Tag Archives: holidays


Uganda Collared Sunbird (Hedydipna collaris)

Uganda Collared Sunbird (Hedydipna collaris) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

B A K ?  Back at Keyboard, of course. Do try  to keep up.

If I sound a little waspish it’s because my return to home, cat and keyboard has not been a restful transition. After a delightful fortnight in Kwa-Zulu Natal, surrounded by family and friends, enjoying lunches, a prawn braai, a visit to a game reserve, an evening at the theatre, splashing in the swimming pool  – in short, that rare event, a relaxing holiday, my return was angst ridden in the extreme.

My brand new laptop got mixed up with another laptop in the overhead compartment of the plane, and I landed up with a battered old IBM in an identical carrying case. There was no identification in the case and the laptop was password-locked. 48 fraught hours later the dilemma was solved, laptops were exchanged, and I will never ever travel with un-labelled luggage again.

Meanwhile, back at the home front, on return from the cattery, Chocolat was being sociable and affectionate, and sharing quantities of little red ticks she’d picked up on her outdoor excursions. Three tick bites later (have you any idea how itchy tick bites can be?) much brushing and combing of cats, purchase of one tick & flea collar which did no good at all, purchase of more Frontline which is anti-tick monthly muti, the ticks seem to have abated. Now I’m waiting to see if I come down with tick-bite fever. I sincerely hope not. It’s unpleasant. Other family members have been bitten during trips to the bush, and laid very low thereafter.

In between these excitements, Chocolat caught a large dove, which she carted inside and proceeded to harass. Luckily I arrived while the bird was still alive, and confiscated it. Miraculously it flew when I released it into the garden, but then I spent a long time picking up dozens – maybe even hundreds – of tiny feathers inside the house. Ho hum.  And two days later Madam marched in and laid her latest trophy at my feet: one small scarlet-collared sunbird, claws pathetically still locked around the branch where it had perched. No problem to Chocolat, who brought the whole lot indoors, bird, branch, the whole jolly lot. At the moment I’m off my cat, in a big way.

My latest read has followed this trend: the Swedish bestseller Silenced  by  Kristina Ohlsson – the grim tale of a family murder. Suffice it to say the reader realises by the end of the book that it is very unwise to upset one’s siblings, lest they take revenge. Be especially nice to your siblings, lest they be harbouring old grudges, and are plotting, right now, how best to achieve your downfall – if not total extinction. You have been warned.

Yup: I’m B.A.K. But not with a happy smile on my dial.


Filed under CHOCOLAT: MY CAT, HUMOUR, Uncategorized


Christmas postcard date unknown, circa 1900.

Christmas postcard date unknown, circa 1900. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Two weeks ago I did my volunteer bit, and manned (why don’t we say womanned??) the Charity Kiosk in a big Cape Town  Shopping  Mall selling Christmas cards.  Its  a dying tradition –  the customers were 95%  the elderly, and they all said “just one pack this year, dear; we can’t send cards like we used to,  the  cost of overseas postage makes it very expensive”.  I know what they mean! In  years past we all had lavish, loopy string of cards that constantly dropped the cards on the carpet.  Every flat surface in the lounge would be decorated with cards that constantly fell over … it was all part of the Christmas season.  Now I stick mine up on the inside of the front door, and enjoy the bright colours and Northern Hemisphere snow/robins/holly …. okay, I’m  wallowing in sentimental nostalgia. Live with it.  This year’s crop is very modest, but I treasure my overseas friends and relatives who make the effort and send cards.

And what about the Annual Family Christmas Bulletin , usually crammed on to 1 x A4 sheet, printed both sides in teeny font and single spacing.  There’s a detailed account of hordes of people that you don’t know – whothe hell are Robert? Jemima? Koosie?  –  outlining in careful detail EVERYTHING these strangers have done during the year.  Oh boy. This is where blogs come into their own. And even Facebook , for that matter. At least on FB the space limitations curb the relentless detail. Plus you get pix, which are generally more interesting that the news report.

The Woman who went to Bed for a Year  by Sue Townsend – contains a breathless account of a British housewife’s marathon Christmas preparations. For me this section was the only enjoyable part of a grim tale; most of the fictional family should have been shot at birth.  But reverting to the annual frenzy of shopping, cooking:  Why do we do this to ourselves?   I have many memories of gigantic Christmas lunches, eaten on sweltering hot afternoons, leaving us comatose like pythons for days afterwards.

I recall one year  when sanity prevailed – well, sort of – when my Durban family served a hot, traditional cooked dinner on Christmas Eve and served a banquet of cold meat and salads and trifle etc etc  on The Day.  A much better approach, don’t you think?

And this leads me to one of my pet hates: paper hats out of Christmas Crackers.  I hate them with a passion.  My hat never fits.  Because December 25th is always boilingly hot, I’m  hot and sweaty even in repose, so sitting at the festive table, I’m as hot as the roast turkey, I’m steaming like the veg, and my jolly red paper crown sticks to my perspiring forehead and leaves a red tide mark on my face, to match my scarlet cheeks – I’m a female version of rubicund Santa Claus. Groan.

Despite my cranky curmudgeonly griping, I do enjoy Christmas. Theoretically its the Season of Goodwill, and I say “aye’ to that notion. Let’s spread more of it, with gay abandon – let’s all be happy, and generous. Just for one day of the year – can we all try, please?




Why do we have such inflated expectations about our holidays? Why – most of the time – do our holidays not live up to our fantasies, our dreams, our hopes?

May I suggest it’s because we believe the advertising?  Who has not been hypnotised by the glossy brochures?  The Sunday supplements with the colour pics of palm trees, white beaches?  The TV ads that show bronzed bodies  frolicking in the waves?  The docile elephants conveying immaculately kitted visitors through Tiger Parks in Asia?  It all looks just too good to be true.  And it generally is.

Once you’ve factored in the breathtakingly short holiday breaks we take nowadays – 5 days in Phuket! –  4 days Tango in Buenos Aires! – 3 days ski-ing in Austria ! – added in the  maelstrom of mega-airports, topped off the cocktail with a generous splash of jet-lag : voila! You have one totally frazzled holiday maker staggering out of the airport into the confusions of a different currency, an unintelligible foreign language, traffic that drives on the wrong side of the road, cranky aircon in hotel rooms and  funny food on the menu.  Happy holidays, folks!  And this is supposed to be enjoyable ?

My childhood featured holidays of at least four weeks.  The theory went that it took you three weeks to unwind, and then, and only then, could you start to actually enjoy your holiday.  Gentle walking, a few rounds of golf, a bit of swimming, plenty of good food three times a day, pre-lunch drinkies, sundowners, and not too much early rising in the mornings.  In other words, you relaxed.  Whereas today’s holidays are more like an SAS Assault Training Course and you will need two weeks to get over the experience when (and if) you ever get home again.

And let me crossly add that you do not need to travel to Foreign Parts in order to have a disappointing holiday.  My visit to the  2011 Franschoek Literary Festival was supposed to be a luxury weekend getaway but was sabotaged by heavy fog for two out of three days (no beautiful scenery visible); workmen laying paving using a shatteringly penetrating angle grinder; astronomical prices; and wildly incorrect instructions to my hired apartment.  At one point, marooned in the back streets, lost in the foggy dusk, I seriously contemplated having to sleep in my car ……

But these are trifling complaints, compared to those hurled by disgruntled clients  at the venerable travel agents, Thomas Cook, and currently circulating on the Internet.  For example:

“On my holiday to Goa in India , I was disgusted to find that almost every restaurant served curry. I don’t like spicy food at all.”

“I was bitten by a mosquito – no-one said they could bite.”

“We found the sand was not like the sand in the brochure. Your brochure shows the sand as yellow but it was white.” (See ? my remarks about brochures are quite correct).

“No-one told us there would be fish in the sea. The children were startled.”

But all this discomfort pales besides those related in American P J O’Rourke’s  Holidays in Hell .  Mind you, he does choose to visit El Salvador, Lebanon, Warsaw & Seoul which may have had something to do with his unhappy experiences. O’Rourke is an American journalist/political commentator with a robust attitude to absolutely everything. Unless its Republican of course, then there might be some glimmers of hope.

Finally, the prize for miserable travel experiences has to go to one of my favourite travel writers, Jan Morris, sending a pastiche of her horrendous experiences to Keath Fraser, editor of Worst Journeys, the Picador  Book of Travel. Listen to this:

“….. to have been robbed of my passport and plane ticket, my luggage having already been lost in flight, while suffering from extreme diarrhea during a high summer heat wave and severe water shortage, at a moment when the local electricity supply and telephone service have been cut off because of political disturbances, with nothing to read but a Robert Ludlum thriller, expecting a visit from the security police in a hotel room without a washbasin overlooking a railway freight yard on a national holiday in the Egyptian town of Zagazig.”

Be glad, be very glad, you stayed at home.


Filed under TRAVEL