to do with the positioning. Maybe I’ll never know!
I noticed one of the signs on the beach saying “zero tolerance” and then a list of things that weren’t tolerated, I couldn’t quite see what wasn’t tolerated, so I wandered a bit closer to take a look. On the list of things that were not tolerated, were dogs, lighting fires, alcohol and guns. Now, are guns and dogs really at the same level of public nuisance? Last time I checked, guns and dogs were definitely not in the same category. If you take your dog for a walk on the beach, do you go to prison for the same length of time as if you take your gun for a walk on the beach?! I think not.
Anyway, there is still nothing to do in this place, so we went back to the hotel and I read my book for a bit. I’m reading The Good Immigrant, which is a book written by 21 black, Asian and ethnic minority writers in Britain today. I’m only a couple of chapters in so far, but it’s been a good read. It’s interesting and it goes into different people’s experiences that they have had in their lives, and I like stuff that is real life.
I had a strawberry and banana smoothie and some sushi for lunch at one of the cafes on the bay, and went and chilled back at the hotel for a bit. I feel like I haven’t eaten enough fruit and veg on this holiday and I think I am on the verge of getting scurvy. I had better watch out for that.
We went for dinner at the same place we went to last night, which was Something Good. Seeing as it was so nice, we thought we might as well go back there and have what we knew would be a decent meal. There was live music on when we got there, which I love love love. It was just one guy doing covers of Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan songs and that kind of stuff, but live music is good and it cheered me up being able to sit and chill, listening to the music. I opted for a tipsy lemonade, which is a homemade lemonade with a double vodka in it. Yummy!
I am on my way up to Kruger National Park tomorrow, starting off in a tented camp for a few nights. Who knows if there will be wifi? Not I! So, if you don’t hear from me for a few days it’s because there is no wifi, or I’ve been eaten by a lion.
We went out in Port Elizabeth determined to find something to see and something to do. Turns out, it wasn’t that easy. We were supposed to be visiting friends whilst we were in Port Elizabeth, and we had planned to spend time with them, but as everything worked out, they ended up being in the UK whilst we were here in South Africa. If we’d known this earlier, we wouldn’t have stayed here so as long and probably would have been here for just one night instead of three.
I looked like a decent day, so I donned a summer dress and lace shirt, seeing as it was nice and sunny out. This was a big mistake. Over the course of the day it got windier and windier, and my skirt kept blowing up. It was impossible to hold down properly, and I dread to think how many people got a view of my butt. Sorry everyone!
We stopped for a drink at a café called Angelos which was on the beach. This tiny section of Port Elizabeth seems to be the liveliest part (but we didn’t know this at the time). I had a pineapple and apple juice, which looked pretty and tasted very much like pineapple and apple juice together. So, we are winning so far.
We head to Richmond Hill which is billed as being an up and coming area of Port Elizabeth with bars and restaurants. We arrived, and it was completely dead. There were no people there and no one was sat in any of the bars or restaurants. I appreciate it is the off season at the moment, but the lack of people made it very uncomfortable. We stuck out like sore thumbs and everyone was staring at us. So, it didn’t take us long to head back to the car and drive away. So far, Port Elizabeth is the only place where I have felt a bit threatened. It feels like everyone is staring at me all the time. People beep at me from their cars and shout things out the window. It’s super uncomfortable feeling like someone’s eyes are leering at you all the time.
That being said, I did have a man contact me on Instagram and ask me out on a date. He lives in the area and wanted to take me out. I said that I didn’t think there was much point, nice though he was, as I was leaving the next day to carry on my holiday. He invited me out for a drink in the evening, but, alas, I declined. I didn’t think his idea of a first date would be spending the evening sat at the dinner table with my parents. Maybe he was going to offer me his hand in marriage? Who know?!
We had dinner at a place called Something Good. A few people had mentioned it as being a decent place to eat, so we cut our losses and headed for it. I had a rock shandy to drink, the alcoholic content in it was zero to none, but it tasted like ginger beer and it was good. Gail had a tipsy lemonade, which was a homemade lemonade with vodka in it, which was really tasty.
For dinner, I had The Hangover burger, which came with a fried egg, cheese, caramelised onions, tomato, bacon and a jalapeño popper. I also treated myself to a side of tempura onion rings, which turned out to be an excellent shout. Oh, and the waitress said she loved my top, and I do so love an outfit compliment. It was all really tasty (especially the onion rings). The only downside was that my jalapeño popper gave me unbearable hiccups, and I thought they were going to tear out of my chest. I have never experience internal fire like it. But this is the fault of the consumer, rather than the fault of the jalapeño.
Oh, I forgot to tell you about dinner last night! It was soooooooo yummy. We went to this Italian restaurant called Mauro’s Restaurant in St Francis Bay. It is right in the harbour and serves some really tasty stuff and has a few speciality dishes.
The waitress there was great, and she took loads of time explaining the menu, their specialities and the specials they had on offer that day. I went for two of their speciality dishes, one which was a prawn soup (it was like a bisque with a mild curry flavour) and a scampi linguine, which came with tomatoes and a pesto sauce.
Both were beyond delicious, and I couldn’t fault either of them. They were both so flavourful and you could tell that some real time and effort had gone into making the dishes special and well balanced. If I ever come back to St Francis Bay, I will definitely be going there again. It doesn’t look hugely appealing from the outside, but I would advise you to look past this and go on in anyway. The owner of the restaurant (Mauro, funnily enough), came over and introduced himself to us at the end of the evening, and we had a good chat. He was half Austrian and half Italian, and had lived in South Africa since he was young, going back to Italy to train as a chef.
The next morning, I said goodbye to my room, which was about as close to the beach as you could get without being in a beach hut, and headed up to breakfast. I went for scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and tomatoes. I don’t think I have eaten this many eggs in my life, and I am probably on the verge of turning into a chicken any moment now (I think I can feel a beak forming).
We headed off towards Port Elizabeth after breakfast and noticed a sign for Jeffrey’s Bay on the way. We followed the signs for Jeffrey’s Bay because we had heard it was a good surfing spot, and we quite fancied watching a few surfers catching the waves. We got there, and it definitely has the surfer vibe. There are loads of guys around with sun bleached hair, in board shorts and bare feet (just what you want from a surfer, I think). We made our way to the beach, and there were about 30 kids all splashing about in the water. It looked like they were a class from a school as there were some teacher looking types on the beach with them (what a great school trip).
The beach at Jeffrey’s Bay is beautiful. It’s perfectly sandy and stretches on as far as the eye can see. We spotted some surfers up the way, so we ditched the shoes and the socks and made our way over to them.
There was a mix of guys and girls out there catching the waves. We stood there watching them for a while, riding the waves and falling in and doing tricks on their boards. There was one guy who was way better than the others, and he was doing some really cool tricks and running from one end of the board with another. I wish I was that athletic, and in my dreams this is how adept I will be at surfing when I have a go. In reality, however, I doubt I will even be able to stand up on the board for even a millisecond and will probably crash headfirst into the waves, if I can get anywhere near them.
Once we were done watching and I had had a paddle in the sea, which wasn’t anywhere near as cold as I had expected, we had a quick drink at a café and headed on our way to Port Elizabeth.
As we drove into Port Elizabeth, there didn’t seem to be a load of stuff here, and it was looking pretty industrial, which I guess is to be expected at a port! But it looked really busy, again, as I imagine a port should be. We found out hotel, which turned out to be pretty easy to locate, and we were shown to our rooms. I lucked out with a twin room, which was way bigger and much nicer than the double Gail and Les are in (heh, heh). It’s nice and noisy here and it sounds like a city. There is lots of beeping or car horns and shouting, which is making a nice change from the silence everywhere else.
It was dark by the time we got out for dinner and in the end, we settled for a Greek place called La Kouzina in Port Elizabeth, which turned out to be really nice. We shared starters of dolmades (vines leaves stuffed with rice), falafel and tzatziki and pita bread. The vine leaves were warmed through and they are a billion times better like that than they are cold. I ordered a mango daquiri, which was also really good. Often, I find daquiris can be a bit hit and miss, as a lot of the time they don’t get the ice smooth enough and it is way too lumpy, but this one was on point.
I had a main was good too; I had a wrap thing with chicken and hummus in it, which was tasty. I had another mango daquiri and I ended up finishing Gail’s second caipirinha cocktail (in which many lemons were harmed in the making of), and I was beyond full by the time I had sunk that. But I did it, not wanting to let a good citrusy cocktail go to waste. Because waste not, want not, right? I’m full of good deeds.
Today was a real day of firsts. We had breakfast outside on the veranda at the lodge we were staying at and the monkeys were running around and trying to steal people’s food. There was this one monkey which jumped right on the table in front of this guy and he screamed like a complete girl and looked genuinely terrified, which I thought was tres amusant. The staff had a slingshot which they used to scare off the monkeys. Just one look at it and they were off like a shot, back into the trees.
We travelled back towards Tsitsikamma National Park and pulled in at the Elephant Sanctuary, The Crags on our way. We had heard some mixed reviews from people about this place. Some people had said it was amazing and they had had a wonderful experience there, and others had said they found it a bit depressing. Most of the people who hadn’t enjoyed it had already been on a safari and seen the animals in the wild. We have become savvy to this mistake, and we always leave things like safaris to the end of the holiday, because we know you can’t beat experiencing animals in their natural habitat. Anyway, it was an incredible experience.
There are two different packages you can do, one where you take a walk with the elephants and you get to learn all about them and feed them, and another, where you do all of those things and then get to ride an elephant at the end. We chose the option with the elephant ride, because how many people get to say they have ridden an elephant?!
We started off by taking a tour of the grounds and the guide showed us the area in which the elephants sleep (which is always open so they can come and go as they please), then we had a look at the space where the elephants get to roam around in the day. He said it wasn’t as big as they would like and there weren’t very many trees, so they took the elephants out into the bush on a regular basis so they could do all the things elephants like to do. All the elephants here had been rescued for one reason or another. Some of them didn’t have any tusks and some of them had had a portion of their trunks cut off (they assumed as a result of being stuck in snares).
We got to hold hands with the elephants and go on a walk with them. When I say hold hands, I mean my hand and the elephants trunk. The elephant I was walking with was the Matriarch, and she had no tusks, but her trunk was fully functioning. They walked a lot faster than I had expected and she ended up pushing me along because I was going too slowly so I had to speed up.
We walked through a bit of the bush and stopped in an area where the keepers explained about the elephants. We got to touch the elephants whilst the keepers explained about each individual elephant and told us loads of interesting information about them. One of the cool things I learned was that elephants cry when they are upset, angry and happy, just like humans do!
The elephant I was with kept sniffing my trainers, and I was convinced that my feet must smell or something. But the guy told me that they remember by smell and not by sight, so they spend a lot of time sniffing around new people, and that if I came back in 10 years-time, she would remember me.
We got to give them some food, and then the elephant I was with sneezed all over me. Yuck!!! I’m so glad I was wearing my sunglasses, because I got elephant snot all over them and I think I would have been blinded if I’d been hit in the eye [hilarious]. It was pretty icky, but then, how many people can say they have been sneezed on by an elephant?
We walked back to the area where they spend the day and we got to feed them all some pumpkin. I know elephants eat a lot, but I hadn’t really seen what that meant in action. They ate a whole massive bucket full of pumpkin when we got back and they were still after more! By the end of that I was completely covered in pumpkin and mud and elephant snot, but it was so worth it.
After that we got to have a ride on the elephants. This was a great experience and the guide who was on there with me explained even more about the elephants and how they had come to be here. Again, I was surprised at how fast they moved and you could really feel all their muscles working underneath the blanket we were sitting on. It wasn’t as uncomfortable as I thought it was going to be, and to be honest I have had worse journeys in cars!
All so soon, the experience was over and we were heading on our way. But not before purchasing something from the shop so we could further help the elephants. I now have a cute yellow enamel bowl with a pair of elephants on it, which I will be using to consume all of my food as soon as I get home.
After the elephant experience, it was on to the second experience of the day. Bungee jumping – eek! It was with Face Adrenaline at Bloukrans Bungy, which is a 216-metre-high bungee jump off of Bloukrans Pass bridge. It’s the world’s highest commercial bungee jump, and the highest jump from a bridge. It’s also the highest bridge in Africa. I have never done a bungee jump before, so I thought I might as well start out with the highest one.
It was me and 5 or 6 other guys, all of whom were German. We walked across a walkway underneath the bridge, and you could see beneath you the whole way down. Loads of people don’t even make it past that bit, so I was doing well so far. When you are up there, there are so many guys working the ropes and stuff, there are easily 10 of them up there. They play music when you are up there to keep you pepped up and to try and stave off any fear.
They put you in order and they strap your ankles up and get you ready for the jump. They check, check and re-check that you are strapped up properly and then it’s time to go. They are taking photos of you and filming you the whole time, so there is evidence of every part of your journey. They made a big show of checking my safety (I don’t know if this was because I was the only girl, but they definitely took longer over me than they did any of the others).
Because your ankles are strapped together, you have to hop to the edge of the jump platform supported by a couple of guys. Then you put your arms out to your sides like you are Christ the Redeemer and they count you down. 5,4,3,2,1 and jump. You have to bend your knees and push as hard and you can and jump out as far as possible. It’s the strangest feeling as you leap through the air, because at that moment you are completely weightless and your life is quite literally out of your hands. You free fall for 5 or 6 seconds, and you start to wonder if there is ever going to be tension on the cord as you plummet towards the bottom of the valley.
All of a sudden you feel the tension and you are on the recoil. You bounce up and down about 4 times, looking rather like a ragdoll, and then you hang there waiting for the guy to come and get you. You hang upside down for quite a while, spinning around, having no idea if anyone is coming to get you. Out of nowhere, a man’s butt appeared in my face and I was being pulled up into a seated position and being winched up.
When you get up there they unhook you and unstrap you and pull you up. My legs had gone all wobbly from the adrenaline and I could hardly walk when I got off. I’d gone completely weak at the knees! I would definitely do it again, it’s exhilarating and that moment of pure freedom and helplessness is worth its weight in gold; there is nothing else like it. I have some proper photos of my experience, but I can’t get to them at the moment – but rest assured I will be showing you them as soon as I can.
It was a glorious day today; the sun was out and the weather was beautiful. We went up for breakfast and I had some boiled eggs (which I haven’t had for years) and an orange juice. Oh, and I found the resident kitty! Which made me happy as Larry. He was really old (17) and he meowed a lot which I loved, and we had a good chat.
I took a couple of photos of our villa in the sun, and the views from the veranda. I donned the dungarees, a white shirt and put my hair in space buns, and we headed out.
We drove into Tsitsikamma National Park and headed towards the Storms River Mouth. Here they have hiking trails you can walk along and there is one trail with suspension bridges you can walk across.
Having worked up a bit of a thirst, we stopped for a coffee at the restaurant there, and the coffee came in old fashioned enamel cups!
The restaurant was right by the sea, and there were some seriously big waves coming in and crashing against the rocks. The scenery was beautiful (I don’t think I’ve seen a bad view yet in South Africa).
We decided to go for the suspension bridge trail first. We walked up and up through the trees and there was loads of bird life flitting about around us and some great lookout spots along the way. We also found a couple of good spots to take some photos, and I ended up clambering up into a tree for a good pic. I almost ended up falling out because I put my hand down to steady myself on a branch that wasn’t attached, as it turns out. But I managed to grab on and save myself from any unfortunate mishaps – close shave! If I’d fallen out of that tree my pride would have been very much dented, and I probably would have landed on someone and squashed them, which would have been mortifying.
After about an hour we got to the suspension bridge and made our way across it. As per usual, on the suspension bridge, there was someone doing their best to rock it backwards and forwards to scare everyone (dick). Once they had stopped being an ass, we go across to the other side where there was a little pebble beach and some rocks.
I perched on the one of the rocks and we sat and looked out at the waves rolling in. Out of nowhere the waves started crashing against the bottom of the rocks we were sitting and the water came spraying up the side of the rock. There is a great picture of my turning round in shock to see the wave crashing up behind me.
We headed back across the bridge after taking a few more pics now there were a few less people on there, and headed back down the trail. We stopped for a quick snack and another drink at the restaurant and then headed towards another trail, which was a bit shorter. It was only a kilometre long, this trail, but it was a really steep ascent with hardly any steps. We were doing a lot of clambering over rocks and swinging around on bits of trees.
We got to the top of this trail and there was a great view of the ocean where you could sit and watch for whales. We wouldn’t have been able to see anything much because the water was so choppy, so we started out descent. We were supposed to walk alongside this waterfall, but as we got to it, you could hardly see it because the trees were obscuring the view, which was a bit disappointing. I trotted down the remainder of the trail and ran back to the car which was about a kilometre away. I collected the car and brought it back to Gail and Les, as they had been a bit behind me on the trail. Running in dungarees is distinctly harder than in your gym kit, which is hard enough as it is. Not going to lie – I got a proper sweat on.
We went back to Hogs Hollow Country Lodge and got ready for dinner. I wanted to get up there a bit earlier than we had the night before, as they served canapes before the meal and last night I only managed to get myself one canape, which is certainly not enough. We didn’t end up getting up there for dinner in time for me to get myself more than one canape [insert cry of anguish here]. I am determined to get at least two tomorrow, even if it kills me.
There were some new people at our communal dinner table and there was a couple from Aberdeen who had decent chat. I got talking to the husband and he seemed to take quite a shine to me and we had a really good conversation. He even showed me a video of some people bungee jumping off the bridge in Tsitsikamma National Park (which is what I am going to be doing tomorrow). And he jumped on the defensive when someone at the table said that young people can’t hold conversations anymore. Love this guy! It’s always nice when you get talking to someone you get on with and who clearly enjoys talking to you as well. The joys of the communal dinner table eh?
It rained here last night, not just a little bit but a properly torrential downpour. It rained all day, from about 6pm, and it was still raining when I woke up and carried on until mid-morning. It was tipping it down and it was so, so loud. I was still awake at 4 o’clock in the morning because it was keeping me up, it was that noisy. I spose I shouldn’t complain because they have a major drought issue here at the moment and they really need the rain (this was the first time it had rained in months really). But, the lack of sleep was a killer and I was shattered by about 10 am and I could barely concentrate on my breakfast.
I decided I needed a proper relaxing brain break day. We had been pretty full on, travelling around and sightseeing and whatnot, so I think a day of nothing was deserved. Plus, I was getting to the point where I didn’t have much brain space left and I needed to defrag a bit. I had a really chilled day; I had a bath, dozed for a bit and read my book, which is Jungle by Yossi Ghinsberg. Then I watched Tangled on Netflix (not afraid to admit I’ve watched that more times than I can count). I chose it because I didn’t want to concentrate on anything too much and I didn’t want to have to really listen in and follow a major plot. It was nice to sit and watching something where I knew what was coming, and that was uplifting and made me giggle a bit.
I felt kinda guilty not doing anything, but it was worth it to have a day of pure relaxation and sit there and do precisely nothing. As a result of me doing a whole load of nothing, I don’t even have a single photo to share with you. Nope, not even one. Nada. Zero. Zilch. It was good to no worry about social media for a day, and I didn’t bother checking any of my emails or messages or anything really. I enjoyed having a day purely for myself, where I wasn’t worrying about anything or anyone else at all. Pure bliss. I’ll be back to the usual holiday madness again tomorrow I’m sure. But I feel a lot better today after having a kind of “healing” day. Hopefully I’ll have a tonne of energy now and I won’t feel quite as lethargic as I have been feeling.
We were moving on from Wilderness today to a place near Plettenberg Bay, called Hog Hollow Country Lodge, which is in The Crags. For breakfast, I went all out and had eggs benedict accompanied by chakalaka. I never usually have breakfast, so eating a full meal in the morning time is very rare for me, but I didn’t fancy any of the buffet options and I feel kind of weird not having anything, so I went for the eggs. It tasted very much like eggs benedict and it reminded me why I don’t have this kind of stuff in the morning; it’s just too rich and sickly. But it was still yummy.
We popped down the road to Knysna and stopped in a cute little coffee shop there, and low and behold, they had almond milk. I haven’t seen any option for soya milk or almond milk whilst I have been out here, so I have been drinking black coffee, which is fine, but I do so love almond milk. I was a very happy bunny, so much so that I even took a photograph of my almond milk latte.
We drove up to The Heads in Knysna, which had a view of the bay and you could see out to sea from there. We saw a tonne of different birds whilst we were walking around up there and we even saw a cute lil’ mousey thing.
After that we stopped off at Plettenberg Bay, where there really isn’t much to look at. So, we did what we usually do, and stopped for a coffee and a cake. In this coffee shop out waiter took quite a shine to me (for some unknown reason) and kept looking at me when he as attending to our table. He seemed really shy and he didn’t speak to me, but he kept looking up at me from under his eyelashes and then looking away embarrassed. If I am ever looking for a husband in South Africa I will make it my mission to find him.
We headed back to the car, and after a brief altercation with the parking attendant in very broken English and a torrent of Afrikaans, we were on our way. We haven’t had any trouble with any of the guys up until now. You give them a couple of Rand for looking after your car and seeing out of your parking space and you are on your way. But this guy clearly wasn’t happy with his payment and decided that he needed to shout at me and stick his head in through the car window. I don’t mind giving these guys a bit of change, but to complain that you haven’t received enough money for doing precisely nothing is a bit cheeky in my opinion. They wave you out of a space in which you could easily back an artic lorry out of.
We made it to Hogs Hollow Country Lodge, The Crags and we sat on the veranda and awaited our rooms having been provided with a glass of champagne each (don’t mind if I do). Whilst we were sitting there some Vervet monkeys came down and were running around us and chasing one another along the railings and over the canopy above us. As I had my champagne I hand, I didn’t manage to get any photos, but I will be rectifying this as soon as I can.
When it came to our room, it turned out we had been upgraded. This meant we were staying in The Villa. Now, The Villa is more like a mansion, it’s MASSIVE. It has its own pool, the kitchen is bigger than ours at home, the baths are pretty much swimming pools and it even has a pool table and a table tennis table. Pure madness. I’ll show you it on a nice day, rather than it on an overcast day; so here are some pics from the site. It is every bit as incredible as it looks.
The service here is amazing too. When we came back from dinner, someone had been in and turned down my bed, put a hot water bottle between the sheets and placed a bedtime story on my pillow. I thought I was going to pass out because it was so cute and thoughtful.
It turns out there isn’t that much to do in the area around Wilderness, but to be honest, I was quite pleased as I really wanted a chilled day. After breakfast overlooking the bay, we went for a walk along the beach. I probably didn’t choose the best outfit to go wandering along the beach in; a burgundy corduroy skirt, a shirt, tights and trainers.
It was also kind of overcast today, which was a shame, but you can’t be blessed with perfect weather the whole time you are on holiday! We walked down the steps to the beach and as we were nearing the bottom of the steps, I realised the steps were broken. When I say broken, I mean the bottom flight of stairs weren’t there. They just stopped and there was a drop of about a couple of metres. There was no way I was walking all the way back up to go down another set of steps, so I decided to jump off. This could have gone very badly on account of how clumsy I can be, but fortunately I managed this without too much trouble.
We set about walking along the beach, and I was looking for a good pebble to pick up. I normally look for a heart shaped pebble when I am at the beach, but these were all way too smooth and round. But I did find a pebble that is pretty much a perfect circle, so that is now safely stowed in my rucksack.
We got down to the end of the beach and climbed up a set of steps which were much better maintained, and ended up in what appeared to be someone’s garden. We walked along the road a bit hoping to see a town or somewhere to get a drink, but there wasn’t one, so we decided to head back down to the beach to walk back.
We were on top of a massive sand dune, which I ran down, ending up with about a kilo of sand in my trainers. Sigh. We walked all the way back and selected a set of steps which came all the way down to the beach and walked back up towards the hotel.
After I had emptied all the sand out of my trainers, we thought we would drive to Mossel Bay as the guide book had stated it was an up and coming area. We got there and up and coming it certainly was not. If this was up and coming, I dread to think of what it was like before. There was quite literally nothing there. We sat and had a coffee and whilst we were drinking our drinks we read a leaflet about things to do in Mossel Bay. It turns out there is an iron museum in Mossel Bay. As in ironing, as in laundry. What?! In the leaflet it said that is contained over 900 different irons, some of which are rare. There is even an exhibition displaying different washing machines and mangles. TO be quite frank, I would rather roll myself through a mangle than go and see that. A little disappointed, we made our way back to the hotel.
Seeing as it was only the afternoon, we thought we would head down to the spa. So, I donned a bikini. Shortly after, I remembered why I never wear a bikini. It’s actually not comfortable wearing an underwired bra posing as a swimsuit when you are trying to relax, and I always end up so conscious of tummy rolls the entire time I am wearing one. I know I’m not supposed to worry about it, but I definitely still do. Maybe every roll’s a goal? Maybe not. Probably not. Anyway, I wanted to go in the steam room and sauna but they were both closed. Grrrrr. Fortunately, the lady working in the spa turned on the steam room so we could go in there and we sat in the jacuzzi and bubbled around for a bit whilst we waited for it to heat up. After sweating out what I am pretty sure was all the water I had in my body, I exited said steam room and went to get ready for dinner.
We struck out for dinner and ended up in a little place in Wilderness Village, a place called Cocomo Restaurant. We went in there because it looked busy and it was absolutely rammed. It does live music every night and it does these amazing looking pizzas. These pizzas are basically the size of the moon. I have never seen pizzas this big in my entire life. They cook them in their own wood-fired pizza oven and they have a serious amount of topping on them, scrimp on topping they do not. I am not ashamed to say I ate the whole thing, not ashamed at all.
I shouldn’t have eaten it all, because it took me about an hour to get to sleep because I was so incredibly full. But I feel like it was worth it.
Today we were travelling from Hermanus to a place called Wilderness. With no stopping, it would be about a three-and-a-half-hour drive from one to the other. We left the B&B at about 10am and headed towards Cape Agulhas, which is where the Indian and the Pacific oceans meet. It is the southernmost point of the continent of Africa, so it’s a pretty special place. We parked up and we decided to walk the rest of the way, which was just over a kilometre.
But first I needed a wee, so I made for the loo. As I walked into the cubicle, I realised someone had left their phone in there. So, I grabbed it and made my way back to the sinks to see if it belonged to anyone. Fortunately, the woman was still there and she was very thankful and thanked me for being such a kind stranger (yay for praise!), but then proceeded to ask me if I would put it in her bag and zip it up as her hands were still wet. I feel like this was a bit of a liberty to take, but obviously, I obliged because I am British and I couldn’t possibly refuse and run the risk of being seen as rude.
We started walking down the boardwalk to the most southern pointy bit of Africa. Some of the rock formations here were really cool and they were completely different colours. There were some light grey rocks and some dark brown rocks and some of them had orange bits in them. The views here were breath-taking, but it was also super windy here, so the weather didn’t lend itself to a selfie unfortunately (“how will we live without a selfie. Bonnie?!” I hear you cry).
When we got to the place, there was a prime photo taking spot where there was a sign which stated that this was the most southern point and where the two oceans met. We had to wait for a bit until it was our turn and I ended up having to take a few photos of people. I always end up being asked to take photos of people, I’ve been told it’s because I have an open face, but I actually think it is because they look at me and know that if I made a run for it with their camera, they would be able to catch me.
We took a few photos here and I clambered up onto the top of the rock the plaque was fixed to. It was pretty high and I really had to jump to push myself up on top of it. I got a little bit stuck and I looked like a beached whale rolling around on the top of this thing. But no matter, all in a bid to get a good pic (I’m not sure it was).
Then wandered up a bit and I clambered around on some of the rocks; because I can’t stop myself from doing childish things like that. Then, we turned back and headed towards the lighthouse.
After all that walking, we had worked up quite an appetite, and headed back towards the town to a little roadside restaurant we had spied on the way in. This place was basically a little shack on the side of the road, but it cooked your fish and chips to order. It was so yummy, the batter they put on the fish was super light, and the chips were just the best things. Needless to say, I ate the whole thing, to the point where I felt fit to burst.
All too soon we were back on the road and heading towards Wilderness. We drove for wat seemed like forever, through endless countryside and farmland and even through a township where all the kids waved at us as we drove though (so sweet). I got to the point where I was super tired from driving and I needed to pull over for a break. We stopped off in this tiny town where we couldn’t even find somewhere to get a coffee. Eventually we stopped to ask this guy who was standing by the side of the road and he very kindly invited us into his kitchen/museum/antique shop place.
I wish I could tell you the name of the place so you could all go and visit there. Not because the coffee was incredible or anything, but this guy was seriously good value. The amount of pure bullshit that he was spouting was absolutely incredible! I had to turn away and look at the wall to stop myself laughing out loud. The number of things this bloke had done in his life and the number of different jobs he had done, he would have had to have been about 150 years old to achieve all of this. He was telling us that he was training to be a pianist when he was scouted for his talent for opera. He supposedly trained as an opera singer and then lived in Milan for 7 years. My suspicions began to arise when he told us that he was fluent in Italian but could now barely even say hello in the language.
Next, he was telling us that he trained to be a chef in Italy, and then re-training in traditional South African cuisine when he got back to the country. He then went about telling us that he had a doctorate in speech therapy and he worked with the same group of eleven children from when they were two to sixteen. He gleefully told us that they had all finally learned the gift of speech around the time they were sixteen and he left them as they no longer needed him. I feel like he can’t have been very good at his job if it took him all that time to get them to speak. But then, I don’t have a doctorate in speech therapy, do I?
By far my favourite bit of this yarn he was spinning, was the bit at the end, where he was telling us that he was due to travelling to Milan to perform in an opera. In this opera, he would be accompanied by Andrei Rieu. I must have misheard, surely? Surely, he meant he would be accompanying Andrei Rieu? No, he didn’t. He is genuinely telling us that THE Andrei Rieu, was going to be accompanying him in an opera. Unbelievable. I don’t think I have ever laughed so hard in my life as I did when I got back to the car. I had been holding it all in for so long and I couldn’t stop it any longer. I laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed. And then I laughed some more.
Eventually we made it to our hotel in Wilderness, which is really beautiful, and I found myself a chair suspended from the ceiling to sit in. I tried to fight the urge to swing in it, but I couldn’t, and soon I was swinging wildly about the place in my spherical seat. Les enjoyed giving me a bit of a push, and the highlight of the evening was when he went to put his phone in the inside pocket of his jacket and it fell all the way through. More laughter ensued (and much snorting) and I seriously got the giggles. I think I had got a bit hysterical at this point.
Today we were going whale watching a few miles outside of Hermanus. We had to drive to the place in the morning for 9.15 am so we could get on the boat and go and see some marine life. Seeing as I was going on a boat, this seemed like the perfect time to don my nautical tee. I got this t-shirt from Primark for like £2.50 and it is white with blue anchors and tiny red hearts printed on it – super cute. Obviously, I teamed this with dungarees, and I went for white trainers and a white scrunchie (because I do so love colour coordinating).
We headed down to breakfast and the table was beautifully laid out (another shout out to Les Baleines bed and breakfast in Hermanus), and everything looked super scrummy. There was yoghurt already waiting on the table for us, and a muffin, granola and a piece of fruit each. I declined the yoghurt on account of the whole dairy thing, and Les quickly relieved me of the bowl. To make up for it I ate his granola out of the little jar and I ate Gail’s too. I inhaled my muffin too, which was really good and served in a tiny flower pot (appealing to my obsession with miniature things).
Soon we were on the road and heading towards our whale watching trip with Dyer Island Cruises. When we got there, we were greeted with coffee and muffins after we had signed in and paid for our trip. We were taken through a safety briefing, and we were also given a talk about the African Penguins on Dyers Island. Not so long ago, there was 23,000 penguins on the island, and now there are only about 2,000. This is due to the harvesting of the penguin guano from the island, which the penguins used to burrow down into to make their nests. The team at Dyer Island Cruises are doing some really cool stuff to help the penguins. They have devised some penguin houses which they make out of 100% recycled materials, which they put on the island for the penguins to nest in them. Apparently, the penguins love these things and they are desperate to get in there are soon as they can, and they are already carrying in twigs for their nests before the team have finished!
We got kitted out with a life jacket and a fetching orange waterproof jacket to keep off any spray, and we headed down to the launch point. I hadn’t realised that the boats were taken out of the water after they were used, so we got to watch the guys reverse the massive boat into the water on a trailer with a tractor and let her slip. We all got on and took our seats. Now, this boat had four 250 engines on the back of it, which had some serious oomph behind them. The second we were out of the harbour, we were going full throttle and absolutely flying over the waves. A few people got seasick, but fortunately I don’t get seasick like this. Put me on a boat in a force 8 and I’ll have no problem, but on the ferry from Dover to Calais I’ll get sick as a parrot – funny eh?
Not long after we got out to sea, we saw our first whale. It was a Southern Right whale, which gets its name from being in the Southern hemisphere and being considered the “right” whale to hunt. They were considered the best whales to hunt because they spend a lot of time near the surface, they move really slowly and they also float to the surface once they are killed. There’s a little fun/not so fun fact for you.
This whale was super chilled and she was lazing about and rolling around and laying on her back. She showed us her flippers and we chilled there with her for about half an hour.
Then, behind us there was a young male, who leapt out of the water and breached. I missed the first one (which was the best one) but I saw the next two which were slightly less enthusiastic. I managed to sort of get a picture of it.
After that, they spotted some more whales off in the distance so we headed over in that direction towards them. As the boat was moving away and we went over a wave I managed to lose my balance (the boat was barely moving) and I ended up kneeing a fairly hefty chunk of metal and I have a nice purple bruise on me knee – standard. The funny thing is, I actually pride myself on my sea legs and being good on a boat and not getting seasick. And there I am going arse over tit when we go over the tiniest wave known to man. Lets just say it caught me off guard okay? FAIL! Anyway, we moved over to the whales which had been spotted. At first there was just two, but then soon another pair appeared and all four of them were hanging out together. The spot where we saw the whales is a breeding ground, so I think they were there to make babies.
One of the females was diving and kept showing us her tail which I managed to get a few snaps of, which I am pretty pleased with! It’s so hard trying to judge where and when they are going to go down and come back up, so I had my camera at the ready the entire time and took so many photos – most of which I deleted because they were of precisely nothing because I had missed the good shot.
Once we were done with the whales, we left them to it and headed over to the Cape fur seal colony on Geyser Rock. There are 60,000 seals here so it was super noisy and busy (and seriously stinky).
They were all playing in the water around the rock when we got over there. They were splashing about and jumping out of the water and messing about with one another. There were some really little ones there as well, which were super cute.
All too soon we were on our way back to the harbour. We had been out for hours and hours, but I still didn’t want to go back. I love nothing more than seeing animals in their natural habitat and it was such an amazing experience.
After that, we had some soup and a bread roll at the place, then we were on our way back to Hermanus. It was still early in the day, so we went for a wander around the town and stopped for something to eat and drink in this cute little café called Aromatish Café and Bakery in Hermanus. They do the best looking cakes in there, and we had a milk tart, a slice of banting cheesecake and a carrot cake to share. Delicious doesn’t even describe it, particularly the banting cheesecake which I have never had before. It had an almond base to it, which is way better than the biscuit base on your standard cheesecake which I always leave.
Before we went bck to our B&B for the evening, we went down to the beach and had a drink in a beach bar type place called Dutchies which had been recommended by a few locals and then went for a paddle in the sea. Which was FREEZING, but it was fun running into the sea and then running away from the waves. It was like being a kid again – so freeing.
Today we are making our way from Cape Town to Hermanus via the coastal road. We went and dropped of our rental car from yesterday and picked up our rental car, which we will have for the next ten or eleven days. We were geared up for a difficult trip around the city, with my crappy map reading, but it actually wasn’t so bad. Everything is much easier in the day light and we recognised a lot of landmarks and road names as we were driving along. We stopped off at the first car rental place to drop off Gail and the luggage and paused to have another look at the map, to try and locate the second car rental place to drop the car off at.
The second we stop, that is when I lose my bearings on the map and start getting really confused. I have no idea which direction we are facing once we have stopped and the whole map thing makes even less sense to me than it did before. I try pointing the map in the direction we are travelling, but then I can’t read the road names and I start to get flustered – stupid illogical brain. But, as it so happens, the other car rental place was literally 100 yards from where we were. All we had to do was drive across the intersection. This was made much more difficult by a massive truck with a digger loaded onto the back of it, trying to make its way up this narrow road, and a very impatient Fiat Punto behind us. After a tiny bit of gesturing and waving, we managed to free ourselves of the truck and angry Fiat man, and made it to the place to drop the car off.
We loaded all of our gear into the back of a Hyundai Tuscon and made our way out of Cape Town. At this point I feel the need to mention that I have never made it out of a city so easily, as we did Cape Town. It was really clearly signposted and once you were on the right road, you were out of the city in no time. As we started driving towards the coast, we headed past a few townships (which I love looking at). Townships are like shanty towns or favelas, for those of you that don’t know. And all the houses are made out of bits of corrugated tin and plastic and whatever else can be found. Soon we were driving down the coastal road, but it was a teeny bit overcast and everything was looking a bit grey.
After a failed attempt to find breakfast in Gordons Bay (which was basically a ghost town and made us feel super uncomfortable), we found somewhere to eat in Pringle Bay. We found a cafe with some seats outside and I settled for a rosti stack; which is posh for hash browns, bacon, tomato and omelette. But a glorious stack it was, and it certainly filled a hole.
The waitress who served us was really sweet and she was practising her English (she spoke Afrikaans) and she was telling us about a riot that was going on in a neighbouring town, which had meant some of the staff couldn’t get in today. We had to go through this town to get to our next destination. Gail wanted to find a route around it, whereas I wanted to drive through it so I could see what it was like (classic Bonnie). It was my turn to drive, so I decided we were going to drive through said riot town, so we could have a look.
As we were driving towards the town, we could see some smoke rising. It looked like there was either something on fire, or a very big chimney spouting a lot of smoke. As we drew closer we could see there were lots of smaller fires as well as this big one. It was difficult to see whether it was houses that had been set on fire, or just fires that had been built, as it was up on a hill. As we got into town there were loads of police blocking off the main road and the fire engines were on standby. We had to bypass the main road and weave our way through the back streets to make it out of the town.
Once we were out of the town we headed towards Betty’s Bay. As we were getting closer to it we started seeing some signs for penguins. Yay! Another penguin colony! I followed the signs and we entered the bay where the penguin colony is. It was much smaller than the penguin colony at Boulder’s Bay and the penguin colony at Betty’s Bay was infinitely better in my opinion. The jackass penguins at Betty’s Bay were much closer and there were hardly any people there, so you could take all the time you wanted to look at them and take photos. The colony of African Penguins at Betty’s Bay was about a quarter of those at Boulder’s.
We wandered up the viewing platform and we came across one little guy right next to the walk way. I could have reached out and touched him, and I was desperate to, but I stopped myself. Knowing that A) he would have bitten me, and B) you shouldn’t touch them.
I took about a thousand photos of this little penguin and had a long conversation with him about the price of fish. Well, more just the random rambling (normally) one sided conversations that I have with animals I come across.
After I had my fill of the penguins we started heading back to the car and we saw a dassie, which is like a big rodent thing and looks kind of like a guinea pig. This little guy was clearly in need of a back scratch and kept rolling around on his back. He looked so funny and it made me laugh like a complete idiot (checkout my Insta to see a video here).
After that we whizzed all the way to Hermanus without any stops and located Les Baleines bed and breakfast after much driving around. This bed and breakfast in Hermanus is all kinds of beautiful. The rooms are gorgeously decorated and the bathroom is incredible. It’s worth staying a little outside of the town for such an amazing place. For dinner, we went to Burgundy restaurant on Marine Road. It had been recommended by the staff at the B&B and in a couple of the guide books too. The food was incredible. End of. We started off with some homemade bread which was sweet and full of seeds and nuts, and I had a main course of bobotie which is a kind of curry with an egg topping. I had the veggie version which was made with lentils and came with pumpkin fritters. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
Today we were travelling down to Cape Point by car, and for that, we needed to hire a car. Last night we had asked the lady at the front desks to arrange us a hire car, but when we came down the next morning it seems she had forgotten, so we had no hire car. Great. We thought it might be a good idea but o see if we could pick up our hire car for the next leg of our journey a day early.
Turns out, this was not a good idea. It took the woman at reception FOREVER to sort this out with the car hire company, and then we got told we couldn’t have the car until 2 pm, which the woman said yes to without asking us. Clearly 2pm would have been way to late, considering at this point it was 8.30 in the morning. We asked her to cancel that (which she looked less than pleased about) and set about arranging a separate car for us to hire for the day. There were no cars left with the same company, and she had clearly had enough of our unreasonable demands at this point, so she put us in a taxi and sent us on our way to hire a car from Thrifty.
When we got to the place, it was closed. I like to think that she knew it was shut and the place had moved units and she just sent us there to mess with us, but we will never know the answer to that. The note on the door pointed us towards another unit, but having no idea where that was, we were a bit stuck. Fortunately we managed to wave at our taxi driver before he made it round the corner and he came back and picked us up and very kindly dropped us where the car hire place were operating from for free. What an amazing bloke, whoever you are, I salute you and I am forever in your debt.
By the time we got to the car hire place it was about 10 o’clock and all of the hire cars had gone. Winner! (that was sarcasm by the way) and we were stuck with a pretty pricey Mercedes hatchback. We couldn’t work how to out the blasted thing in drive, so we had to call the guy back out to show us, which he looked terribly amused about. Eventually we were away and driving. It took us a little bit of time to figure out where we were on the map, not helped by the fact that the scaling in the map was way off and you were looking for a road that you had actually gone past 2 minutes ago. We managed to get out, and soon enough we we’re heading down the road to Cape Point after only a tiny family argument in the car.
We drove back towards Hout Bay, where we had been the day before and decided to stop for some breakfast. Just before Hout Bay we spied this busy looking little cafe called Ta-Da, so we went in there. It was full of people and had an amazing vibe and an even more amazing breakfast menu. This place was basically like a shack on the side of the road, with wooden benches out front. I settled on a French toast combo, with fried banana, bacon and syrup – which was all kinds of yummy.
We sat there and watched some kids climbing around in the trees, in what was a beautiful Sunday morning and after a while we went on our way, but not without a trip to the loo first.
Cape Town is experiencing a major drought at the moment, hence the sign, but it made me laugh and I do love having something torrid on the back of the toilet door. We carried on driving down (or up? Not sure) the coastal road, stopping at view points along the way to take in the scenery and get some pics.
After a couple of hours we made it to The Boulders where they have a colony of penguins you can view. Now, I love me a penguin, they are so cute the way they waddle and they look like little old men. The viewing platform was chocca with tourists, but I still managed to get some decent pics and a selfie, of course. We spotted another viewing platform, so we made our way back the way we had come and around to the other platform.
On the way we saw some penguins chilling in the bushes with their babies. Amusingly one of the penguins tried to bite Gail when she was crouched down trying to take a photo of it.
We stood and watched the penguins on the beach for a bit, the best bit is when they try to walk up the beach after coming out of the water and a wave creeps up behind then and knocks them over, so cute!
After we’d had out fill of penguins, we carried on towards Cape Point. Along the way there warnings about baboons on the side of the road, so by the time we got to Cape Point I was dying to see one, and I wasn’t disappointed! We saw some adult ones jumping from car to car, and I saw a little one messing around with a car arial, who posed for a nice photo for me, before he started scratching his ear.
We started walking up the hill to Cape Point, I quickly dismissed the funicular railway because I like to think I am a hardy, athletic type [insert laughing, crying emoji here] and I started ploughing my way up the hill, leaving Gail and Les in my wake and narrowly avoiding some baboons who came pelting towards me.
After clambering up what felt like a million steps, we made it to the to of Cape Point, whilst catching our breath and mopping our brows, we looked out over the water and took the opportunity to take some photos. Then we started heading back down the steps, which I personally find worse than walking up, as it’s pretty hard on the knees.
I’m kind of getting to the point where I’ve had enough now. It’s about 4 o’clock in the afternoon and we’ve been out looking at stuff all day. On our way back, we stop off at Simons Bay for some food. The palace we had been recommended was closed, so we settled for Bertha’s on the harbour of Simons Bay. I opened for a seafood platter for one, which came with calamari, butterfly prawns, mussels and the catch of the day, the catch of the day was angel fish, which I kind of felt bad about eating because they are so pretty, but less bad once I tasted how delicious it was.
We drive back through the towns, rather than along the coastal road, which was interesting to see, if not quite as beautiful and ended up back in Cape Town as night fell. It was pretty difficult to get a bearing on where we were in the dark, and we had to do a few circles until we recognised where we were. That being said and all things considered, I think we managed to get back to our apartment without too much trouble. My map reading skills are shocking and I always start to panic when I can’t see where I am on the map, so it could have gone a lot worse. I have to say all the roads aloud as we go past and I think people think it is to help the driver, but it really isn’t – it’s purely so I can tick it off in my head as we go past. I’m that incapable.
I had planned to wake up at 7.30 and go out for a run today (harhar), but as you can imagine, that didn’t happen and I ended up sleeping in until 9 am. We had planned to hire a car and go to Robben Island and take a drive around the Cape Peninsular, but by the time we got down to reception it was about 10.30 am and it was kind of too late to hire a car, plus there were no tickets available for the ferry to Robben Island as they were all booked up. That will teach us for not getting our arses in gear and booking beforehand.
It was a clear and warm day however, so we decided we would go up Table Mountain instead. The past couple of days had been a bit cloudy, so Table Mountain hadn’t been an option, mainly because you couldn’t actually see the thing. If I hadn’t known it was there, I wouldn’t have believed you if you had told me it was there. We bought tickets to go up Table Mountain online before we went, having heard that if you get a ticket when you are up there, you end up having to wait in a queue for hours.
We got a South African Uber up to Table Mountain, the driver was very knowledgeable and took the time to explain how to drive to Hermanus, telling us what landmarks to look out for on the way. I forgot all of this immediately, so I still have no idea how to get to Hermanus. I think I’ll probably just follow the sat nav to be honest, or I’ll just use the force. The force always seems to work out for me. I’m like a homing pigeon, I’ve got that internal compass.
We get to Table Mountain and we join the queue for those who already have tickets. Funny isn’t it, joining a queue so you don’t have to queue? It feels very British. It doesn’t take too long to get through and we are waiting in the loading bay for the cable car in about 20 minutes. Now, I hate cable cars. I know they are 100% safe, and it’s not even the height that bothers me. It’s the swaying. The swaying gets me and it completely shits me up, so I start getting a nerve on as we waited. This was relieved somewhat by watching the Chinese group of tourists in front of us taking photos of one another. They were taking shots of one another on their Hwawei’s like it was nobody’s business, and I spied a few hilarious chin shots being taken. These pics were legit 85% chin and 10% visor and 5% scenery, and I had to turn away to stop myself snorting at them.
We got on the cable car and it turned out it wasn’t so bad. The floor rotated As we went up so we could get a 360 view of the mountains and the views from it, and this kind of distracted me from any swaying. We stepped off the cable car and WOW. We were greeted with an incredible view. When I say incredible, it was genuinely astounding.
The sky was so blue and the greys of the mountain rock were a stark contrast. I got some amazing photos from the top of the mountain, which isn’t so flat when you get up there. In comparison to other mountains it’s still super flat, but there were lots of rocky bouldery bits, which made for great pics when you stood or sat on them, looking like you were about to drop off the edge of the world.
We stood on the right hand side of the mountain and we wanted some clouds rolling in. This was such a beautiful sight. Because the top of the mountain is flat, the speed of the cloud coming in was amazing. It sped across the top of the mountain, and then dropped over the edge and ran down the side, just like it was dry ice. I have never seen anything like that before in my life.
We spent about three hours in total on the top of the mountain. We walked all the way around it and took photos at all possible angles. The air up there was so clear and it was so worth it, but I just wish there weren’t quite so many people up there, so we could have had a bit of peace and quiet to experience it in.
If I ever came here again, I think I would get up super early and go to the mountain ready for the first cable car up to the top. I reckon this would be an incredible place to sit and have a romantic breakfast picnic, so if I ever locate a significant other, I will be forcing them to Cape Town and up the mountain and ridiculous O’clock in the morning. So, sorry about that future husband or wife.
After the mountain we took a ride to Hout Bay. The drive to Hout bay was incredible. Something that has surprised me about South Africa is the incredible difference in scenery in such a small space. You can absolutely understand why so much filming is done here, as the diversity of surroundings is amazing. The coastal road we drove down to reach Hout Bay had some amazing views, and I would have liked to have been able to stop more and take some photos, but you can’t have everything (plus we were on a meter).
When we got to Hout Bay, I was half starved, so we went straight into a restaurant on the Mariners Wharf and had some baby Kingklip, covered in garlic butter (I can tell you now, I lived to regret this). We went for a wander along the beach and took some photos of the bay. We wanted to have a paddle, but the wind had got up by then as it was late afternoon and I think I would have turned into a block of ice the second my toe touched the water, so we avoided any paddling this time.
We got the bus back from here to Cape Town, and again, the views were absolutely astounding. It’s pretty hard to take decent photos on the top of a a bus, but I managed a few, trying my best to hold my phone steady over the rail of the top deck of the bus, whilst hold on to the camera, my rucksack and keep an eye on my iPad, which I was using to start writing this post.
Once we got back to Cape Town, this was where I started feeling the ill-effects of my butter consumption earlier in the day. I’m not supposed to eat dairy, and I know this, and yet I still insist on trying it and seeing whether it still has the same effect on me. Well, funnily enough, it did, and I ended up having to race back to our apartment pretty swiftly, so I could park my arse on a familiar loo. As soon as I did, all hell broke loose. I won’t horrify you with the gory details, but “better out than in” springs to mind. As does “natural disaster”. Heh.
Today we headed outside Cape Town to the wine region. At 10.30 am Roderik (our guide) came and picked us up from our apartment. We didn’t really want to spend the whole day drinking wine, because we aren’t upper fussed over it, so we headed to the cheetah sanctuary that the guy at the reception at the apartment had suggested we go to.
The outfit: black dungarees, jazzy shirt, frilly socks and white Nikes. Oh, and the rucksack.
I’m always a bit nervous about going to places like zoos or animal “sanctuaries”, because I worry a lot about the welfare of the animals and I can’t stand seeing the animals suffering, it breaks me. We went to Seaworld in San Diego when I was a kid (this well before the whole Blackfish thing) and even at 10 it broke my heart to see those beautiful creatures contained within concrete walls. I also remember seeing an elephant at a zoo not so long ago, swaying from left to right (just like a person rocking backwards and forwards in the foetal position), and it genuinely reduced me to tears. Seeing such intelligent and wonderful animals in such a state of clear depression – I can’t deal with it. So, I was a bit nervous about going to see the cheetah at the sanctuary.
We arrived at the sanctuary and we paid to go in and have a “cub experience”. This was where you got to go in the enclosure with the cubs (who were around 9 months old) and stroke them and sit with them for a bit. Here we met Kito and his brother. These two little guys had been born at a sanctuary a few miles away and their mother unfortunately hadn’t made it. They had been brought here and had grown up in the sanctuary. The people looking after the cheetah made is very clear that under no circumstances were we to touch their faces, tummies or tails, as this was more likely to agitate them – just like it would your domestic cat.
We had to always keep one foot planted on the ground if we were in a kneeling position, so you could move away quickly if needs be, and you were only to stroke the cheetah with a flat palm, so it didn’t tickle them. The lady who was telling us about Kito and his brother, is old us his brother was a bit agitated today and we wouldn’t be able to have any contact time with him; he kept jumping up and looking at what was going on around him and was distracted by the cars moving around outside and the comings and goings of the people. The staff let the animals get up and move around as they pleased, and we were to move out of the way if either of the animals wanted to get up, look at something or have a wander.
I was the last to stroke Kito, he’d decided he wanted to leap up and jump on a box when someone else was stroking him, so I got to stoke him whilst he was sitting up rather than laying down. After a few strokes, he started purring, and I stared talking to him (just like I do my kitties at home) and told him he was much bigger than my little cats back home. He turned around to face me and looked at me with his head cocked slightly to one side. The keeper who was standing by him said he never does that with anyone and that he must like me, which obviously made me feel like the Queen of the Cheetah, and I went out of the enclosure a very happy Bonnie.
Kito’s fur was rougher than I had imagined it was going to be, and at least I can say I have stroked a cheetah and put some money towards a sanctuary. I still hate seeing them cooped up like that, but they have been born in captivity, and it’s much better than them being someone’s pet.
After meeting Kito, we went to Spiers 1692 and went for their premium wine tasting option. This was made up of 6 wines; 2 white and 4 red. As someone who is certainly no wine conesoir, all of these wines were very pallettable, rather than tasting like vinegar.
My favourites were the Sauvignon blanc and the Pinotage, and we were soon feeling rather sozzled.
I went to the shop after and bought a bottle of the Sauv to take home with me – so, Claire, if you are reading this, please free up your schedule for my return.
The highlight of this day however, had to be when Gail walked into the glass door on our way out. It was like a slapstick comedy, and she strode straight into it and bonked her nose on it. I thought it was absolutely hilarious and I had to walk away as she recovered to save myself from laughing in her face. At this point she couldn’t see the funny side of it and was still insisting that she hadn’t seen it, rather than it being as a result of her wine intake (whatever you say mama G).
After that we went to another winery which was actually closed for renovation, but the door was open and the lady inside gave us a free glass of wine for our troubles and we met a massive dog panned Gustav. I generally don’t like dogs, but be was super chill and I even forgave him when he dribbled on me a bit.
Our final stop was another winery called Tokara which was beautifully situated and also grew its own olives.
We tasted their house wines (2 red and 2 white) and I’m not going to beat about the bush or sugarcoat matters here; they were disgusting. They practically too, the skin off of the roof of my mouth and they burnt my throat on the way down.
So, my advice; if you want a decent wine, pay for a decent wine. If you don’t want your throat to feel like it has been stripped with acid that is. Practically like Oprah aren’t I? Full of good advice.
Our flight was at 9 pm Thursday night and we landed in Cape Town on Friday at about 2.30 pm. It was an eleven hour flight to Johannesburg, a 2 hour wait at the airport there and then a 2 hour flight from Jo’burg to Cape Town. It’s weird, because we did so much flying and we are only one hour ahead in South Africa which is a bit of a mind fuck.
I watched Deadpool before I went to sleep and I actually laughed out loud at it (which is rare for me). It’s just the kind of humor I like and I love Ryan Reynolds, not even because he’s pretty, but because he is a genuinely hilarious man. I was stuck with the crappy plane headphones so I didn’t hear 100% of what was being said, so I think I will watch it again when I am back and get the full experience.
I know I slept for quite a while on the plane to SA, but I feel like I hardly slept a wink! There was a spare seat next to me, so I manged to lay down and put my feet on Gail so get comfy. Which was all well and good until she leaped up in the middle of the night with cramp in her leg and chucked me off. I managed to doze off again with my hoody on backwards and the hood up over my face, but soon the lights were up and it was time to awaken for breakfast.
After breakfast I started watching Lego Batman, which I know is super sad, but I was actually really enjoying it. But then we were landing, so I had to turn it off. Fingers crossed I’ll manage to finish that off when I am flying back.
We landed in Jo’burg, and got off the plane and went through customs. This was probably the quickest I have got through passport control in my entire life and all the staff were really happy and chatty – a complete contrast to the government employees in the UK who look like they would rather be hanging off the edge of a cliff by their finger tips with a spike shoved up their arse. Oh, and, I GOT A STAMP IN MY PASSPORT!!!! I was so excited about this, because I’ve only travelled to Europe recently and my passport is so naked. All my visas and stamps are in my passport from before, and I feel like I haven’t been anywhere cool in ages.
When we got to Cape Town, it was raining (of course it was), but we didn’t let this dampen our spirits (LOL) and we made the most of the evening we had left, and went out in the pouring rain to get some dinner.
I had butternut soup to start which was all kinds of yummy and snoek (which is a type of fish) for my main. We trudged back to our apartment in the rain, but not before asking the somelier in the restaurant for the best wine tasting places to go to. We have a name of a guy and he is going to give us a private tour, so lord knows how that will go! So we shall see how that turns out.
Anyway, I’m shattered and I can barely see straight, and it took me way longer than it should have done to type this out. So I am going to hit the hay, or the unknown bed in the unknown apartment that will definitely be uncomfortable.
I’ve been packing for my holiday this evening. I am the WORST at packing; I’m genuinely awful at it. Once second I want to take everything with me, the next second I only want to take a pair of jeans and two t-shirts. I’m so haphazard when it comes to doing stuff like this and I’m seriously disorganised. I know it is a great idea to write out a nice list with all the things you need to take with you and then tick them off as you pack them. But, in reality, all I do is grab stuff out of drawers as I see it and hope for the best. I always, always, always forget something, but is it even a holiday if I haven’t forgotten something? Doubt it.
Packing for South Africa is a bit of a weird one, because its going to be about 23 degrees in the day, but goes down to about 9 degrees a night. So, I need stuff that is warm enough and flexible too. Fortunately most of my stuff goes together so I don’t have to worry too much about taking “outfits” (another win for the lazy person). Pretty much everything that I have packed, I can mix and match, so I can breathe a sigh of relief. And if a chill sets in, I’ll just have to wear 2 of everything so I have layers.
Anyway, I shoved everything in my suitcase and tried to close it. Obviously it didn’t close, no matter how hard I squished down the top and grappled with the zip. I didn’t want to fight too hard with my case, because it is new and it would be a bit insane to push it to breaking point on its first official outing. FYI I love my new suitcases. I got a voucher from work for my birthday for Debenhams, so I used the money to treat myself to a new set of luggage. My old suitcase was super heavy, and it was basically my entire luggage allowance without any clothes in it. So, I treated myself to some bronzey/rose goldy coloured Tripp suitcases. My eyes turn into love-hearts each time I look at them – they are the stuff of dreams.
But anyway, I turned it upside down (the case) and emptied it all out and made an effort to fold things and place them in, rather than throwing my clothes in and hoping for the best. My method still wasn’t really working here, and I was somehow managing to leave loads of gaps in between things, and more things were at an angle than I would have liked.
I emptied everything out again and made a very conscious effort to do it properly this time, because you can only do things three times before you give up and just accept that it can’t happen. I properly fold everything; really, super neatly (which takes aaaaaaaaaages) and place it all nicely in my case with some thought about how best to use the space. It was kind of like Tetris but with clothes, and less fun. Eventually I managed to fit everything in and my case zipped shut like a dream, and I only had to encourage it to close a teeny weeny bit.
I heaved my case of the bed (not going to lie, I was breaking a sweat by this point) and I went off to find the mini weighing things you use to see how heavy your case is. The moment of truth: I clipped the mini weighing thing to the handle of my case. I waited for it to turn on and have a small malfunction before I lifted it up and took the weight of my case. Taking the strain, I lifted my case up and watched the number creep up to a grand total of… 16 kilos?! Wow. That’s super light! I thought it was going to be near to the limit if I’m honest. I could pack a few “just in case” bricks and still be under the 23 kilo limit.
Because it is so under weight, I feel like I must have forgotten something. Like, something major. Pants? Or shoes? Who knows… But I guess we will find out! I’ve got a few bits out to take with me on the flight as well, a couple of books and… Well, that’s it really. But I’m sure I’ll manage to get the rest of the stuff I need out before I go, without cutting it too fine. I must remember to take all of the chargers I need – chargers are always a hard one to remember I find. And I do not want to be frantically raiding Maplin at the airport for a dodgy looking iPhone charger. Although, I have located my luggage tags, passport holder and travel wallet (which all match by the way). They are also all stamped with my initials, which makes me basically feel like the Queen, the Queen shops at Aspinal of London when they have a 20% discount right? Right??? I knew it! Always had the feeling Queensie was thrifty.
My best friend Claire has been planning a surprise birthday party for her parent’s 30th wedding anniversary. Over the past few months, our garage has been filling up with things she needed to hide from them and it has taken all my strength not to crack open the case of prosecco that has been living with us. All my strength. Claire and her boyf Pete came round to collect everything the other day, and I have to say, I was sad to see the prosecco go, but I’m sure I will cope with the loss.
Anyway, they popped round to collect everything and stuck their heads in to say hi to my dad who was decorating the living room. Claire made the mistake of asking why my dad (Les) was using ready-mixed wallpaper paste. The exchange goes something like this:
C: Les, why on earth are you using ready-mixed wallpaper paste?
L: Claire, do not even speak to me about the wallpaper paste
C: Christ Les, what on earth happened?
L: well, I bought some paste to mix up myself. I mixed it up as I usually do and hung the wallpaper just like I usually do. I’ve been mixing wallpaper paste for decades and never had a problem. But I come downstairs the next day and bastard wallpaper has fallen off the wall!
C: Did you use too much water?
L: [after giving Claire the eye] I had never experienced such a thing before, so I rang up Solvite to talk to them about it. The lady on the end of the phone suggested I may be using a contaminated bucket. So I went to the shop and purchased myself a new bucket for the steep price of £1.02. Just in case I had mixed it wrong, I read the back of the packet and mixed it as per the instructions. Then I set about steaming off the paper that hadn’t quite fallen off, at which point the bloody plaster fell off the wall, leaving a great big hole.
C: That’s an added aggravation for sure
L: Indeed. But, I set about hanging the wallpaper for the second time, with the freshly mixed paste. Everything seemed to go well and I was pleased with the result. Until I came down the next day and the BLOODY WALLPAPER HAD FALLEN OFF AGAIN! In a fit of rage and despair I went to Homebase and bought some ready-mixed wallpaper paste. So do not ever, EVER ask me about wallpaper paste.
C: it must have been a dud batch
B: told you not to ask him about the wallpaper paste
After this exchange that had left Pete with a look of horror on his face and enough ammunition for wallpaper related nightmares for the rest of his life, they left to carry on setting up the party. It is now the evening of the party and I am running late because it took forever to get out of London and back home. I race in and thunder up the stairs to get ready. In 15 minutes I have showered, put on some makeup and got myself dressed – I think that must be a world record for the fastest time ever to get ready for a formal do.
The look: I’m wearing a pale/mint green strapless dress from New Look which I got in the sale and I pair of silver shoes and a matching clutch bag. The makeup is minimal, and all I have on is a light layer of foundation, a bit of eye shadow, mascara and a hint of eyebrow. I’ve had my hair in a bun all day so it is nicely curly, and all I do it sweep it over my shoulder and put a couple of pins in it.
I make it to the party about 9pm and I’ve just missed the food (killer!) so, after greeting everyone I hang around in the kitchen and pester the caterers for some leftovers. I shove a couple of lamb and chicken skewers down the hatch in a gannet-esque way, top up with my glass with prosecco and make my way back out to mingle. I sink another couple of glasses of prosecco in quick succession, seeing as it’s free, and spy Pete’s dad. Last time I had met Pete’s dad we were rather worse for wear at the army vs navy rugby in Twickenham, so I made my way over to him and his wife to strike up some conversation.
And strike up conversation we did. We always have major laughs together, myself and Paul, and Helen was quite the third wheel during proceedings. Until a man that I had never met before came over to pay me a compliment. Unfortunately he was no handsome young millionaire man. In fact, he looked like one of the house boat people, and by that, I mean he had that grimey look about him that told me he didn’t like to waste water washing. He had teamed a fetching Berghaus fleece with a pair of shorts, boat shoes and a rather eye catching pair of orange over the ankle socks. But, he did say I looked gorgeous, so I’ll take it – whatever the sock situation.
All of a sudden everyone had disappeared around us and Claire’s dad was serving me a voddy, lime and soda which was particularly heavy on the voddy. I was feeling fine though and we packed everything up and Claire dropped me home. It was at this point that I became drunk. I had to wobbled up the stairs to my room and Gail greeted me at the top of the stairs. She asked me if I was alright, to which I replied “I don’t think I’m not” and then stumbled into my room.
Obviously I thought it was a good idea to start messaging people at this point. Surprisingly my spelling was perfect (it wasn’t) and I was making total sense (I really wasn’t). This was like the moment I Wolf of Wall Street where Leo’s character Jordan thinks he has driven the car home fine when in fact he has smashed it up, leaving a trail of destruction around him. Clearly my misspellings aren’t quite as dramatic as that drug fuelled carnage, but they are funny nonetheless.
I also managed to take a few horrifying selfies when I was under the influence. Clearly I was thinking I was Kate Moss or something. Kate, I certainly am not. Not even slightly. Horrifying.
This weekend was ridiculously busy. On Friday afternoon I came home from work and baked two cheesecakes for a friend. That took a couple of hours and then I needed to pack for the weekend. I was leaving at 7pm to travel to the ExCel Centre in London for a rowing competition where I was looking after some kids for the weekend. I packed all of my stuff up and started on my travels to get to the ExCel centre.
We got there, signed all the kids in and got them settled down for the night in what is essentially an aircraft hangar – I do not envy them sleeping in that. They were all shouting and screaming and generally making a nuisance of themselves, so we left them to it and made for a bar. We went to one of the hotels nearby and got a couple of drinks. Two drinks cost £19.25 – I was aghast! £19.25?! You must be having a laugh!!! Thank God I wasn’t paying because I probably would have had a heart palpitation at the bar.
Still reeling after the price of the drinks, we headed outside to grab a seat. I spied a table where there which looked like it was taken, but no one was sitting there, so I sat down there, because I am just like that. I like to see what happens when people come together unexpectedly and this is a great way to force an interaction. So, we sit there for a couple of minutes and these two guys head towards the table we are sitting at. They come up to the table and start taking their stuff of the table, at which point I say “OMG is this your table? I am so sorry, please, let us move!”, like I didn’t already know. The guys actually asked if they could sit with us instead and of course I said yes.
Meet Mandeep and Suraj. Mandeep and Suraj are a little bit on the merry side and they have just returned from the bar with a glass of Japanese whisky each. We get to talking and it turns out they are good mates who haven’t seen each other in a couple of years and they are here to catch up on old times. They insist on incessantly pointing out that they are Asian, but not at all religious which I find terribly amusing, and point out on a number of occasions that “God doesn’t go here” – whatever that means. We chat about any old thing for a couple of hours, me coming out absolutely side-splittingly hilarious quips and them falling about laughing over my sarcastic tone and dead pan delivery (that’s how I remember it anyway).
Somehow it comes up in conversation that Suraj is here and staying at the hotel because he’s upset his wife. He won’t go into any great detail over exactly what he did (even though I tried my best to force it out of him), but I naturally assume it is something sordid – because a tiff just wouldn’t be interesting. He then starts saying about how he could be out sleeping with other women and getting up to mischief, but instead he is here with one of his mates, having a chilled night at the hotel. This makes me even more sure it has to be something like an affair, because why would you even mention it otherwise? After this, he starts getting a bit cuddly and putting his arm around me, and then the other guy makes his way round to my side of the table and sits next to me. So, I’m the filling to a manwich at the moment, and a manwich that is getting decidedly drunker by the second.
His mate starts getting a bit on edge and gets up to go, he’d been looking at his phone on and off for a few minutes, so I assume he must have got a better offer. Once him and his mate have had a bit of a spat about him leaving, I ask Suraj what he would be doing this evening if he hadn’t met us, and the following dialogue opened up:
S: snorting cocaine and watching porn in my hotel room.
B: what sort of porn?
B: that’s a bit broad isn’t it?
S: maybe I’m into some freaky stuff, you don’t know I’m not.
B: maybe you are, but I seriously doubt it.
S: I could fuck you until the cows come home, you know that right? I could absolutely fuck you until the cows come home.
B: A charming sentiment indeed, but I don’t eat beef.
At this point my eyes were watering because I was laughing so hard internally. This guy was being deadly serious and it was taking all of my power not to laugh in his face. Myself and my mate (whose name is Nick by the way, I just realised I forgot to mention that) gave one another the eye and we stood to leave. I wasn’t overly keen on being fucked until the “cows came home” by Suraj and neither was Nick I don’t think.
We said our goodbyes and Suraj seemed very keen on coming to watch the rowing comp the next day (as if he actually was) and he wanted to know where he could come and watch (as if he actually did), and promised he would be there the next day (as if he actually would). We said goodbye and hugged it out and Suraj said rather loudly in my ear “my room number is 317, if you want a comfy bed for the night”.
I finally got my hair cut tonight!!! It has been months and months and months since I last had it cut and it had got soooooooo long. Considering the length of time it’s been since I last had it done, it didn’t look that bad. I don’t know how I kept managing to miss the family hair appointments, but I just never seemed to be around.
Anyway, I have had a few inches off now and I feel so much lighter. I swear it was starting to give me neck ache because it weighed so much. At least I will be nice and light for my holiday and I won’t have to pay excess baggage for my weighty hair on the flight. I’ve got attached to having it so long, and I started getting a bit panicky when it was coming up to the chop. Thankfully my hairdresser is all for my hair being long, and together we have decided we will grow it down to my bum. I’m not sure exactly how we as a pair are going to encourage it, but I am sure we will find a way. Oh how I LOVE Sam the hairdresser – he always knows exactly the right thing to say.
After our usual gossip about the various dates we have been on since our last encounter (he’s been having the same amount of luck as me – AKA none), he set to work. I now have my layers back and it looks so much more neat and tidy than it was, and all those nasty split ends have gone. I went for a pretty sleek blow dry, with a bit of movement at the ends. I never ever dry my hair, so this is always such a treat for me. I don’t dry my hair for a a couple of reasons. One, because I am super lazy and it takes forever to dry because it is so thick, and I really can’t be arsed to spend the time on it. And two, I don’t want to end up as one of those people whose hair snaps off because they have damaged it so much. Ick. That is one of my worst fears and it haunts my dreams.
It was actually just really nice to sit and chill for half an hour. Not thinking about work, not thinking about all the stuff I have to do and not worrying about anything. I’m feeling really stressed out at the moment and it was nice to shut my brain off for a bit.
After having been in a very long relationship for a very long time, it would be safe to say that my dating experience was limited. And when I say limited, I actually mean non-existent. Until recently, I had never, ever been on a date. How mad is that – I had made it to 22 without ever having been on a date. Needless to say, I have certainly rectified that now, but it meant that I had absolutely zero idea what to expect when it came to the dating game.
After the breakup, I got myself on Tinder and started merrily swiping away. This guy was one of the very first people that messaged me on there actually, and the very first person that I went on a date with. Having no idea how to do any of this at all, I agreed to travel to Fulham to meet this guy and get a drink. Obviously, because I had never been on a date before, I had no idea what to wear and I thought that looking sexy was key. So I donned a pair of black skinny jeans, a top showing a bit of cleavage, a full face of makeup and to top the whole look off; black, high heeled, over the knee boots. Looking back, I clearly looked like a complete and utter tart, and for any of you that know a single thing about me, you will know that this look is very un-me.
I totter up to Fulham in my ridiculously high heels, thinking I am the most glamorous girl going. I get to Fulham and get a message saying he is running a bit late and asking me to walk towards him. So, I start teetering towards him in my inappropriate attire, stumbling on the odd occasion and working up quite a sweat from the exertion. I spot the guy and head towards him. Having no idea how to greet a bloke you are meeting for the first time, I blindly go in for a hug and kind of get smooshed into his armpit – winner!
After our awkward first encounter, we head to a bar for a couple of drinks. We sit outside at a table, mainly because I was so hot from all the walking in my stilts, and we get chatting. When I look back on it, this conversation was probably THE dullest conversation I have ever had. But, because I was so nervous on account of it being my first date, I don’t think I realised this guy wasn’t wowing me conversationally. The night went on and it was time for another drink. Out of pure politeness, I offered to get the next drink in, never expecting in a million years that he was going to take me up on it. But, by Christ, he practically twisted my arm off for this drink, so I begrudgingly obliged.
I then spent the rest of the night feeling very hard done by, that I had somehow manged to select a man who wasn’t willing to run with the “guy pays for the first date” thing, and I spent the rest of the evening turning this over in my head. Fortunately he managed to redeem himself somewhat by walking me back to the station. On the walk back to the station, obviously I turn my ankle in my utterly ridiculous shoes and he has to catch me before I face plant into the front of a Tesco metro. I am absolutely mortified and my face goes entirely red. And obviously I get that awful sweat on, that you get when you have had a near death experience, like when you slip on a patch of ice.
We finally make it to the station in one piece and we sit and wait for my train to come along. He keeps touching my knee and I come to the realisation that this bloke is expecting a kiss. I somehow manage to avoid having to kiss him for the whole time we are waiting for my train, but, when my train arrives, utter horror ensues. I get onto the train and turn around to say goodbye, at which point he gets all up in my face with his face. He pulls me towards him for a kiss, all the while people are herding onto the train around me. I’m getting pushed and shoved as people edge round me to get to their seats, whilst I’m latched onto this blokes face. Fortunately the doors start to close and the whole ordeal is over.
It will amuse you to know, that I went on another few dates with this guy. It wasn’t until much later, that I realised that I actually really didn’t enjoy the dates or like this guy in the slightest. It just goes to show how crazy we can be when we get a bit of male attention, especially when you haven’t really experienced male attention before. I look back on this now, and I am genuinely mortified that I went on these dates and thought that’s how they should go. Thank goodness I am more date savvy now and I’m not stupid enough to offer to buy a drink on the first date. As for the boots, I don’t think I’ve worn them since.
My girl Tara invited me out on Friday night, so we did the usual; we went to Kingston… Old habits die hard right?! She’d just been dumped by perhaps the fuckiest of fuckboys, so this was prime time for her to let her hair down. Oh how I love the breakup sesh.
The outfit: burgundy dungaree dress, light pink/peach coloured tee and black clumpy boots.
The makeup: mascara, neutral tri-tone eye makeup, minimal brow, smidge of foundation, concealer and blusher.
I would normally wear trainers when I was going to Kingston, but because my outfit was already super casual I thought I would go for a proper shoe and opted for some black boots with a chunky heel. I am not ashamed to say that I wore these with a pair of cat socks (you will not change me!).
The Uber arrived and it was perhaps THE most gangsta BMW possible, complete with the driver reclined impossibly far back in the drivers seat. How he could see where he was going I will never know. But we made it to Spoons in one piece, so I shan’t complain. We get into the pub and get ourselves a drink, mines a double voddy, lime and soda and Tara’s is a double voddy and lemonade.
We assume our usual position (in front of the bar watching the dance floor) and we drink up, waiting until we feel merry enough to get on the floor. Time for a second drink, we turn round to the bar and promptly get a couple of drinks thrown all over us. WTF?! Where did that come from? Turns out, these two blokes were having an argument, one of them goes to chuck his two drinks over the other bloke and the other bloke swiftly steps out of the way and we are in the firing line. Only we could get swilled during someone else’s fight. Anyway, that descended into flying fists so we backed away and grabbed some serviettes to dry off.
Eventually drunk enough to throw some shapes on the dance floor, we head into the mass of bodies and bust out our best moves (I legit have no moves). Tara gets a Snapchat from a couple of the lads and we tell them to come on down and meet us there. So until they arrive we dance, drink, dance, repeat. The lads finally turn up and we drag them onto the dance floor (there’s a few more of them than we expected and a couple of them are army lads). We decide we need to venture to DA CLUB, but shock horror. One of them is banned from Pryzm (our usual haunt). Christ, what are we going to do? Oh my life we are going to have to go somewhere different. I don’t know if I can cope.
Apparently one of the lads is banned from Pryzm because he got into a fight. Apparently we were there. Neither of us remember it, so as far as I am concerned we have nothing to do with it. Someone decides we are going to Hippodrome, so we begin to drunkenly meander our way there, being led by a couple of army lads who have no idea where they are going. I am excellent at leading from behind.
We manage to navigate the entry and I manage to get nothing confiscated from me. I normally end up having something taken off me, be it gum or tweezers (many a pack Extra has gone to waste at the door to the club). Now, if you have ever gone to Hippodrome, you will know it it the grottiest place around. There is literally gaffa tape holding the floor together and more carpet than there should be in a club. But, the music was on point. The perfect mix of current, old school club tunes and a bit of cheese thrown into the mix. The DREAM.
We dance the night away and only venture to the smoking area for some not so fresh, fresh air, once. The photographer definitely took a group pic of us, but I can only assume we cracked the lens because it is nowhere to be seen on their Facebook page. But, however, we did manage to secure a glorious Snap of our faces, in what is my all time favorite club pic of 2K17 so far.
We stumble out of the club just before 4 in the morning and manage to squeeze our way into the chicken shop moments before it closes. We lean against the wall outside with out chicken and chips and watch multiple fights ensue, resulting in multiple arrests. Because, is it even a night out in Kingston if you don’t see someone get arrested? I certainly think not.
It’s not long now and I’m starting to get excited for my trip to South Africa!! In just under 3 weeks time I will be boarding a plane and flying across the world. I feel like I haven’t had a holiday in FOREVER even though it wasn’t actually that long ago. But still, it was ages ago and I’m getting withdrawal symptoms. I need a holiday!
So I’m having one, and it’s a long one, and I can’t wait. I’m so psyched for all the incredible things I’m going to do and see. But most of all, I’m so excited for a proper break. I can’t wait to not have to go to work and sit in front of a screen all day and look at work stuff.
Does anyone else have a place where they go to chill? Or go for inspiration? Or just one of those special places that you go to think?
I have a few of them and one of them happens to be my windowsill (don’t worry, I promise I won’t fall off). It’s good to have somewhere where people don’t bother you and where you feel completely chill.
Yeah, I get a few weird looks from passersby in the street and a few people in cars have stopped to stare at me, but I like it up there. It gets the sun and it’s leafy and green nearby, and I like being up higher than everyone else and seeing them when they can’t see me.
Saturday was the day we were going for brunch at Jackson Rye in Richmond (we being myself and Claire). We’ve had this in the calendar for what seems like months and I was getting so excited to see my best friend and spend some QT with the girl.
Lets start with the most important thing; the outfit. Who even knows what to wear out for a day where you have no idea how long you will be out, and no idea what you are doing? You wear jeans of course. I donned the trust M&S mum jeans which are about 2 sizes too big these days and turned those suckers up (I am a FAN of an ankle). I whacked out a blue Primark shirt from last year which has hearts all over it and buttoned that up to the top. Next followed the “gold” (obvs gold coloured) collar clips, white frilly socks and grey suede trainer things. Obviously I do nothing with my hair because I am lazy… Outfit: COMPLETED.
Claire’s boyf v. kindly drives us to Richmond in his gangta BMW and we arrive at Jackson Rye at precisely 1.30 pm. Which is good for me because it turns out, that I am rarely on time. We order a bottle of prosecco and a Farmers breakfast each and eagerly await its arrival. The prosecco arrives and you would have thought we’d ordered a bottle of Bolly the way the bloke was treating it. Everything was done with a flourish and a mouthful of the good stuff was provided for us to taste. Obviously it is tasty AF and we give the guy the “okay” to fill those glasses up.
Breakfast arrives and our beans are in tiny saucepans (I frickin’ love anything that is miniature) and we set about devouring what I thought was a relatively reasonably priced plate of food. Considering it is in Richmond and it’s by the river, I didn’t thing £8.95 was too steep. After this we toddled off down the river towards Slug and Lettuce in the search for a cocktail (or two… or three). We start off the proceedings with an apple mojito and delighted in some “banter” when the barman smashed one of the glasses. “You just don’t know your own strength do you!?”, I exclaimed, in the typical sarcastic tone of Bonnie. Both a compliment and an insult at the same time – my speciality.
We swiftly followed the apple mojito with a raspberry version and it was at this point that we noticed the pineapple vodka behind the bar. There was nothing strictly pineapple on the cocktail menu, so with a bit of cajoling and sweet talking, we managed to persuade one of the guys to make us a pineapple cocktail. Mint, lime, crushed ice, pineapple vodka and pineapple juice, topped up with soda. THE DREAM. He still wasn’t convinced though. But I am fairly certain we have created a new drink and I won’t be surprised if we see it on the menu next week. At this point we decided we needed a Cinnamon Social Slice from Ole and Steen which is perhaps the tastiest thing in the world. I can’t even describe it, you literally just have to try it.
We ambled back to the riverside, locating a kitty to stroke on the way, and sat on the edge to admire the view. Obviously by this time we had worked up quite a thirst, so back to Slug and Lettuce we went for another pineapple masterpiece. It was during the 5th cocktail that we decided we simply must get the boat down the river to Kingston. So, we mooched along the bank and jumped straight on the boat. Arriving in Kingston, obviously we had worked up quite a thirst, so we headed to The Ram and treated ourselves to a bottle of wine (because there is nothing quite like mixing drinks) and sat in the garden, discussing work and deciding that we could do a better job than any CEO out there because we know what we are doing better than anyone.