Tuesday, 26 October 2004

Old News - Newsletter October 2004

Well, first of all I guess it’s time to tell you all that I am single again. Zimbo and I broke up a few weeks ago, but I’ve kept it mostly quiet in the hope we could work things out. I’m pretty gutted, as I really liked him. It was very mutual, and amicable, and we’ve bumped into each other on a club walk since and been friendly, so that’s good. In a nutshell he has never traveled and has no desire to, and I can’t be with someone like that. And he can’t be with someone who is not ready to settle down. Over the time we were together we each got steadily more frustrated, and it was a relief to both of us to separate and stop holding the other back. I’m hurting, but I’m sure it’s the right thing to do.

Luckily my Mom was scheduled to visit me for the last couple of weeks, and that helped a lot. She and I went to Scotland last week, and had a lovely time walking and sightseeing. We hired a lovely cosy cottage with a log stove, which was a delight to come home to tired and wet! We were fairly lucky with the weather, and managed two long walks (10 miles and 15 miles). On the damp days we went to Edinburgh, Stirling, the west coast and Glen Coe. Scotland is gorgeous, and I’m already looking forward to going again!

Not much else to tell you, as I’m still a bit blue and not really chatty yet.

Saturday, 14 August 2004

Old News - Newsletter August 2004

Well, I’m still going out with Zimbo – two months now and still no hyena moments. (For those who don’t know the term, that’s when you wake up next to someone who is lying on your arm, and you realise you’d rather chew your arm off and escape without waking them, than speak to them again) It’s been years since I’ve had a bloke I like this much, so I hope things carry on being good ;-).

It’s been a busy time. I helped Zimbo move at the beginning of July, which was really pants. For some reason it was just the two of us packing boxes and carrying furniture, nothing was prepared, and he only got going late morning Sunday and had to be done by 7pm. We managed, but I was pretty fed up by the end of the day! We survived though! His sister moved in later that night, and got the job of unpacking as I went home to be alone and chill out! The following weekend he and his sister went to Bristol to visit her fella and to go to an air show – I decided not to go as I wasn’t in the mood! Instead I had a completely selfish and restful weekend catching up on reading and gardening.

Around mid July Zimbo and I visited Warwick Castle, which was great fun. They had jousting, with men on horses with lances knocking targets, picking up rings, and actually breaking lances on each other. It was well choreographed, with heroes and villains for the crowd to cheer and boo. Kids got picked out of the crowd to be Lord and Lady, and it was very well done. There was also sword fighting, with kids getting made into knights, and the honour of ladies being defended, and an excellent archery display with longbows. A superb day out. On the way home we stopped at J and D’s in Milton Keynes for dinner. Luckily we both had the next day off, so slept in and then walked 4 miles along the canal to the pub, stayed there in the beer garden for lunch and dinner, and walked home in the twilight.

The weekend after that was busy too. We had a walking club meal out in Windsor on Friday, then seeing as we were already half way to London kept going and got to T and J's at midnight, and chatted for a while over a bottle of wine. Then a lazy start on Sat, headed into London at about 11. We watched a fascinating free drumming show at the Royal Festival hall (v arty but interesting), then had a pimms on the Queen Mary on the river, then ambled into Covent Garden and watched the entertainers for a while. Then into Soho for sushi, and then off to Kenwood House for the Music to Watch Girls By concert. Picnic, wine, music, singing and fireworks - brilliant. Got back to T and J's about 11:30, and started on the whiskey... Sunday was a very slow start, and we pootled home early afternoon and vegged.

The last weekend in July I had a few friends over for a BBQ on Friday, as it was lovely weather. That finished at 2am, and the next day I travelled to Hertford to a house party. T and J were looking after J’s folk’s house, which is huge! 3 stories, half a dozen bedrooms, a couple of bathrooms, formal and informal lounges, and a huge outdoor heated pool. I got there about 2pm on Sat, just as the BBQ was getting going, and ate and drank and swam the day away. Old friends were leaving and arriving all day, and the weather was great. Zimbo got to us in time for a late swim, cheese, biscuits, strawberries and ice cream, then whiskey etc. On Sunday we went for a pub lunch with R and S who live in Hertford, then went back to the house party for another meal and another swim, and got home around 9. That made 4 days in a row of barbequed meat... I’ve put on a bit of weight and have been trying to get back into my diet!

Last weekend we joined friends at the Battle Proms at Highclere Castle on Saturday. That’s an open-air classical concert with cavalry, cannons and fireworks! It was great fun. Sunday was a completely lazy day – we lay in the garden and ate the picnic leftovers in the sun.

So the weekends have been hectic. During the week I’ve been seeing quite a bit of Zimbo too, and have finally gotten used to sharing my space and my bed again. Took a bit of getting used to after most of two years alone! My sleeping pattern and routine and even my working hours are all over the place!

Work is going well. I’ve finished the fun new stuff and am back on maintenance and plug-ins, but it’s still fine. We got our annual bonus the other day, and it was a good one. I have finally paid off my overdraft, and should have enough over to cover upcoming holidays for the rest of the year. I’ve been living a bit beyond my means for the last while, and have to get a grip!

Saturday today, and R and S are on their way to visit and see my little house before they head back to SA for good (wah, another mate gone!). Tomorrow is supposed to be nice and there's a local walk, so we'll probably do that.

Thursday, 1 July 2004

Old News - Newsletter July 2004

I’ve had a very busy month. I’ve been away every weekend, and I’ve hooked a new man, so free time is at a premium! You can wade through the rest of this email to get the man details (no cheating now!).

On the first weekend of June I travelled into London and visited J and T. It was a very pleasant day, and we sat in the garden and dented a few bottles of wine before T cooked us an awesome 3-course meal. I love visiting them! After a lazy start the next day we wandered off for dim sum, then watched a movie and I meandered home.

The weekend after that K and I went to the Isle of Wight. It was a glorious hot weekend, and we had a very pleasant couple of days exploring the island. I can strongly recommend it as a destination! There are cliffs, white beaches, lovely pubs and grand houses. We took our bikes too, and I can finally say that I have used my bicycle after a year and a half. So successfully in fact, that the following week I cycled to work along the canal path! It takes an hour and a path at a non-sweaty pace, and it is a lovely ride at that time of the morning. I may do so again sometime soon ;-).

During the next week was a walking club ice-skating social, which was pretty funny as I haven’t been on skates since I was 16, and was pretty bad then! I only fell once, but it was spectacular! Face first, with grazed palms and hurt knees… not very classy. The upside of the night was definitely meeting up with a bloke I hadn’t seen in ages, and who I’d had a crush on for a long while - Zimbo. I’d met him last summer when I was going out with The Dour Scot. By the time I got free he was going out with another club member (very incestuous bunch), so I gave up on the idea. So… it turns out that he’s now single, and I spent the rest of the evening flirting outrageously.

On the Friday a few walking club mates were meeting up for a quick drink after work, and Zimbo just happened to come along after hearing I was going. So several hours and several drinks later four of us went out for Chinese, and then Zimbo took me home, and came in for coffee, and kissed me goodnight… and the rest is history ;-).

Details: He’s Zimbabwean (yeah, I come all this way and end up with an African), a graphic designer, and has been here for 5 years and just qualified for citizenship. He’s 36, a little taller than me, slender, and has dark hair and eyes. I’m completely smitten, and I’ll try not to gush too much as I’m tired of being teased when I prove myself wrong! It’s been 3 weeks anyway, and I still find him fascinating – a very good sign!

The next weekend was J and K’s 30th bash, near Sheffield. I drove up on Saturday feeling a little jaded after a rather late night, and after 3 and half hours drive hit the hair of the dog at 2pm. At 3am we all finally crashed off to bed (I vaguely remember trying to play chess for the first time in many years), and I woke up feeling awful the next day, just in time to drive all the way home again. Zimbo came around to visit me that afternoon, although I wasn’t very good company. I seem to remember snoozing on a picnic blanket in the shade while he tried to make conversation! Can’t have been that bad though, as he came back for more hee hee.

The next weekend I went to visit N and N in Hatfield. They’ve taken a leaf out my book and are trying to be in a new home each time I see them! They’ve just bought a little house in a cute village that I hope to see sometime soon. It was a gloriously laid back weekend, as we were all a bit tired (It was my company summer do the night before). Zimbo came along too on Saturday night after his cricket match, and got on well with them. We all had a late night on Saturday, then a very lazy start on Sunday. Then it was raining, so after a leisurely brunch we watched a couple of movies before heading home.

Then last weekend K and I went to Seville, in Spain, for four days. It was really lovely, although exceedingly hot. I have never experienced temperatures that high – up to 44deg – and it got pretty uncomfortable at times. Nothing a beer or two in an air-conditioned tapas bar couldn’t put right though! Friday afternoon we went exploring, toured a couple of tapas bars, and somehow ended up in a funky bar with live music sometime after midnight. We chatted to a Japanese tourist, a couple of blokes from Mexico, and a local called Jose who’d lived in London! I can’t remember what time we got back to the hotel, but the last jug of sangria was a mistake! The next day we left the hotel at 12, and did a very hung over tour of the sights. We caught a flamenco show that night, then found a fantastic restaurant that finally kicked us out after midnight and a couple of bottles of wine. The next day we gingerly made our way to Cordoba, and did the sights there. It was hotter than ever, and we found a tiny air-conditioned bar for lunch decorated like a cave with stalactites on the ceiling and The Simpsons in Spanish on a TV in the corner! Then back for a late siesta and out for dinner in a glorious old mansion with the best crème brulee on the planet. An early night (12pm) and out the next morning for a last sightsee before heading home. It was so hot we were almost literally melting. Never have ice lollies tasted so good! Then home to the sweet, cool, overcast of England. I have never been so hot, and I have never taken so many cold showers!

I’m now struggling through my 4-day week. Tonight my aunt and uncle are coming for a visit. And this coming weekend I have somehow ended up volunteering to help Zimbo move house. Drat.

The house and garden are neglected, as I’ve not been home much. I dashed out last night after work and mowed the lawn, but the weeds are winning in the flowerbeds. Oh well.

Work is fine. I’m learning a new language and technique, so the days fly by as I try to come to grips with it.

Friday, 28 May 2004

Old News - Newsletter May 2004

I’ve had an extremely quiet couple of months since I got home from NZ. My credit card was well into the red, and I was determined to get it paid off by the end of May. Actually I was so good at the lying low that I managed to pay it all off by the end of April – but then suddenly noticed my SA bank accounts were almost dry so I had to send £500 there in a hurry! I have a various payments going out each month including a retirement annuity, which cancels itself if the debits bounce! So then I was in the red once more and reduced to minimal socialising again.

Next month I have to fix the ding (self inflicted while parking) in my car and give it a service and MOT (annual roadworthy – yes, annual!), but hopefully I shall weather that expense without going into debt again. I can’t complain too much about being skint as the taxman gave me a nice £500 windfall the other day, and I spent it all on my house and myself! So much fun!

I bought thermal blackout blinds for the lounge and bedroom, as they get sun all afternoon and evening until 10pm these days so I’ll be roasting by late summer. And a set of spotlights for the bathroom, which is now complete. And a hosepipe reel, and various other bits and pieces. Then I went to the garden centre and got loads of bedding plants, and a bush my Mom thinks might be a teabush, and a jasmine, a climbing rose and a blue clematis that I am going to train over the fence between myself and the neighbours.

So I’ve been drilling holes in walls, and sawing curtain poles, and teetering up on stepladders wrestling with blinds and light fittings, and digging holes in the incredibly stony ground of my garden, and playing with manure and compost. Hard work but very satisfying!

And the rest of the cash I spent on DVDs, books and jigsaws. It feels like Christmas ;-).

When not gardening I’ve been on a couple of club walks, and actually led one! It was at the beginning of April and I did a short walk through gorgeous carpets of bluebells in the local woods, and we ended in time for a leisurely pub lunch. My kind of walk ;-). I may put my name down for some more half-day walks, as they suit me well. I’ve also been along to a couple of club socials – a Thai dinner, pub night and musical. This Friday a group of us are going to a play, so I’m getting a dose of culture at last!

Apart from that I haven’t been up to much except visiting with K and N – a couple of girls who live in my town. K I know from work and she lives 5 min walk away. N I know from the walking club, and she’s 15 min walk away. Nice to able to have a couple of glasses of wine at dinner and walk home ;-). I’ve also had a cousin reunion at J and D’s where I met up with K and M. It was a good laugh and work was a bit hard the next day!

To make up for being so hermit-like lately I am away every weekend from now until the end of June! This coming weekend I am going into London to visit J and T. The next weekend I’m going to the Isle of Wight with K. There is meant to be good walking and cycling, so I may get to use my bike for the first time since buying it over a year ago! We have booked a tiny self-catering apartment above a pub with a balcony over the sea. Then the next weekend I’m off to Rotherham for J and K’s joint 30th. The next weekend I’m visiting N and N in Hatfield. And the next weekend K and I are taking a long weekend and going to Seville in Spain.

Hmmm. I’ll be lucky if I don’t go into the red again in June! July may be a quiet one again!

My Mom is still dealing with B’s death, although she sounds better all the time. She’s got a good circle of friends and keeps herself busy. And her work is currently totally frantic and stressful, so I don’t think she has a moment to dwell on things during the day! Unfortunately it isn’t really possible to visit her, as she’s half a day’s travel away even if I fly, but we talk on the phone a lot.

My work is far from stressful at the moment. We are doing a big upgrade release in a week’s time, but actually seem to be ready for it. This time last year we were working 10 hour days and straight through weekends – it’s very nice to have a decent deadline for a change! And we’re actually recruiting new staff (know of any Delphi developers?) in a time when other companies are still downsizing, which is very reassuring!

No blokes in my life, although I admit that I haven’t been looking much. K and I are talking about giving speed-dating a try soon, as we don’t seem to be meeting any interesting men! We went clubbing locally a few weeks ago, and there is very little talent around.

Monday, 29 March 2004

Old News - Newsletter March 2004

First of all, in case this letter is too long and you don’t finish it, I have some bad news: my Mom’s fiancé, B, died suddenly of a heart attack just over a week ago. Anyone who met him will know what a great bloke he was, and how happy he and my Mom made each other. I’m very sad that he is gone, and my Mom is completely devastated. My aunt is with her at the moment, and she has friends on the Isle of Man who are being supportive and I will be going to her over Easter. She chose not to tell me while I was on holiday as I would have been upset and worried, so I found out yesterday. He was a super step dad, and I will miss him very much.

Now for the long letter:

I am home from New Zealand, after a fabulous three weeks away. T and I travelled all over New Zealand and did pretty much everything we wanted to do. We were lucky with the weather and only got rained on for a couple of days, and on the whole it was milder than I expected. We were also lucky in that we got along together for the whole time, with just a couple of snarly days in the first week as we got used to each other’s ways.

I am very broke, as we lived extremely well on our travels. We stayed in very nice hotels and ate in good restaurants, and it was one of the most luxurious holidays I have ever had! The credit card is smoking and I will be paying it off for a while, but it was worth every penny!

We landed in Auckland on Sunday the 7th March, and were picked up by H and L, who took us on a whirlwind tour of Auckland. It’s all a bit fuzzy due to jetlag, but it was lovely and sunny and hot. They live in an area of Auckland called Kohimarama, which is on the coast and we went for a long walk along the promenade and had a lunch of mussels overlooking the bay. In the afternoon we went up Auckland’s Skytower, and then spent the rest of the afternoon and evening picnicking in L’s garden with lots of wine to combat the jetlag, which worked remarkably well for us but the girls were not too well the next day!

Monday 8th we all went to Waiheke island just off Auckland for the day. It’s very pretty, with wine estates and white beaches. We had lunch at a wine estate, and then lay on the beach and swam in the sea for the afternoon.

Tuesday 9th H took us up the coast North of Auckland, calling in at many pretty beaches. We went to a cheese farm called Puhoi for lunch, and then took a two hour walk along the very long and empty Omaha beach.

Wednesday 10th (my birthday) T and I picked up our hire car and headed North for the Bay of Islands. We got there just after midday and found a lovely b&b apartment right on the shore with a balcony overlooking the bay. We went parasailing that afternoon (great fun), and spent the evening watching a glorious sunset from the balcony with wine and nibbles.

Thursday 11th we headed off first thing to look for dolphins. We cruised all around the islands and out to sea, and finally came across a large pod of Common dolphins. They were riding our bow wave, and groups of 6 of us at a time could lie down on the bow within arms reach of the water and see the dolphins right there! It was amazing! In the afternoon we took a fast jet-boat boat ride out to the Hole in the Rock – a huge rock archway that boats go through. Really spectacular.

Friday 12th we headed back to Auckland via the West coast, which is famous for its Kauri forests. The Kauri is a tree that grows amazingly wide and tall, and we took a walk through jungley forest to see one with a trunk 5m wide. There is also an excellent museum of Kauri industry.

Saturday 13th L came with us to the Waitomo caves, where we went black-water rafting. This involves scrambling into a cave system with a river running through it, and stumbling along knee deep, or bobbing on an inner tube, in the dark. We were given wetsuits and helmets etc, but it was still very cold! Throughout the caves there are glow-worms and when the helmet lamps are turned off it is like a constellation of tiny green stars above you. It was brilliant! In the afternoon we went to Rotorua and spent the evening in the hot springs – a whole day spent in water!

Sunday 14th we toured the Rotorua geo-thermal area. This is a vast area of hot pools, geysers and weird mineral deposits and smells. After this we went zorbing. A zorb is a huge bouncy plastic ball that you get strapped into and then roll down a hill. Think hamster-ball and you have the idea! Kind of nuts but a laugh. In the afternoon L really wanted to go to a sheep show, which was very well done and I know more about sheep than I should ever need! Then L headed home and T and I continued to Lake Taupo.

Monday 15th we slept late and then headed to Palmerston North and stayed with A and L. L treated us to a fab 3 course home-cooked meal, and A stayed up drinking with us until the early hours.

Tuesday 16th we caught the ferry from Wellington to Picton on the South Island, and met up with S and L in Blenheim. This is the heart of the wine region, and is very picturesque with vineyards and mountains.

Wednesday 17th S and L joined us on a gourmet wine tour. This involved in-depth wine estate visits, with explanations of wine and champagne making, and a fascinating wine-tasting introduction. We also had a superb meal at a wine estate included. It was a lovely day!

Thursday 18th we joined S and L for a boat trip through the Marlborough Sounds and lunch in Havelock – the mussel capital, and then parted from them and headed to the Abel Tasman national park. This is famous for hiking and kayaking.

Friday 19th we spent the day kayaking in the Abel Tasman, past cliffs and pristine beaches on clear calm sea. It was glorious, and I would love to go back and spend a week doing it!

Sat 20th we headed down the West coast to the glaciers, hoping to do a heli-hike. This would have involved taking a helicopter ride onto the glacier, and then a hike into ice caves. Unfortunately it was raining buckets, and didn’t stop, so we had to give up on that idea.

Sun 21st we drove on in the rain down the west coast. We caught a couple of glimpses of the coast, which is spectacular with rugged cliffs and wild black-sand beaches. We stopped at a salmon farm for lunch – yum! Then inland over the mountain range, and miraculously left all the rain behind. It was a stunning drive through mountains and along lakes to Lake Wanaka where we spent the night.

Mon 22nd we headed to Queenstown, with a stop at the Puzzle House, which has lots of optical illusions and a 3-d maze. In one of the rooms everything is tilted, and you stagger around like a drunkard! We got to Queenstown at midday, and met up with J, S and their daughter L who is one year old. We stayed with them for the next few days, and it was really good to stay in one place for a while and have some home cooking!

Tue 23rd we slept late for the first time in ages, and then did a tour of the local wine estates with J and L. It was a lovely relaxing laid-back day after all the travelling we had been doing.

Wed 24th I took a daytrip to Doubtful Sound. This is a fjord in the South West of the South Island, and is awe-inspiring. Most people go to Milford Sound, but Doubtful Sound is being kept as a non-commercial wilderness, and is completely untouched. We were the only boat in the fjord, and there were no shops or anything like that. It is extremely dramatic with cliffs plunging into the sea, and tall islands looming up from the dark water. The weather was a bit wet, but it only added to the atmosphere with mist and thundering waterfalls. T didn’t fancy the trip, and instead slept late, spent time in a flotation tank, had a massage, and browsed around town. I got back just in time to join them all for dinner, and then us girls went on a pub-crawl. At 2am I was shattered, having caught the bus at 7am that morning, so I turned in. T and J got home after 4am - much the worse for wear!

Thursday 25th T and I went jet boating on the Shotover River. This is very exciting, as the boats have a draught of about 30cm and can spin 360 deg in amazingly shallow water. They have very good manoeuvrability, and can speed at a canyon wall turning away at the last moment! It was pretty thrilling. Then T went back to bed, and I went out for a walk. I ended up climbing the mountain behind Queenstown, up to the gondola station. At the top is quite a large complex, with restaurants, shops, luge, paragliding and bungee. I sent the girls a text to say where I was and had lunch. Then since I hadn’t heard from them I went tandem paragliding, which was quite a rush! I caught the gondola back up the mountain and watched a short film on New Zealand, bought some souvenirs, and did a bungee jump. Yes, me! I still can’t believe I did it, and I have never been so scared, and it took me 5 minutes to jump off, and I will never do it again! I was still shaking several hours later when I got back to J’s to find the girls only just recovered from their hangovers. They listened to me babble on about it while I glugged back a couple of bottles of wine and then I suddenly went to bed at 10! Wow. Nothing compares!

Friday 26th we flew back to Auckland where L picked us up and we wandered about central Auckland for a bit shopping and snacking, then we bought some seafood from the most amazing fresh fish market and had a quiet night in.

And on Sat 27th we flew home, and I finally stumbled through my front door at 8:30am on Sunday after 25+ hours travelling. I somehow managed to stay awake until 7pm, and had the most delightful nights sleep for weeks. It is so good to be back in my own bed! I’m still a bit jetlagged, but nearly back to normal.

New Zealand is beautiful, and the people are lovely. I would love to go back and do some of the amazing hiking and kayaking, as I have barely skimmed the surface of what is there. It’s definitely an option as a place to live – watch this space!

I’ve tried to keep the letter from being too long, but there was just too much to tell! If you’ve read this far, well done ;-).

Saturday, 7 February 2004

Old News - Newsletter February 2004

Well, here we are Feb already. This year is starting to speed up, and it is now only 4 weeks until my New Zealand holiday in March. I can't wait! I haven't had a holiday since October, and I'm feeling a little tired. T and I will be spending 3 weeks traveling across the North and South islands, visiting old friends along the way. We've roughed out an itinerary, but plan to keep things flexible in case we decide to stay on somewhere or skip a place.

The NZ trip is going to swallow most of my leave this year, but I should have enough over to squeeze in a couple of short hols this year too. If anyone fancies inviting me along to play gooseberry on their holidays, that'd be fine! I don't mind paying single supplements... bear me in mind for skiing trips next winter too ;-). I'm definitely hoping to go diving this year anyway, as it has been way too long since I last went.

We have a major release of our product happening on Monday, so things are slightly stressed at work. Not too bad though, and we haven't had to work weekends this time. We have a new Dev manager who seems to have his head screwed on right, and deadlines are much better than last year. I'm still happy here anyway, and got a little pay increase last month... just enough to cover the bank lending rate increase - drat!

Speaking of debts, my house is pretty much at a state where I can leave the decorating for now. There are some bits to finish painting, and I need new curtains, but it's really finished for this year. Next year I may replace the kitchen, but we shall see. I am now turning my attention to the gardens, and have a chap coming this month to take out the cypress trees in the back garden before any birds nest in them. The trees are too big for the little back garden, and block all the light, so have to go. This year I will probably just knock the lawns into shape, as I can't afford the landscaping I want (can you "landscape" something the size of most South African's driveways? I wonder.)

Spring is coming - the days are getting longer at last. The weather is doing its usual mad late-winter thing, with snow last week and up to 16deg this week! Never a dull moment. I have had a load of purple crocuses come up in my window boxes, and they are lovely! There are about 4 other layers of bulbs in there, which should come up at monthly intervals ;-).

I haven't been doing much walking with my rambling group, although I have decided to start attending again in spite of my ex. I average one walk a month I suppose, although I've been out walking on my own a few times too. I have been having fun exploring the area, and have discovered some really good walks starting from my house (and ending at a pub of course).

This coming weekend I may go for a walk on Saturday (depending on how big Friday night gets - the dept is going out together), and on Sunday my friend Kat and I plan to go for a "snowdrop walk" at one of the local estates who open their grounds in Feb to the public. It's supposed to be a clear cold weekend, and it will be nice to be outside.

Next weekend I have R and her family coming for Sunday lunch and to show off my house. The weekend after that I'm visiting T and J in London, and the weekend after that I'm visiting R and S in Hertford. Then off to NZ! whoohoo.