Saturday, 24 December 2005

Old News - Newsletter Decmber 2005

Happy Christmas!

I know I have been very quiet lately, but I've been up to my neck in packing and panic ;-). 2 weeks to go and I am a tad terrified, but everything is now as ready as it will ever be...

My Mom arrives tomorrow for almost 2 weeks, and then I fly out to sample another life, love and culture.

Never a dull moment, and I shall keep you posted.

May the coming year make all your dreams come true too

Saturday, 1 October 2005

Old News - Newsletter October 2005

So, it’s been a few weeks since I last wrote, and plenty is going on. I have sold my house, given notice at work and bought my plane ticket to Sydney! Now comes the waiting part – waiting for the house sale to complete and my 3 months notice to pass. 98 days until I fly…

I was extremely lucky in being able to sell my house within a fortnight of deciding to do so (rent simply wouldn’t cover the mortgage and management company fees, and I need the cash anyway). I mentioned that I was about to sell while in the pub with some workmates, and one of them suddenly said “Ooh, I’m looking to buy!”. He’s a first time buyer still living with his folks, wants to keep 99% of the contents, and will let me stay in the house until I go. We settled on a price that pleases both of us, and I don’t have to pay any agents fees – saves me over £2000! Also, I know he is financially secure as we are in the same dept, so I can confidently proceed with the rest of the plan without waiting for the ink to dry.

I will still be in my house over Xmas, so send me a card ;-). My Mom will be coming to me for Xmas and New Years, and I’m looking forward to having her with me for my last days in the house. She’s already talking of coming out to Oz next year for a holiday!

Last Friday I gave notice at work. They are very sweet about it, saying that they are sad to see me go and the door will always be open if I ever come back. My notice period is 3 months, which takes me right up to Xmas eve, and that’s perfect.

I bought my ticket today, and will be flying out on Friday 6th Jan. The visa thing is proving difficult to organise from here, and the plan now is to go in on a tourist visa, land a contract, and then Milord’s IT recruitment company will sponsor my working visa. Apparently they do this all the time, so I’m trying not to worry about it too much!

All that is left is paperwork and saying goodbye. I am organising a farewell gathering in London in December, and making plans to travel to see those of my mates who live very far away. It’s a funny time – I am sad and excited all at once. I have been so very happy here, and pulling up my roots this time has been much harder than it was when I left SA. But I am going to someone who adores me in a sunny first world country, so how can that be a bad thing!?

I haven’t been up to much else, just catching up with friends and taking it easy. I led a (last) walk for my rambling club, had N and N over for the weekend, and visited I, and N for dinner. I haven’t been in the mood for dancing lately, so I hope K talks me into it next week!

I started series 1 of Lost the other day, and I doubt I’ll see much of the weekend until I finish all 22 episodes! The weather is supposed to be yucky anyway, so curling up in front of the fire for a telly-fest is a good plan ;-).

Tuesday, 6 September 2005

Old News - Newsletter September 2005

Well, I’ve been back from Oz for a week now, although it feels much longer! I had a fabulous time, the place is gorgeous, the people are wonderful, and the man is amazing. The feeling appears to be mutual, so much so that I am starting the process of wrapping things up here and will be heading Down Under to be with him early next year! Exciting and scary, but certainly not dull! I am now pimping my home ready to sell, and once that completes I’ll be giving notice at work… so watch this space.

As for my trip itself, Sydney is a stunning city. We walked all over, seeing the bridge and opera house, then went out in a boat for the day and explored quiet bays and posh areas with mansions overlooking the sea. Then Milord flew me up to the Whitsunday islands for 3 nights, which is a tropical paradise of white sand and turquoise sea near the Great Barrier Reef, and we did a little diving, a little walking and a lot of good food, fine wine and great company. I met a fair number of his friends who are lovely, rude, loud and welcoming, and as luck would have it Heidi was in town on business so he had the chance to meet one of my mates too!

I don’t think I have ever been treated so well, and we are disgustingly smitten ;-). He’s even talking about braving the UK winter to visit me in a couple of months time!

My Dad has been staying with me for the past week. He was contracted to bring a ship up from Cape Town to Newcastle, so took the opportunity to have a little holiday here at the same time. My stepmom flew out to join him, and they visited with my stepbrother for a while and then came to me. The joined me on the day I landed back from Sydney, which was great as they kept me up and I was able to get my sleeping patterns right almost immediately, although I’m not sure how much sense I was making at the time! I had a couple of days off to spend with them and we explored the countryside around Berkshire, involving lots of pub lunches outside as the weather was hot and sunny all week.

Saturday, 9 July 2005

Old News - Newsletter July 2005

First of all, I am fine, I was not in London during the bombings. It is very upsetting, but could have been worse I suppose. In fact it is surprising how swiftly people have shrugged it off and gone back to normal – the Brits are very good at enduring hardship!

A very boring email from me this time, as I have only been overseas once! I have to say though - if you are only going to go to one place then Venice should be it ;-). What a gorgeous city. K and I went for a long weekend at the beginning of June, and were lucky with the weather – it was well into the 30s every day, but had been cool up until then so the canals did not smell at all.

Venice is made up of little islands in a lagoon which have been linked up over centuries by manmade “landfill” comprising layers of tree trunks and stone, leaving canals in between. There are no roads for cars, bicycles are illegal, and everything is transported by boat or on foot. It makes for a very intimate and fascinating place, with high buildings looming over tiny alleyways and narrow canals, and little bridges enticing you to explore. Sadly it is falling into disrepair, as sea levels are rising and the city is subsiding, and will probably not be around for that much longer. Plaster is eroding and crumbling as repeated floods take their toll, but every windowsill is a blaze of colour and jewel-like shops of exotic goods abound. It is a curious juxtaposition of wealth and decay.

We stayed in a lovely hotel with an enclosed shady courtyard with fountain, where you could recharge after a day of tourism before heading out again for dinner. We were close to the Grand Canal, but far enough away to be quiet. The weekend is now a blur of boats, gondolas, churches, palaces and piazzas, but we also took plenty of time out to sip wine in canal side cafes and indulged in plenty of ice-cream!

I strongly recommend Venice, although take lots of money – it is the most expensive destination I have been to!

Hmm, what else? I took part in a charity walk (pub crawl) for Starfish again this year (thanks to those who sponsored me). We had more girls taking part this year, a longer distance and fewer pubs. Although we raised around £2000 (R25000), which is excellent, it wasn’t as much fun as last year… I’m not sure I’ll do it again.

The dancing continues. K and I went along to a “dips and drops” workshop a few weeks ago which was excellent. 4 hours of taking my entire bodyweight on one bent leg or the other, or being lowered to the floor by my arms and having to pull back up again! By the end of the day I had stiffened up so badly that I could barely get down a flight of stairs, and it took days to ease up! Hilarious fun though.

We had our dancing 1940s Ball this past weekend, which was brilliant! Everyone made an effort to find costumes and get their hair done, and the venue was done up with flags, camo netting and sandbags. There was a live big band playing period dance music, and a two of the top UK dance couples gave us lessons and a demonstration. It wasn’t just a jive/ceroc do, there were ballroom and lindy-hop dancers there too, which made it a little hard to just ask a stranger to dance as usual, because you had no idea what you’d find yourself doing! K and I hired old-fashioned dresses, and my hairdresser had a ball with my hair. We “scrub up nicely” as one chap put it! Most of the guys were in uniform (sailor, soldier, airforce, navy whites) or formal, and the women were mostly glamorous with a few landgirls and sailorettes thrown in!

And last, but by no means least, my Aussie crush… Milord and I have continued our long distance thing – we email or sms every day and talk on the phone a couple of times a week. At the end of May we finally agreed to meet up in August! We decided on Mozambique as it is halfway and has world class diving, and then as luck would have it a couple of days later his Mom was diagnosed with throat cancer. She is very ill, might not last the year, and Milord is covering her medical bills. He is kind of unable to come halfway around the world to meet me now, so I have now decided to go to Sydney! I will be heading off there for the last week of August. As my cousin J said the other day: “You never do things the easy way, do you?”. Well no, I guess not! Where’s the fun in that?!

Apart from these things, life trundles on. I visit my friends, do the occasional club walk, and enjoy the English summer to the full in my garden with a jug of Pimms whenever the sun deigns to shine. We had a stunning week of weather a little while ago and I was bbq-ing for lunch and dinner for several days straight as it was just too nice outside and too hot indoors! I even camped out one night in a nest of duvets and watched the stars (and I’m sure I had a hedgehog come through the garden at 3am). Made me feel about 10 years old!

Friday, 20 May 2005

Old News - Newsletter May 2005

I don’t feel like I’ve been up to much, but a glance at my calendar tells me otherwise! Maybe it is because my weeks are very quiet although the weekends have been packed with visits to people here and abroad ;-).

Around mid April I was sent on a course in London for the week, and as the company would not put me up in a hotel and it is a 2 hour commute each way, I managed to talk T and J into letting me stay, which was brilliant. I managed to catch up with lots of mates while I was there… a most successful week. Oh yes, and I learned some stuff during the day too ;-).

The weekend after that I went to stay with N and N who have bought a house in Wilstead, near Bedford (North of London), and have been doing an enormous amount of renovation. It’s huge and absolutely gorgeous, even though I had to sleep (partly) under the desk in the study as the guest room is undergoing work ;-).

And the weekend after that I took a day off and shot to Pretoria in SA for a long weekend. My mate M was getting married, and it was also an excuse to visit BestGirl and her family, and to catch up with anyone who could be bothered to read their email and meet up with me ;-) (Shame on the rest of you!). I landed in Jhb Friday morning, and then BestGirl and I went out for a girly day, lunching and shopping and non-stop talking. In the evening I took her family out to dinner to a very kid-friendly restaurant (they even had a bouncy castle!). BestGirl and S have two little girls, J is 3 and K is 9 Months, and they are very sweet. Kids love me, and I had J completely bewitched by the end of my stay!

On the Saturday BestGirl and I went out to dinner with my Granny, then changed at her house and went on to M and HJ’s wedding. That was excellent. M and HJ are both very into food and wine, and had chosen the correct wines to complement each course. M's belly-dancing class did a surprise show, and the groom pulled out a guitar and harmonica and serenaded his wife ;-). I had a bash at teaching a couple of people Jive, and it was a good party.

On the Sunday BestGirl had a bbq for anyone who wanted to pop over to see me, so several friends and family came around and the day flew. Then I was on my way back to the airport and the flight home which always feels twice as long as the flight out!

The past couple of weekends I have been at home, which makes a pleasant change! We’ve had some nice weather and I’ve been doing lots of gardening now that winter is finally over. I had a bbq on Sunday and actually managed to get slightly sunburnt, so summer is on its way!

On the subject of garden and home, the application to build my conservatory has been turned down, which is a great shame and a great relief, as I was going to have to borrow extra to pay for it and wasn’t sure I could manage the repayments and still have a life! Just got to stop myself spending the money I have “saved” now!

I still go Jive dancing most weeks, and last weekend K and I went for 5 hours of extra lessons, which was good fun. We are currently shopping around for costumes for the Jive 40’s Summer Ball that is coming up ;-). This weekend I will buying proper dancing shoes!

Work is going well, busy but not frantic, just the way I like it. I am up to my neck in documentation for a new project at the moment. Oh well.

Bloke-wise, I am still single and loving it. I have however recently somehow struck up a long-distance romance with Milord in Sydney, Australia - we met while diving in the Red Sea. Everyone usually swaps email addresses at the end of a diving week, and this just blossomed ;-). He is exceedingly far away though, so I have no idea where things are going, but it’s kinda fun! I can see the addiction of internet dating now…

K and I are off to Venice for a long weekend next weekend. We are very excited and can’t wait!

Tuesday, 5 April 2005

Old News - Newsletter April 2005

Hmm, it seems that a couple of months have passed since my last update. I have gotten a year older, been overseas, and changed back to single status ;-). Busy busy, not that that is a good excuse for neglecting you!

To begin, I should tell you that I broke up with Zimbo a few weeks ago. He’s a lovely guy, but just not suited to me. I won’t moan about him, but things had become more and more disappointing and frustrating. I was recently away diving in the Red Sea for a week, and did not miss him in the least, and when I got back I wasn’t happy to see him, so I let him go. It was a very civilised break-up, he took it like a man, and there is a chance we will make friends someday. I still don’t miss him, so I am sure my choice was correct. No one else on the horizon yet, but I am having a lot of fun looking ;-).

As mentioned, I went away to Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt with my Mom for a week’s diving at the beginning of March, over my birthday. I love going away somewhere exciting over my birthday – it makes the celebration seem to last for ages. The diving from Sharm is among the best in the world, and I didn’t want to come back!

Mom got qualified while we were there, and ended up with an advanced PADI qualification, which is what I have. While she was doing lessons I took the opportunity to do some really challenging diving. I dived my first wreck – the Thistlegorm – supposed to be the best wreck dive in the world! She is a Second World War supply vessel, and still has on board a full cargo of lorries, motorbikes, aeroplane parts, shells and rifles, and so much more (all a bit rusty and crusty now). You can swim through each of her holds, and also the captain’s quarters. It is a very exciting dive, and demands very good dive skills as most of the places are dark and a bit of a squeeze, and I was very impressed with myself! It was too exciting to be scary!

The next day I found myself swimming through tunnels and sea caves, at one point swimming headfirst straight down for 25m! Wow. I got within 10m of a sea turtle, and I won’t bore you with the vast myriad of fish and coral I saw every single day! The last two diving days I was able to tag along on Mom’s advanced course, joining her for her deep, navigation, naturalist, drift and wreck dives. The Dunraven wreck this time, a much less challenging or interesting wreck although the current was thrillingly strong and it proved to be my fastest drift dive so far! (That’s when you hang motionless in the sea current as it whisks you along – very cool)

Sharm is a very relaxing resort too – I was able to walk around on my own without being particularly hassled. Anyone who’s been to Egypt before knows how bad the locals can be, but I felt very at ease in Sharm. There is a lovely promenade along the seafront that streches for miles, thronging with bars, restaurants and hotels, and we ate in a different place every night. If you have been diving before, you will know just how exhausting it is, and we were asleep early each night, and up before 7am each day to get to the boats. In fact, on my Thistlegorm day I had to meet the bus at 4am!

We decided to spend the last Saturday and Sunday relaxing in the sun instead of grabbing a final day’s dive, and this proved lucky as I ate something very bad on Friday night and had a brief but powerful case of food poisoning. By the afternoon I was able to handle a beer by the pool though, and in the evening we went into the desert to go stargazing with a proper astronomer and a very powerful telescope. He pointed out all the visible constellations, and through the telescope we looked at the Moon, Saturn, Jupiter and some nebulae. It was really excellent. On the Sunday we went looking for souvenirs, and impressed ourselves with our bargaining ;-). We really didn’t want to leave, and both Mom and myself have been a bit down since!

Mom stayed with me for a further week, although I couldn’t take any more time off. We get on extremely well, and I was very sad to see her go. She might be in the same country, but the Isle of Man is just so hard to get to!

The rest of my life is far less interesting ;-).

I still go to Jive dancing once a week, and K and I have moved up into the intermediate class. This is lots of fun, as they teach much more intricate moves, and also a few dips and leans, which still make me laugh helplessly when I find myself in one. We all enjoy flirting outrageously, but no one wants to spoil things by taking them further. Mind you, it is bad enough having 2 exes in my walking club without adding one to my dance class, so that suits me!

Speaking of the walking club, I went on a lovely long 11-mile walk in the Chilterns (rural hilly area) over the Easter weekend. Zimbo (oops, here’s me moaning after all) had a walking limit of 6 miles, which is when I only just begin to hit my stride, so I am loving being able to go on the long walks again! I was surprised not to be sore at the end of the walk, but I suppose all the dancing is keeping me in shape ;-).

And speaking of keeping in shape (this isn’t a letter, it’s a stream of consciousness), I have just rejoined the gym. My company has decided to sponsor everyone’s gym membership, which is brilliant. I not only rejoined, but I signed up for a few personal training sessions! I’ve had one so far, but it was more of a fitness test, which was interesting. She says I am fit and flexible, need to drink more water and have rubbish lungpower. Not sure what the lungpower is for… I guess I need to go running (gasping) more. If fact the evenings are lovely and light now, but I haven’t been able to motivate myself into running shoes lately!

Another thing the company pays for is eye tests, and I went along for one the other day as I sometimes have fuzzy vision at the end of a working day. The doc says my eyes are fine, but a little long-sighted, so I should wear glasses at work to give them a chance while focussing close. It turns out my work also pays for glasses if you only need them for work, so I am going to be a four-eyes shortly! I had a nightmare about it the other night, so I guess it bothers me, but I really don’t like the fuzzy vision at the end of the day so I’ll cope with it!

Apart from throwing perks at us, work is going well. I’ve just been chasing a very tight deadline for the last couple of weeks (lots of fuzzy vision), but it hasn’t been too bad. I start a new project next week, which will be all my own. As much as I like team development, it is nice to have something all to yourself from time to time – at least you know the errors are your own!

And my home is going well too. Spring is well sprung, I have mowed the lawn several times, Mom has weeded my flowerbeds (thanks Mom!), and I have had two barbeques (braais). I have applied for permission to have a conservatory built onto my tiny little house. If it is approved I will double my living space, have a proper dining area, and be up my neck in debt. Enormous fun.

I am not sure how I will fund my holidays without resorting to credit cards, but I shall do my utmost ;-).

Up and coming trips:

I will be popping over to Pretoria for a weekend (yeah, 2 nights) at the end of April for my dear mate M’s wedding (yup, jet set chick, me). Everyone in the area is invited to BestGirl’s house (she is kindly putting me up for my whirlwind stay, she’s a right darling) on Sunday the 1st May to see me ;-). I think between 11 and 4, as I have to catch a plane at 8pm. I’ll be sending a note to the locals in a little while to hopefully prod you into coming over. I know how hard it is to get South Africans to plan ahead, but try guys, ok?

At the end of May K and I are going to Venice for a long weekend. We are very excited!

But anyway, I hopefully will have seen you, or at least spoken to you before then!

So, my life: cool, fun, happy, fantastic! You?

Friday, 4 February 2005

Old News - Newsletter February 2005

(somewhere between October and Christmas Zimbo and I decided to have another go at a relationship - I can't find any old emails about it)

Well, January is finally over, I’ve been paid at last and winter seems to be on the way out! It is still very slightly light when I head home in the evenings now and lots of snowdrops and crocuses are up. Come on spring!

I hope everyone had a great Xmas and New Year.

I had a pleasant and low-key festive season. My Mom came to visit me for the Xmas weekend, and that was brilliant. She landed really early on Xmas eve, travelled most of the way to me by train from Gatwick, and we picked her up at about 10 in Reading. Then home for brunch and lots of chatting, and in the afternoon Zimbo, Mom, myself and my friend K went into London for T’s annual birthday thrash. That was excellent as always, with vast amounts of food and wine, and most congenial company. J’s sister and her husband were also there, and we all got along well and played games between courses and it was suddenly early morning! Everyone stayed over, and at about mid morning hung-over people were heading off all over the country to visit family! Zimbo, Mom and I went home and opened presents with some smoked salmon and wine to take the edge off the day, and then Zimbo went to his sister’s and Mom and I were on our own. We decided we didn’t need to try and rush a roast lunch, as it was already midday, so we chilled out and went for a walk along the canal and through the bird reserve, and had a nice little roast at about 6, followed by an early-ish night.

On Boxing Day we met up with Zimbo and his family at a local pub for lunch. It is about 3 miles from home along the canal, so we had a nice walk there in the freezing clear cold day. Then we came home and got back to vegetating in front of the fire ;-). Mom flew home on the Monday, and I was really blue for a couple of days after she left. I do wish we lived a bit closer together!

I worked between Xmas and New Year, which is always rather awful but I can’t bear to waste my leave! Then New Year’s Eve I forced Zimbo and his family to invite me over for the evening (they are shocking at inviting me round, but just expect me to randomly drop by and interrupt the family routine…), and actually had a very nice time. Zimbo’s sister has a son of 12 and a daughter of 16 and her boyfriend Bill was also there. We played games and the adults drank plenty of wine, and at midnight we all went out into the streets to watch the neighbourhood fireworks. It still really does my head in that just anyone can buy and let off fireworks in their garden!

I haven’t been up to much during January as I have been very broke and very tired. Our dept has been working support shifts from 6am to 9pm for the last couple of months, and it completely kills me! Luckily that seems to have stopped now, and life is getting back to normal.

I try to get out for a walk every weekend, although we usually miss the club walks as Zimbo is not a morning person. It doesn’t bother me, as we each have a psycho ex in the group we are happy to avoid! We did go along to a walking club pub gathering a week or two back, and it was very funny to watch the group dynamics ;-). Once the weather improves we will probably go along to more walks. I am leading one at the end of Feb which begins with a pub lunch – a definite feature of every walk I lead!

I have taken up Jive dancing lessons on Wednesdays with K, which is a lot like old rock-n-roll dancing. It is tremendous fun and a great work out! You get shown 4 moves and how to link them for an hour, then the beginners are moved into small groups for extra attention for an hour, and then there is an hour of freestyle, where everyone dances with everyone. There is a bar and plenty of tables to relax at and people-watch too. Zimbo gave it a try last week, but didn’t like it – too much effort apparently! To be honest it is more fun to be there single, as you get to dance with more people, of all abilities. This past Saturday we went along to a 60’s and 70’s theme jive night; It was fun, but not as much fun as the lessons, as more people were in couples and I didn’t get to dance as much as usual.

I have managed to get back into sketching a little more lately, as Zimbo is quite arty and sometimes brings over a painting or project and we each do our hobbies and listen to music. He is the first arty bloke I have been out with, and I find it rather intimidating! I did the first colour sketch in 7 years the other day, and was pleasantly surprised with the result ;-). It is from a lovely photo of a kingfisher, and the colours are gorgeous. Zimbo is into painting model soldiers at the moment, which is very fiddly and keeps him quiet. It is nice to be able to get on with our interests while being together.

Otherwise I still do loads of reading and jigsaws, and often borrow movies from the guys at work so my evenings are full. The running is kind of erratic lately as I find I don’t like running in the dark, but I try to get out for a few miles on the weekends. I can’t wait for spring and longer evenings! My garden is completely neglected too, but I don’t like gardening in the cold and damp.