At last! This time I managed to get the title in the centre but it then took me ages to get it to ‘align left’ but finally success is mine! And the title refers to the weather! For the past week the temperature has hovered at around 42c which translates to around 105f and I have lived to tell the tale. Not only that, but I’m beginning to quite enjoy it; not the heat itself so much but the challenge of it and the need to adapt and find a way of coping with it. And the only way I have discovered is to embrace and accept it. So I lay under my zinc roof in a puddle of sweat until I pass out which is a huge relief as blessed unconsciousness claims me and provides amnesia for an hour or so. I then stagger into the shower and stand under blissfully cool water until I start to feel human again. The kids insist on staying with me and as exercise is not an option until around 5 or 6 in the evening - just before it gets dark - the indolence of their life style is weighing heavily on their physiques.
When Malcolm first moved in he was lean, lithe and lissom, running fleet of foot around the farm; he now waddles, jowls almost brushing the ground, huge girth inhibiting his mobility and apparently has no intention of abandoning his present decadent life-style. Paris had a tendency towards plumpness and has now fulfilled her potential and become decidedly chubby, Snooze was always a big girl, so no change there and Tossie’s body has morphed into a rectangle with a head at one end and a tail at the other. The only solution is exercise so I think we may have to wait for some-time until the fierce heat of Summer is over and Winter makes the outdoor life possible once again.
We had rain last night and today dawned cool and cloudy and despite the sun making valiant attempts to break through the cloud cover it has failed to succeed and the coolness has remained so I am able to sit outside my room and write, a glass of chilled dry white and a slight breeze adding to my contentment. I hope so much that it rains again very soon, like tonight, but heavily and for days! We need rain so much so a cracking good storm would be gratefully received by everyone in the province.
After the rain yesterday my room turned into a football pitch after a very heavy match. The kids went out for a pee came back and climbed up onto my bed leaving clods of wet earth all over it. I screamed at them to get off - they ignored me - until they got off of their own accord because they wanted a drink. Muddy footprints on floor, wet bodies heaved into armchairs, mounds of hairs on everything and a pervasive odour of wet dog. Kids! Who’d ‘ave ‘em???
I had a lovely experience on Sunday night: Es, Bron and Ellie were singing in the church choir and I went along to cheer them on. The service was in Afrikaans so I understood absolutely nothing but the singing! It was quite wonderful; they had an amazing professional soprano who is a local girl from Letsitele who left to study and then work in Jo’burg but comes home for occasions such as Easter and in this case Christmas. She was wonderful! It was quite spectacular; they had an organist, a flautist, and a man in full regalia playing the bagpipes! They sang carols including ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Away in a Manger’ and gave robust renditions of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ and ‘Jerusalem’. I found it incredibly moving and my eyes filled with tears more than once. And I was very proud of Bron, Es and Ellie who all sang their hearts out. As there is a dearth of culture in Tzaneen, to suddenly find myself hearing music by Elgar, Bach and Handel felt as though I’d been transported to the last night of the proms at the Albert Hall in London. It was such a special evening - one of those nights that happen in the theatre when everything comes together and cast and audience are connected and MAGIC happens. And it happened that night in the church.
I shall now take my fat friends for a short walk down to the garden pond where they’ll splash around for a few minutes before returning home to a supper of chicken livers and munchies. And they call it a dog’s life. Huh! We should all be so lucky....
Love to you all from all of us, xxx
I HATE TECHNOLOGY!!! Try as I might I can’t get my laptop to align to ‘paragraph left’ and now of course it’s suddenly righted itself! I wanted to write the title of this blog in the centre but it refused to do so, so I shall have to add it at the end. Ah well, I can’t be good at everything .... Es said to me recently, ‘what can you do?’ (a question I have frequently been asked in my life and to which my standard response of ‘I’m a great lay’ unfortunately deserted me on that occasion) and after a great deal of thought I decided that I’m a great actress and a good writer, but as she pointed out, neither of those skills are of much use in the African bush. I took her point. I’m a complete loss as I have nothing to offer a farming community but Es also said that all that was required of me was to ‘smile and wave darling, that’s all you have to do’ and as I’m very good at that, I shall continue smiling and waving.
It’s two weeks since Lee left and what a time we had! I was EXHAUSTED from endless late nights, copious amounts of the grape AND spirits which I rarely drink and a great deal of ‘smoke’ and am still recovering from the experience!
It’s 5pm on a Sunday afternoon and I’m sitting outside my room overlooking my newly thatched house and hoping this hot spell will break very soon because as I’ve mentioned before! I’M NOT GOOD IN THE HEAT!!! My present room has a zinc roof and as you can imagine when the temperature reaches 30+ degrees it becomes very hot indeed and despite fans and an air con unit I bought it’s still hot, so I lay gasping for breath and pray for rain. Once I’m in my house the thatch will provide a lot of protection from the heat so I do have that to look forward to. Onwards and upwards as the saying goes.
It’s now evening and after having had a drink with Bron and Es I’ve moved back into my room and it’s now blessedly cooler. I know I bang on a lot about the weather but trust me so would you if you were here!
I repeated something Lee had said to me to Ellie which was, ‘having met me will probably help the family to understand more where you’re coming from’. Ellie completely agreed and as Lee also said, ‘these people live on a farm in the African bush darling and when you rocked up as far as they’re concerned you could have landed from outer space and I think the way they have accepted you is phenomenal as everyone who knows you thinks you landed from outer space’.... Quite what he meant by that I’ve no idea but there you go. We were trying to explain the meaning of ‘camp’ to Bron and Es but failed to provide a satisfactory explanation : Lee cited me as an example but it’s quite a difficult word to define adequately so they were left with the impression that ‘camp’ means a being from outer space...
Hells bells! A Freddie (frog, Freda if female, I can always tell) has just hopped into my room via my open door. I say hells bells because they are a particular favourite of snakes and I have a horror of snakes since my beloved Jack Russell Rusty was killed by a black mamba last year shortly before I left for London so Freddies and Fredas are the last creatures I want in my room. He’s hidden behind my chest of drawers and refuses to be budged so I’ve closed my door and crossed my fingers.
I’ve just been diagnosed with scoliosis which is curvature of the spine and results in a dowergers hump -very attractive – and crumbling bones which explains my height loss over the past few years (2 inches) so it seems that I am destined not to die but simply shrink and disappear. Ah well, such is life...
My kids are all on my bed (I’m sitting in an armchair) and if I can find a space (doubtful) I shall heave my aged body into bed sink into a mound of pillows and read until it’s time for lights out. Bliss! Speaking of my kids I said to Lee, ‘I can’t decide if Tossie (toy pom) is a genius or as thick as two short planks to which his immediate response was, ‘he’s as thick as two short planks.’ Rubbish, I know he’s a reincarnation of Einstein. Tbc xxx
Yes, after all those weeks of waiting, Lee is finally here and we're having the time of our lives. I haven't laughed so much since we last saw each other. He's on tremendous form and made his genius known to Bron and Es on arrival; we had supper with them the night after he arrived and what a great evening it proved to be. We all howled with laughter and for me it was a dream come true to share an evening with 3 people I love so much who had never met each other (obviously Bron and Es had) but who I never doubted for a second would immediately bond. Lee can't believe he's in Africa and Bron and Es find it inexplicable to have in their home some-one from a country as far distant as England. We're so remote here that the arrival of some-one from another country let alone another continent is definitely an 'event'!
Lee - unlike myself - is a sun worshipper par excellencance - and wanted nothing but to submit his 6 feet 3 inches to the fierce embrace of the African sun. It was very hot the day he arrived which boded well for the following day so when we awoke to grey, sullen, overcast, cloudy weather I heaved a sigh of relief but our Lee was not best pleased. Tuesday was more of the same so when his mum texted to enquire what the temperature was, he responded by saying it resembled a wet bank holliday weekend in Bognor Regis. Which it did! But today my darlings, the sun is shining, the water in the pool is sparkling, and Lee suitably annoited in factor 50 sun block and wearing a rather eye catching pair of swimming trunks is soaking it all up by the pool whils't I'm having a love affaire with my new air conditioning unit. I tell a lie; Lee has just staggered in rosy cheeked and sweating unable to take any more without a break. (Hah, fuckin' hah!) and I haven't quite got the hang of the air-con, so we're both having a coffee break....
Break over, Lee hasn't returned to the pool; it's being drained, cleaned and refilled by the African workers at the moment, and Lee felt it would be a lttle tactless to be sunning himself as they toiled in the unremitting heat of the midday sun. Quite right. So I shall continue writing and attempt to ignore his frequent interruptions instead of being grateful for them! I only have him here for such a brief time that I want to spend every second with him. I 'm late with this blog, I intended to write it two weeks ago, but then was unable to do so as we hit yet another heat wave with the temperatures daily hovering around 40 degrees I immediately morphed into a zombie and when the weather broke and became blessedly cool again it was the week before Lee's arrival and I was so strung out with massive anticipatory excitement that I was completely incapable of stringing a coherent sentence together. The night before he arrived I was in such a state of intense emotion it was unbearable and I had to take a tranquilizer in order to calm down! I knew then that Lee's visit was not a moment too soon...So apologies for tardiness darlings, but I don't doubt your understanding.
Needless to say, Lee has been the hugest hit with my babies. He also adores animals in general and dogs in particular. Paris is so starstruck that she slept with him last night and shuffled home rather guiltily this morning hoping I had completely neglected to notice her absence of the previous night. Tossie has been his usual highly entertaining self: wrapped Lee around all his paws within seconds of meeting him and made us helpless with laughter yesterday because he's so OTT cute it's impossible not to.
In two days time we leave for San Wild and the sheer magic of living in the bush with the animals for three whole days and nights is mind blowing for both of us. My friend is going to be able to take a host of unforgettable memories back home with him, and this opportunity to share my passion for this country, of at times, almost unbearable beauty is AWESOME!!!
We all send love, that's Lee, Snooze, Paris, Malcolm, Tossie and me! xxx tbc
Sometimes I’m asked by my Afrikaner friends if I miss my life as an actress in my previous incarnation, and the honest truth is that I don’t. I never thought that day would arrive, but my desire to continue as an actress was greatly diminished on my first visit to Africa and continued to fade during the years I have lived here, until now it is as though the many years I spent pursuing fame and fortune, recognition and acclaim happened to someone who I no longer recognize as myself. And what a tremendous relief that has proved itself to be. I never thought in a million years that I would abandon the profession I loved so much in order to live a life in the African bush surrounded by animals and Nature and a simplicity that verges on the primitive. My lifestyle I mean, not the animals and Nature. I read and write and walk with my kids in the bush and that is all I need, it satisfies me completely.
What I do miss are my friends, all that history I shared with them over many decades, the humour, the intimacy that takes many years to establish, the bonds that are forged that have withstood the test of time and seem incapable of being broken. My consolation is that I know many of them will come to Africa to see me and I can share my discovery of this aspect of myself, draw them into my new life and watch them become as addicted to it as I am myself! And of course, I am establishing a new history here and experiencing new friendships that I know will stand the test of time.
And the English invasion begins three weeks today with the arrival of Lee; and my excitement knows no bounds. My stomach is constantly filled with the fluttering of very large butterflies which will be completely unbearable as D Day comes ever nearer: when I first heard that he was coming, the date of his arrival was four months in the future which appeared endless, and suddenly it’s twenty one days away!!! TWENTY ONE DAYS! Lee tells me he’s running around ‘like a hen in a hot girdle’ an expression that exists only in the north of England and affords me great amusement.
I think I already mentioned that we’re spending three nights at a game reserve and I spoke to some-one recently who had spent two weeks there. When I asked what animals we could hope to see and was told all of them my jaw dropped. ‘What even the big five’ I asked him, the big five being: lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhinoceros. ‘Oh yes’ he said, ‘they’re everywhere.’ I knew it was a sanctuary for orphaned animals, but hadn’t taken on board that they were free and roaming everywhere. There’s a waterhole very close to the lodge itself where they come to drink at night, and as we shall also be drinking at night, apparently we can sit at the bar and watch them. Although I’ve been twice to the Kruger National Park and seen all of the big five except a leopard; it was from the top of a jeep on a night drive which was exciting enough in itself, but to actually live surrounded by them will be awesome. The elephants really fascinate me because it’s true what is said about them; an elephant never forgets. And they always exact justice no matter how long it takes. Along with dolphins and chimpanzees they are the only species apart from humans who are capable of recognizing themselves in a mirror. That really blows my mind: what else goes on in theirs??? These particular elephants are very angry; many of them saw their mothers’ being shot, which is guaranteed to piss one off some- what but human beings can be so arrogant: I was told a story of one American guy on a night trip who having been told repeatedly NOT to use a flash on his camera as elephants REALLY didn’t like them ignored the advice completely and continued to flash away at a small herd they had been fortunate enough to discover. The alpha male walked right up to the jeep, pulled out the American guy and killed him. And I can’t say I blame him: such arrogant stupidity and total lack of respect for these magnificent beings invited the animal’s revenge and justice was served. So don’t mess with Jumbo is the message there. Strange.... all I retain from my childhood toys are two wooden elephants made by my father and painted green as there was no other colour available during the (2nd world) war. Despite my extremely peripatetic life style those elephants have always come with me, are infinitely precious and have finally settled in the land from whence they originated. Not my wooden ones, the real ones they were carved from and who they represent. I like that! I just know that this visit to San Wild is going to be seriously special. Watch this space!!!
I have to confess to feeling some-what fatigued at the moment: the weather has been seriously hot of late – yesterday was a nightmare because it was humid as well and the combination is so enervating that I lose the will to live completely and rapidly mutate into a zombie. Yesterday was such a day. I met Ellie briefly in the middle and she and Michael were also finding it tough going, but today is slightly cooler which is a great blessing and I think the only way I shall survive is to look forward to winter. But we have eight months of steadily increasing temperatures before that becomes a reality.
But....I shall be in the coolness of my thatched cottage house by the middle of summer because my house is progressing by leaps and bounds and is nothing short of a major work of art. I kid you not. The structure for the roof is growing daily, and the large beams are now being overlaid with smaller poles laid length ways to which the thatch will be attached. The intrinsic feeling created by the work, the patterns weaved by the poles give to the whole a sense of magic; like the ginger bread house you find in children’s stories ‘. And that has all come from Ellie and Michael: Ellie designed the house (she would love to have been an architect but it wasn’t possible when she was young), is never happier than when she is creating a new dwelling; she has added several buildings to the farm over the years and their own home is also magical and also thatched. So I’ve been gifted with a house which is being built with such love and such care, constantly supervised by Michael and imbued with the Von Eck magic. Gotta be good babes, gotta be good....
And as it’s such a magic house it will be no surprise that many fairies will trip through the front door...xxx
Yesterday I sent what I thought was a rather witty email to my nearest and dearest regarding my 70th birthday in December this year. I described numerous medical conditions (none of which were true) including how I thrilled I was that my colostomy bag came in pink! It was intended as a humouress attempt to extort money out of them instead of presents for aforementioned birthday. Never, in a million years did I expect any of my mates to take it seriously!!! Until I received a phone call from one of them this evening. Apparently loads of emails arrive from Africa, almost on a daily basis supposedly from friends, requesting money to assist them in what they claim to be dire straits. So my friend Jan, thought that mine was one of those, and had somebody put a gun to my head to force me to write it?!? She then received an email from another friend wondering the same thing.
That my email could be misinterpreted never crossed my innocent cyber space mind. Have any of my other friends had a similar reaction? I haven’t checked my mail today, I usually do so in the office which has total IT connection which my room doesn’t, and as the office is closed over the weekend I won’t check until Monday. Hells bells! What have I inadvertently started??? Actually I can get a signal in the middle, so I shall do that tomorrow. I shall keep you informed!
That aside, August has been a wonderful month – I felt myself growing stronger daily; all the TLC which Bron and Esme have heaped on me since I first arrived has paid off in spades. All those delicious dinners delivered daily to my room, the breakfasts I share with the family (a meal I don’t ever remember eating before in my adult life) have put colour in my cheeks and flesh on my bones! I look and feel better than I have in years and my gratitude knows no bounds. I discovered that Jan hadn’t read my blog, so she didn’t know that far from having a gun to my head, I’m living in the Garden of Eden and having the best time of my life. EVER! But then, my reputation for inadvertently fucking up is legendary so perhaps I shouldn’t be too surprised that my witty email backfired as far as Jan is concerned. OH! DEAR!!!
My house is coming on in leaps and bounds as the accompanying photographs show. It’s like a living being – perhaps because it’s being built as houses in Africa have been built for centuries – and the wooden poles and thatch are still full of life and breathe a sense of continuity, timelessness and harmony with nature into its essence. The roof is so high I shall feel as though I’m living in a cathedral. Can hardly wait for it to be completed. The Thatcher arrives on Monday morning to give Michael a quote for the thatch. It’s such an ancient craft, but as in England craftsmanship is a dying art in Africa, so many new houses here are roofed with tiles or sheets of corrugated iron, even by the blacks who have traditionally always used thatch. It thrills me to continue that tradition.
What also excites me enormously is the arrival from England in five weeks time of one of my closest friends – Lee Arnott. If any of my readers are Dr Who devotees they may well have come across Lee. He does a lot of interviews at Dr Who conventions and is the best on the circuit. I met him at a Who convention two days after I arrived in England last year – he was assigned as my minder, and again the following week at my book launch. We clicked immediately and discovered that he lived a 15 minute walk from where I was staying. He took it upon himself to support me while I was going through treatment for Carol (cancer) and proved himself to be an absolute rock. It’s really doubtful that I would have survived the treatment without his support, and my excitement at seeing him again is so intense that spontaneous combustion is certainly on the cards. I long to share my African life with him, to laugh like drains together and talk incessantly. Lee is also a brilliant therapist and as psychology is one of my favourite interests no doubt he’ll give me some good therapeutic insights which will stand me in good stead for any psychological wobbles I may encounter at some later date. We’re also going to spend 3 nights at a game lodge which will involve game drives and seeing lots of animals. It’s so exciting seeing animals which one had only previously seen via film or the media.
So as you can see, I have a great deal to look forward too; my kids are very well and extremely happy; the sun is shining and I feel warm both inside and out! Tbc xxx
Every year the Van Eck family; that's Michael's side, have an annual re-union here on the farm. This years happened last week-end and what a joy it turned out to be. There were 39 of us including me who is it appears a Van Eck by adoption! This particular weekend in August is a long one as we have a public holiday (Women's Day) on the Friday so a good time for the family gathering.
Michael is the eldest of 5 children - 3 brothers and a sister - and they all pitched up with their spouses and various children, except for his sister who is unfortunately a widow but arrived with her daughter. The living quarters here are Michael and Ellie live on one side and Bronson and Esme immediately opposite. The space in between is called the middle, and the middle is where we have breakfast, braai at night and generally socialize. My room is situated off the middle which also houses a spare bedroom and a kitchen and I'm in a tiny alley just adjacent to the kitchen.
It was an amazing experience to be witness to such a large family who all obviously enjoyed each other and were delighted to be together again. I saw the four brothers sitting together under a tented pavilion having a good old catch-up; there were roars of laughter, a lot of thigh slapping and a good deal of alcohol consumption. Magic!
The air was filled with laughter, faces were shining, the fire in the braai pit blazed importantly, and the rain pissed down... The weather in August is notoriously unpredictable, some days we need fans during the day and electric blankets at night, some days it's over 30 degrees but that particular weekend it was colder than a witches's tit. I kid you not. On Saturday I wore tights, warm trousers, a thermal vest, cashmere cardigan, long sleeved fleece topped by a heavy wool jacket. And I was still cold. But it really went for broke on the Sunday when the sky turned black, the heavens rumbled ominously, lightening streaked across the swollen clouds and the heavens opened. It bucketed down which thrilled me - I love a good storm - and the younger generation who had gone shooting at the clay pigeon range arrived back in the bakkie having spotted the coming storm but made a break for it just a tad too late. They emerged soaked to the skin and we all including the kids fell about laughing.
While the kids had been shooting, I'd been having a fascinating conversation with Ellie and the other sisters-law about one of those subjects you should apparently never discuss, and to which I am drawn like a moth to a flame. Religion... The Van Eck family are committed and practicing Christians and the ones I know well, i.e. Michael, Ellie, Bron and Esme are shining examples of Christianity in action and I have nothing but total respect for their beliefs. But because so much of every religion has to be taken on faith I always want to know if someone's faith is based on independent thought or simply blind, unquestioning acceptance and if so, why? I speak no Afrikaans and although most of them spoke English but with some difficulty, comprehension was restricted, but ultimately it didn't matter. Whether they had arrived at their beliefs as a result of independent thought or simply imbibed it through their mother's milk they all displayed a genuine commitment to their religious ideal.
Thinking about the discussion later I understood that I still harbour a lot of anger regarding the Catholic religion in general and the nuns of the Marist Convent West Byfleet in particular. I was subject to intense brain washing from the ages of 4 to 16, which I feel great resentment about, it did me enormous psychological damage which I have spent a great deal of my life attempting to rectify. And what I really resent is that I'm not even a Catholic! My father, who had no religious beliefs whatsoever, sent me to the convent because it seemed to be the best option as far as education was concerned. Which it certainly wasn't! I received very little in the way of education but a great deal of religious indoctrination. I attempted to explain my own belief which I had arrived at as the result of independent thought and is based purely on fact and has nothing to do with faith. Far from it. For me God is Nature and Nature is God and I experience Him through all of my senses. I am surrounded by God, particularly in this environment, and I am more than content with the conclusion I have reached. The Catholic religion is based on guilt and fear and a pay now, live later attitude; the more we suffer in this life the greater the reward in the next. Bron's sister once told me that there are people who have glimpsed hell (quite how she wasn't sure) but they apparently could smell burning bodies! And if God is meant to be all forgiving and all loving how on earth could he consign millions to the fiery pit??? To burn, it seems for eternity....
I'm sitting in the middle as I write this and as I raise my head I see nothing but bush and the surrounding mountains. The sky is blue, the sun a great white globe beaming benignly on the earth below and I feel an overwhelming love for all that embraces me. xxx
We lost Blue. All the tlc which Bron and Es gave him - and to which he responded very well - couldn't prevent the organ failure which according to our vet he arrived with. Bron took him in to see Peter (vet) just over a week ago and Peter had no option but to euthanase him. I was far more saddened by his life than his death and felt nothing but relief that his suffering was finally at an end. RIP little boy Blue.
Outside my bedroom window I am watching the construction of a new house; the foundations are laid, the septic tank is being dug as are the holes for the posts. Posts which form the basis for the supports required for the thatched roof. It's a fascinating process, not only because I've never watched a house being built from scratch before and certainly not en Afrique but what makes me delirious with excitement is that the house is for ME!!!
Michael and Ellie (Esme's parents) had the idea of building houses for elderly people living in Africa who were without the support of family or finances (alas, I fulfill the criteria!!!).They call them flats but they are independent houses; bedroom, sitting room, kitchen and bathroom, with a patio in front, and very charming. However after much discussion and due to the fact that I prefer to live in one large room combining bedroom, sitting room and dining area, my house will be just that. One huge room with a scullery and bathroom, a porch, a little garden and a thatched roof!
My cup runneth over! The scullery will house all the necessary appliances which I find seriously unattractive, e.g. washing machine, brooms, mops etc., but the actual kitchen will be in the main room. It's going to have a wood burning black cast iron stove upon which I will be able to simmer pots of delicious soups and have a large black kettle constantly purring on the hearth. Despite living in one of the hottest countries in the world, mine will be a winter house! And for about 5 months of the year it does become cold enough at night to have a fire and I promise you, mine will blaze merrily! Some friends visited me some years ago when I was still living in London in a flat that had a fireplace and the husband - who knew me very well - said to his wife, 'she'll have a fire going.' 'But it's August and we're experiencing a heat wave, she can't possibly,' was his wife's response. 'Trust me, she'll have a fire going.' And I did... As they walked in John looked at the kitchen clock and said, 'darling, your clock is an hour slow'. 'Yes, I know', I told him, 'I don't do Summer'.
And a thatched roof! I've always wanted a thatched roof!!! Aside from being very beautiful, they are to me redolent of magic and fairy stories and as I believe in magic and love fairy stories you can understand my excitement. I took photographs of the foundations being built to post with this blog but when I looked at them later, they were all of my feet, but fortunately Es took some too and hers actually include the foundations!!! So hopefully we can use one of those. What really thrills is is that so many of the materials are here to hand in the bush. Speaking of which, the day the foundations were actually dug and a trench about 2 feet wide and 3 feet deep prepared I took the kids out for their last minute pee; the night was very dark, very overcast with nary a hint of moon and stars. I walked them slightly further than usual, mission accomplished, I turned around to make the 30 second walk back to my room, when suddenly I did see stars. In the dark and my semi-inebriated state I forgot all about the trench until I landed flat on my back gazing at the heavens and at a loss to understand what had happened. Initially that is. It was a very sobering experience.. But it did serve to confirm that I don't have osteoporosis so all was not lost.
The foundations were dug and filled with rocks from our quarry before being covered with cement, the poles are from forests of trees' grown specially for the purpose of providing telegraph poles as well as for supporting thatched rooves, or anything else you may require a long pole for.
So the roof will be very high and supported by wooden beams - no ceiling -and it will have more space than I've ever had before in my life. So you can understand how I'm agog with anticipation. The plan is for it to be completed by my 70th birthday - December 20th - although during last weekend I had serious misgivings as to whether I would reach my 70th birthday. It seems that Tzaneen is heaving with many infectious bugs and virus's and I caught a rather malevolent one during my trip to town last week. I won't go into the sordid details, suffice to say that I was glued to the porcelain for a ridiculous amount of time - about 6 hours - at the end of which I had lost 8lbs or nearly 4 kilo's. It was finally murdered when Es bought me some electrolytes with meds and anti sickness pills. I was seriously dehydrated and hadn't felt so ill since chemo! But we licked the little varmint and normal health and optimism have been resumed. I find it's almost worth being ill because of the enormous pleasure feeling well again generates.
The absolute miracle re: my house is the cost. The most realist eventual expenditure is approximately 6,000 pounds (Ive never been able to find the pound symbol on this machine)of which I will pay half (donations greatfully received) and Ellie the other half; my half reverting to the farm on my death. Never has my will to live been so strong! I will survive and live in my fairytale house forever! I feel like the Princess in 'The Sleeping Beauty' who pricked her finger on her spindle when she was spinning her dreams into silken threads (due to a curse put on her at birth by the wicked fairy who was jealous of her beauty) and fell asleep for a hundred years until she was awakened by a kiss from her Prince. My prince came in the form of an army of angels. Not bad huh?!*?*! xxx
We are Sitting in My Foundation!: Johan and Marie (neighbors) Left, Me, Ellie and Bronson. (Doggies: Malcolm left, then Snooze, and Paris on the Right)
Me and Ellie Toasting to the first Digging!
Bronson,Ellie,Me and Marie(my neighbor)
The most appalling thing happened today, as you can see from the accompanying photographs. This morning Bronson received a call from Jethro, one of our neighbours telling him that he was with a donkey who had been found hideously injured and was greatly in need of help. Bron immediately drove to the location and found this poor creature and with Jethro's help brought him back to the farm. They also called the SPCA who spent a long time treating his wounds, injecting him with massive doses of antibiotics and painkillers. I couldn't bring myself to go and see him; I am fully aware of mans' inhumanity to animals and virtually everything else on the planet but to witness the atrocities inflicted on this poor creature was too much for me to handle.
He had been attacked with a machete and the wounds weren't new; they had been inflicted about two weeks ago and were infected and full of maggots and pus. Es spent a long time dressing his injuries and I shall be able to visit him tomorrow. If he survives tonight and the next few days his troubles are over; he'll stay at the farm and be loved and cared for for the rest of his days. I so hope he survives and discovers what it means to be loved and nurtured, but as Es said, if he does die at least it will be in peace and safety. I'd never seen Bron angry before but he was white with anger when he arrived home. If the person who has caused that animal such pain were at hand, he wouldn't have lived to tell the tale. And much as I abhor violence I'd have backed Bron all the way. How can anyone who claims to be a human being treat another living creature so savagely? I can't even begin to get my head around it. But I can't allow myself to dwell on it, instead I focus on the love and care that Bronson and Esme have for dumb animals. They have devoted their lives to rescuing and caring for the abandoned, unwanted and sick animals that are brought to their attention, and I find their compassion and selflessness incredibly humbling.
Es is now in the process of setting up a website solely for donkeys: although it will be under the Furball auspices she wants the new site to focus exclusively on donkeys and hopefully to raise money for their support. And I'm sure she'll get it. Fortunately there are a lot of people out there who feel as passionately about animals as we do, and I can guarantee that the vast majority of those people have also suffered greatly at the hands of their fellow man, and have come to understand that animals are where it's at. Whatever you invest in an animal is returned to you in abundance: my love for my 'kids' is repaid with total devotion, protection and loyalty.
On an individual level, I love people and have the good fortune to have a network of stunning friends who all have integrity and make a conscious attempt to live their lives well and wisely, and strive daily to be the best they can possibly be. It ain't easy but it's the only row to hoe. So for individuals I have a lot of love in my heart, but as a species I find us beneath contempt. We are the cruelest of the animal kingdom; a species that is capable of soaring greatness, of heroic achievement, of sublime creation but is ultimately doomed to self destruct, because mans' Achilles' heal is his inability to learn from his mistakes, but endlessly to repeat them. It would be funny if it weren't so tragic. The planet evolved for billions of years and then man rocked up and managed to poison it in a matter of seconds, and has the arrogance to believe that he can get away with it. In his appalling arrogance he has completely overlooked the power of the true force. Nature. Nature holds all the cards; a friend said to me that in his opinion human beings are in fact a virus and one day nature will flick her tail and that will be end of human beings; and surely that day cannot be far away? Man destroys everything he touches and if God made us in His own image and likeness I want no truck with God. What an appalling thing to do, create a species that houses, breeds, such monsters.
The world is at present a very dark place: what happened today with Muffin (as I've come to think of our mule) was a microcosm of the macrocosm and it's horrific. And the solution is so simple: all it needs is for human beings to be kind, but such is the cruelty of the species that right now I doubt if it's possible.
Rest well little Muffin and I so hope to see you in the morning.
It's now tomorrow and our little man has survived the night, and Es christened him Blue (because he was found on a blue Monday) so Muffin is no more but Blue looks like he's here to stay. Hip hip HOORAY! And Es's donkey site will be online any moment now. It's called: Happy Days Donkey Sanctuary
. We already have 9 rescued donkeys, so Blue will have lots of friends to play with when he's well enough to join them in the meadow. I'll keep you informed of his progress. Ain't life grand? xxx
I have a dear friend in London who every so often sends me fat packages containing copies of my fave magazine 'The Week'. Such a package arrived a few days ago and after ripping it open I leapt into bed and proceeded to devour the contents.
One of them contained an interview with the singer Charlotte Church
conducted by Sophie Heawood for 'The Independent' where she spoke of having to testify at the Leveson Inquiry into the 'phone tapping scandal. She was reluctant to do so, but as she and her family had suffered greatly from press intrusion she felt obligated to make an appearance and state her case. She said the experience opened her eyes and the romantic idea she had about "people, humanity, spirit and art," and had never really paid much attention to politics. So she started paying attention and the rose tinted spectacles through which she had previously viewed life were replaced by a clear sighted view of the world in general and politics in particular. And her reaction to this unvarnished view was 'Oh shit. Oh my god! My god, this is awful!' When you start to see the world as it actually is, you... you see that it is a hard place, and it's all about money. And you think: 'My children. Oh my children.' "
My heart broke for that little girl, ones first confrontation with the harsh reality of life is infinitely painful; seeing the world as it is and not as you would like it to be. To see the horror of mans' inhumanity to man is a terrifying, shattering awakening to the reality of the world in which we live. I felt great empathy for Charlotte, I spent most of my life with rose tinted spectacles clamped firmly in place and needless to say was used, abused and ruthlessly exploited by all and sundry. When I finally wrenched them off and saw the reality of the world I retreated into a temporary insanity. And when I emerged from that state, I ran. As far and as fast as I could from that which I knew would ultimately destroy me. And that is how I found myself in Africa working with animals and surrounded by nature.
Don't misunderstand me. I am fully cognizant of the harshness and ruthlessness of nature, but I find that acceptable. There is awesome beauty in nature, but a complete lack of sentiment. I also fled to one of the most politically unstable continents on earth. But the place I have found for myself in the dark continent is full of light, humanity, compassion and love. I share my life with people who all qualify for sainthood; but they are human saints, who drink like fish, swear like troopers, but treat each other and indeed everyone they meet with total respect. But everyone here has experienced great tragedy and loss, experiences which would have made many of us very bitter and extremely twisted, and they have all emerged from that darkness and despair with wisdom, humour and infinite kindness. I count my lucky stars on a daily basis that I had the great good fortune to be led to these remarkable people. And I am convinced that living in harmony with flora and fauna is unquestionably where it's at! And to live in harmony is to live with respect, and all it requires is for each and everyone of us to treat ourselves and others with respect and we'd be living in the Garden of Eden.
Yes, I know..... and pigs might fly. Ah well, c'est la vie! xxx tbc.
I am! I'm absolutely thrilled with my new site! I lay claim to being the worlds greatest technophobe; even thinking about computers caused me to break out in hives, but Esme has made it so easy that even I can cope! So something I previously dreaded (turning on my laptop) has now become a joy. So far, so very good! My former site was handled by a designer who seemed to disappear off the face of the planet for weeks and sometimes months at a time and I had absolutely no control over when my blog would appear, and knowing that you guys would keep going into my site hoping to see a new blog and finding the same old tired one week after week caused me a lot of anxiety. Because I'm a very responsible person, responsibility is something I avoid like the plague! But I feel a great responsibility to everyone who takes the trouble to find my site and read my blog and I hate to disappoint, so now my site is within my own control I feel giddy with relief!
It's 11.40am and I'm writing this in bed! Snooze is snoozing under the duvet and Tossie is snoring - loudly - on top of it. For a small dog he makes an incredible amount of noise. Because it's winter here he's dressed in a very fetching pink jumper decorated with blue hearts and stars and is definitely camper than Christmas. Despite being winter we have had very hot days of late, around 30 degrees although the nights are very cold; around 5 or 6 degrees. But today there seems to be a cold front on it's way and the temperature has dropped to 19 degrees with the promise of very cold nights to come. I love the African winters, my favourite season: no insects, snakes hibernating and a complete absence of scorpions, baboon spiders and red romans. Es loves red romans but if I never saw one again I wouldn't feel in the least deprived! They're HUGE, move at the speed of light and something I could well do without. Apparently they're related to the ant family but a million times their size. At least.....
It's now 11.15pm, Snooze is still snoozing, Tossie is still snoring, and Paris and Malcolm have taken over both armchairs. We haven't been here all day I hasten to add, but I've been waging a war with flu all week and right now flu is winning, so I decided after I'd written the previous paragraphs to take the kids for their daily constitutional in the bush just in case I expired in the immediate future. It's remarkable just how dodgy flu makes one feel. So I shuffled round the meadow and into the bush wheezing heavily as I did so. Stopped for a rest and a fag when I had a light bulb moment... Perhaps the fags are a factor in why I'm coughing like a 19th c miner in the final throes of emphysema; perhaps the fags are aggravating my own emphysema and my lungs would appreciate it if I stopped for a while. AHA! I'm not just a pretty face folks, I can understand subtle messages from the unconscious.... So having seen the wisdom of abstaining from the weed for the duration of said flu, I have to confess to having smoked for the remainder of the day and loving every puff. There is absolutely no hope for me. I am a lost cause, lacking in character, weak of will, and destined for a sticky end. Knowing me, I'll probably get hit by a truck, but as long as I have a glass of vino in one hand and a fag in the other I shall meet my maker with a smile on my face. I'm determined to expire with one, (smile I mean) so when I hit the 'other side' it will it will doubtless still be in place.
Midnight is minutes away and I long for the sweet embrace of sleep, and look forward to some wicked dreams! Yeah!!! More later, x