I’m ba-a-a-ack….for now, anyway.

Here I am blogging from my daughter and son-in-law’s home in Perth!  I’ve been here three weeks now, and am gradually, with their help, getting through all the bureaucracy involved in moving to a different country. After the problems of life in South Africa I am naturally finding everything here a breeze!

Unbelievably, Government Departments actually answer their phones! They manage to sound like they were just waiting for your call. And they always sound confident that they can help you with whatever your particular query may be. I’m still pinching myself! To have a usable public transport system has also been a game changer (and I don’t know about anywhere else but in our neighbourhood the bus drivers are jolly, friendly, up for a chat, and willingly helpful when a passenger needs route advice). The friendly, efficient, and confident attitude of shop-assistants makes shopping an always enjoyable experience. People passing each other in the street say “Hi, howya going?” not really expecting more than a “Hi” and a smile back.  I’m sure I shall come across some duds and have some bad experiences, but so far I’m in First World heaven!

In three weeks I have managed to procure a new birth certificate and ‘change of name’ from Canberra. I mistakenly packed my original birth and marriage certificate in with the movers much to my daughter’s frustration – much eye-rolling happened. An official in Canberra said it would take seven days. Seven days later they called us, it’s all done and in the post and would be in our street post box in two days. It was.

I got my driver’s license transferred to a Western Australian one and issued with a temp license in an hour one morning, and within the ten promised days my permanent driver’s license card was in the mailbox.

Just about everything can be done successfully online. I have a new mobile phone sim and Australian number operational, and have been successfully registered for Medi-Care. I have a Senior’s Card on the way, which will afford me free transportation on all the public transport options, along with other perks.

My daughter and son-in-law have stolidly been shouldering all the stress and burden. Daughter-unit has spent much time slaving over a hot lap-top in order to achieve all the above, and they will both have to repeat the process when Piper-Payer arrives in December.

The tenant has vacated our unit and we have the keys. Now we await the arrival of our furniture. This may be a rather large hiccup in the process. It is apparently all still sitting in Cape Town awaiting a ship.

I would say I am still in the Honeymoon phase. Hoping I don’t come back to earth with too big a bump. I expect it must come at some point….this is too good to be real, right? But, I am here! And that is everything!

Will add a pic or two, and post this. I had an amazing flight attendant on one of my flights over and I want to blog about that experience.  I shall do that next.

PS:  I must tell you all I have been enjoying reading all your blogs even though I have not been all that active.

PPS: Piper Payer and Chloe are doing fine, and I am getting regular peafowl updates. Piper Payer is convinced Cleo is looking for a place to nest.

The drive home through Perth.

Well…said I wasn’t going to blog again till it was from Aus.

But this morning I got this shot of the peafowl from the bedroom window.  It is very rare to manage to get all four of them in one photo!

Rake is in the doorway. Uno and Cleo are in the window opening (Uno on the left and Cleo on the right). And Junior is on the grass in front.

Junior still has the tangle of line around his foot. Still nothing we can do about that but it does not seem to be bothering him at all.

Uno is most definitely a male. You can see in this photo of him eating from the bowl with his mother, the brown feathers under his wings, and the speckled pattern on his back. No mistaking he is an Indian Blue male peacock.

You may be wondering what will become of them when I move?  Well I am grateful I did not attempt to tame them in any way.  The Resort management and staff will continue to make sure seed is put out for them in this little ruin next to Kgutso House, and the birds will continue to come and go as they please.

Having now spoken to a few other resort places and large farms that have a random flock of peafowl around their property, they assure me there is absolutely no care required.  The flocks just carry on themselves, slowly growing as summer chicks survive (or don’t!), and that is just the way it is.

Our manager has promised to keep me updated though, should Cleo lay eggs again in January.  Both Junior and Uno are still too young to mate, so should Rake and Cleo make whoopee again, we could hope for a couple of females to survive.  Other than that, not much more I can do.

Big Exciting Changes!

I have not posted in a while. I have not even gone past the first installment of my USA trip.  There have been other things on my mind!

No sooner had I returned from my amazing visit to Intrepid Traveler and Side-kick in the US, than Piper Payer came to a decision. Even though things had not transpired with the Resort plans as hoped, he felt that we have done all we can, and that nevertheless now is the time to finally make that move to Australia. The very thing I had been hoping for, praying for, and planning for the past twenty years is finally upon us. For twenty years I have been imagining scenarios, and making copious lists in my mind and on paper that would facilitate every possible condition under which this move would take place.  None of them are what is actually happening. Of course!

Shortly after this decision was made I found myself undergoing major surgery (nothing life-threatening!) which has me pretty much grounded for eight weeks. I will be able to officially drive and lift things again from 1st August.

On the 22nd of August the international movers will be arriving to start packing us up over a few days. On the 30th of August I fly out on a one-way ticket to Australia.

Cutting it a bit fine, you say?

Piper Payer and Chloe will be staying on until Chloe’s immigration process is completed in about six months time, which brings them to around early December. Immigration for a pet to Australia from South Africa is a long, complicated, and expensive affair, so care is needed to get it just right.

After Chloe has been delivered to the relevant pet-immigration company in December for her great adventure (she will be away from us for approximately fifteen to sixteen days), Piper Payer will board his flight to Australia, where we will, God willing, all be reunited again. He will continue to run the Resort remotely with a manager in place, and will make return trips when necessary.

So I am a bit distracted at the moment. But I hope to be back writing again once we are settled in to our home in Aus. In the meantime I shall continue to enjoy reading the blog writers I am following in this community. See you Down Under!!

Come Fly With Me

The honeyed tones of Frank Sinatra singing this anthem sashayed happily around in my head as Piper Payer drove me to the airport, hardly believing I had managed to get everything done in a day and a half. Excitement leveled up a hundred as we unloaded my bags and walked to the entrance! First flight in over two years!

I prefer to travel light. I always assume I will find a laundromat somewhere, or at least be able to wash and rinse out my ‘smalls’ in a hotel room. My bag is usually precisely loaded with a place for everything and everything in its place.  The smaller the bag I can take, the happier I am. There is no room for just-in-case items. My Tetris dreams are sometimes foiled by an acquaintance who hears I am going overseas, and will want me to take something over to someone for them, or worse, have me procure something over there to bring back. It used to be a common thing of course, we have all done it. But perhaps because just about every imaginable thing is available in just about every country now; or more and more drug trafficking has made travelers less and less keen to carry a package for someone else, it has become less common.  Or possibly my reluctance when asked was so obvious that no one dares ask me again! 

All my years of packing for trips by air culminated in this one trip, and I am proudly patting myself on the back while reporting that on this trip I achieved the ultimate packing experience. The golden ticket of packing. That illusive perfection of bag size, weight, clothing and toiletry items and the correct division between what goes in checked luggage and what stays in the cabin bag. I finally reached the Nirvana of baggage packing! Inordinately proud of self! Although I doubt I could repeat this perfection. We shall see.

And so early Friday morning Piper Payer drove me to the airport, with a last check as he eased the vehicle away from the house: “Passport? Tickets?”  Check to both. 

I don’t know about other people but one big stress when traveling is a fear that I might not have every bit of paperwork I need. International travel, and particularly air travel has been getting only more and more complicated over the past 30 years, and of course even worse since Covid.  I remember a time when the travel agent did absolutely everything for you. You dropped off your passport and a cheque, and they took care of all else. A week or so prior to your trip, you visited the travel agent, signed a wad of Thomas Cook Travelers Cheques in the currency of the country you were traveling to, walked out with a neat little plastic folder containing your passport, stamped with all the visas required; your tickets; all other transport and accommodation bookings; and your spending money. You could pack pretty much whatever you wanted in your bags, as long as you kept within the weight limit, and all you needed to concern yourself with was getting to the airport on time.

Ah, those halcyon days of travel.

So I arrived at the local airport with hopefully everything I needed either printed out on hard copy, or screen-captured on my phone, which made me nervous as (‘old person’ syndrome) I sometimes can’t find things on my phone. My old printer decided to give up the ghost at this point, so there would be more reliance on my phone for this trip than I would normally be comfortable with!

But I was at the airport and there were planes!  Through the two years of Covid I would drive past our little airport on my way in and out of town, sadly marking the lack of activity, and the empty tarmac and runway. Gradually over the months a few flights would come in and out on some days of the week. And then a few more. The day before I flew out, as I drove home from getting a Covid test, and passed the airport with a plane’s tail visible from the road, I couldn’t stop myself from saying joyfully out loud “See you tomorrow, little airport!”

What a joy to see the airport so full again!  I had booked on an Airlink morning flight up to Johannesburg. We don’t have all that many options here in Bloemfontein, but two flights were leaving within ten minutes of each other, so our small airport was buzzing!

Our flight was on an Embraer 170, with a capacity for 74 passengers and a cruising height of around 39,000 feet. I had never flown in an Embraer before, so this was the first of a few more ‘firsts’ to come on this trip.

Coming up: The Ups and Downs of Jo’burg International.

Mad Rush

Thirty-six hours. Or thereabouts.

Thirty-six hours to get a Covid test, and to await results; to apply for a visa waiver into the US; to print out tickets and download those boarding passes on flights I could already check in for. Thirty-six hours to get laundry done and to pack!

When Intrepid Traveler called me late afternoon on the Wednesday before Easter Weekend, and told me he had come across a flight deal with his points and miles – that he could fly me on Virgin Atlantic, via Heathrow to the USA, but he would have to book immediately and I would have to fly on Friday – an explosion of dopamine hormones flooded my brain. Dare I hope it could happen?

First though, poor Piper Payer who would be left behind would have to be alright with the plan. Some of that dopamine was replaced with feelings of guilt. Neither of us had seen our children for years.  Prior to Covid I had travelled to Australia to our daughter two years in a row, but due to our reluctance to leave Chloe in the care of anyone else (our trusted doggy-sitter had moved to another city), we had resolved to do the visiting of the children separately, or wait for them to visit us instead. It seemed there was plenty of time, no hurry. Who could have known?

It is true that Piper Payer is not a great traveler, and if at all possible he would prefer not to have to climb on an airplane and head off to unaccustomed lands. This knowledge mildly alleviated the crushing guilt, but since I tend to believe most things are my fault anyway, it has not entirely disappeared. I am mostly just ignoring it.

I left a message for Piper Payer who was at the golf club. He answered fairly quickly that I should jump at the chance. I told Intrepid Traveler that ‘Thunderbirds are GO’ and I set to finding out where I could get a quick Covid PCR test, applying for an ESTA visa waiver to enter the US, booking local flights from Bloemfontein to Johannesburg and back, and deciding what I needed to pack.

Through all the busy-ness a bit of guilt still niggled around on the outer edges, as my plane tickets to and from the US were on Virgin Atlantic, in Upper Class!  We have never flown business or first class.  We would not fork out three times the price of an economy ticket. We have never really tried the whole ‘points’ and ‘miles’ system. To our minds we don’t fly nearly often enough, nor do we ‘fly high’ on credit card expenses, to make it worthwhile for us. Call us ‘old fashioned’ if you will.

However, the flights we do take are always long. A direct flight to Australia can be anything from ten hours to fifteen, depending which side of Australia you land in, and direct flights to the USA can be up to eighteen hours. We always look out for the cheapest fare, which is rarely a direct flight. Usually it will be Emirates, or one of the other Middle Eastern airlines. So generally we are stuck in the air for a very long time, interspersed with wandering around the transit areas of an airport waiting for connecting flights.  Piper Payer is tall, and we have not always been able to secure a bulkhead seat. So if anyone really ought to upgrade, it is him….really…but we know we will never willingly part with that kind of money. 

So here I was realizing that little 5’4” me, who loves flying and airports and travel anyway, would be getting a life-changing experience, when a rather tall man in his 60’s with knee troubles would not.

Have I plied the guilt enough?

Well then, no more, on with the blog!

And so as not to make the whole thing too word heavy, I shall break it up into several posts.  Here endeth the first one.

Writer’s Block

It’s been a while. For over a month I have had nothing to say. Nothing worthy of a blog post, anyway. Half-hearted attempts to put thoughts down ‘on paper’ so to speak have come to naught. I had never quite experienced writer’s block before. Now I know the feeling.

But then something happened. I got a call from my son (Intrepid Traveler) in the United States suggesting he had come across a pretty good deal on flights, and my mission, should I choose to accept it, would be to complete all pre-travel paperwork and Covid-times requirements and be on a plane in two days. It was urgent he get my answer as these tickets would not be available for long.

I quickly spoke to Piper Payer (who happened to be on the golf course as it was Wednesday and he is not in the habit of answering his phone while on the course). The fates were kind; he answered and assured me he and Chloe would be fine for two weeks and that I should ‘go for it’.

So here I am blogging this from the good old U.S of A. And of course I now have writing ideas and potential blogging material up the wazoo, which I shall gradually formulate into blog posts and publish here after I am back at the end of next week.

I do hope my few readers will find my new “Travel Blog” posts interesting and fun. Coming soon in this space.

A Day in the Life of the Resort

Early mornings are peaceful here on the resort. Disturbed only by two peafowl demanding their breakfast.

Cleo and Uno

The early morning sun brings out the usually shy creatures, to sun themselves before the human population become too intrusive.

There are two monitor lizards who live in the river. Here one basks in the sunshine on the ramp at the restaurant and function buildings.

The staff start their day too.

Golf carts are extensively used to get around.

Lawns need to be mowed and everything kept clean.

We recently accommodated a battalion of Policewomen, practicing for a Drill Competition. They have used our grounds on a few occasions, and it’s been entertaining watching them.

Drills before the general public start arriving.

The Modder River is a popular fishing spot. Early mornings are the best catches.

This gentleman was only too happy to be photographed for this blog, with his catch.

Our caravan park area has always been popular.

Van-life. Not for everyone, but these folk seem to love it. You might notice our Chloe dog checking if any of the campers have doggy friends for her to play with.

Housekeeping staff have to keep up with arrivals and departures in our chalets.

The pool is ready for another busy day.

A toe in to test the temperature.

Soccer games, and a jump on the trampoline. I see I did not get a photo of the Super Tube! Maybe next time.

The Cafe needs to be opened up and made ready.

Life guard on duty at the pool.

The visitors start arriving…..

….and special family events are celebrated here on our lawns.

So glad these two sisters were happy to be photographed – a double baby-shower!

Kids and a swimming pool are often the things that make our summer memories.

While others arrange a little game of cricket.

A good way to unwind for the day. A well supplied picnic on the river bank.

As evening approaches, the setting sun catches some wildflowers against a thorn tree’s white spears, and another day is done.

It Never Ends!

Just a view of Boyden Observatory from the Resort

I wasn’t going to write a blog this week. But by Tuesday I had convinced myself that I would write an easy little account of a day in the life of the Resort, with lots of photos.

So there’s bad news, and we will get that out of the way first. Hang in there though, things do get a little better. Just a little.

I was informed earlier this week that a couple of weeks ago Britney managed to drown herself in the reservoir at the Waterworks. With everyone around here knowing my feelings regarding these birds, and the state I got in to each time chicks disappeared, they all contrived to keep it from me.  Well I would probably vote to keep it from me too, and I certainly would not want to be the one to tell me! But bad news will always come out, and eventually staff told Piper Payer, who had to tell me.  Oh the silly, silly bird!  It’s not like the peafowl here don’t have ample access to other safer water to drink. And now that the event has been confessed, further details are coming out. Apparently BOTH Britney and Junior were discovered in the reservoir! Workers managed to rescue Junior, but Britney had already expired.

And now I hear that the particular reservoir does not stand above ground, but is rather dug into the ground like a swimming pool….filled with the detritus water involved in the water purifying process, and is often as green as the grass around it. Looking for all the world as if the grass and ground continue on! A staff member living here on the resort had to, a couple of years ago rescue their own dog from this water hazard once, and another actually had a pet drown in it!  In those days the gate was usually left open, but since these incidents efforts have been made to ensure this gate is securely closed. However, birds can fly, and they often do, over this fence into the area within the Waterworks grounds. So this could conceivably happen again. Nothing can be done. And there is nothing for it but to stoically not allow myself to think about it.

I am left wondering what else can go wrong. Why does the universe so conspire against my efforts to care? At least, so far, Cleo and Uno continue to thrive, but I struggle not to panic every time she starts up her honking alert.  Every day Uno survives I have a little more hope that all will be well. And then a fully grown stupid peahen goes and drowns in a reservoir! Does not exactly boost the confidence!

So at first I just did not feel like writing. Then came the idea of the Day in the Life of the Resort, and then something else happened.

Yesterday early morning as Piper Payer and staff arrived up at the Resort offices they found this behind the building.

No idea how she got here, or where she came from. A photo was taken, some local farmers contacted, none claimed her but said they would put her on their ‘group’. We hoped she would soon be claimed.

I deliberately did not go up to see her. You know what happens in my brain when I encounter and actually cross paths with random apparently lost animals. Until I am actually confronted with the cow in all her ‘realness’, I am still able to tell myself she is none of my concern. So I put her out of my mind, because, goodness me, I certainly do not want to have to deal with a cow right now.  And I was confident her owner would be found.

Later in the afternoon I stepped out the back door to collect laundry off the line, and there she stood just the other side of our back fence. Really, Universe???? Are you TRYING to kill me? 

She was munching on grasses and weeds, of which there are plenty. I informed Piper Payer who was sitting in his lounger chair taking a break after a heavy morning of meetings interspersed with trying to find the owner of a lost cow. We stood there a little while watching her in disbelief, while that Overdeveloped Brain Area of mine insisted the animal needed water! Piper Payer assured me that water had been supplied when she was discovered that morning.  But that wasn’t good enough for OBA…the cow was now HERE, and HERE is where she needed water!  What if she couldn’t find her way back to the office building?  I located a tub, and Piper Payer had to haul the hose up to the back fence to fill it up. 

I could have a good look at her then.  She even came over to the fence to say hello.  It seems she is somewhat tame, not particularly afraid of humans. She also looks a little on the skinny side, but then I would say (not that I am any kind of expert) that she is part Nguni, which is an African breed of cattle, who do tend to be a bit skinny, I think. And apparently, according to reaction from the farmers that have responded, she isn’t exactly a ‘good-looking’ cow and her photo has been the brunt of some cruel humour from the cattle farming community! Also, she seems to have one eye that is milked over, so is possibly blind in that eye.

Again, what are you trying to do, Universe?

We waited to see if she is claimed. She moved off back into the hill behind the house, and the report is today that she has wandered off on her merry way again and is no longer on the resort.  Well I hope she finds a suitable home somewhere out there.

So that we can all catch a breath, I shall attempt a nice easy “A Day in the Life of The Resort” for next week.

Uno, the Teenage Peafowl

We are in that gangly teenage phase, I think. I never thought of birds having a ‘teenage’ phase but Uno has certainly grown into a gawky smaller sized version of his/her mother. The use here of both gender pronouns together is nothing to do with trying to fit in to the recent gender fluid set (heaven forbid!) but rather that there is no way we can find out Uno’s sex till he/she is almost twelve months old. Apparently one can tell earlier if one gets a blood sample to be sent off for DNA testing, or simply holds the bird upside down and has a good look for the genitals!  Neither of those are an option for us as we have kept our peafowl as feral and wild as possible.  They will not allow anyone close enough to catch them.  So those options are only open to breeders who need to know fairly early on.

Right now though, Uno is the spitting image of his/her mother, and by look alone, and if I hadn’t done any research, I would be convinced Uno is a hen. But apparently adult feathers will only grow in from about eleven to twelve months. If Uno is a male his wing feathers will start showing a speckled black and white, and the tail will begin growing the very beginnings of the colourful fan that will only fully develop when he reaches three years old. If Uno is a female, not much will change except her size. Of course for the good of the flock, I am hoping for a hen. But at the moment I have absolutely no idea.

In the meantime, due to my ankle (which is healing nicely) I have not been around in search of Junior and Britney.  I have occasionally seen Rake very early in the mornings wandering alone around the picnic area in the distance. I do feel confident that they are not far away though, and when winter arrives and natural food is scarce, they will all be approaching Peafowl House in order to feed. That is the hope, anyway. Part of me is actually a little nervous to go in search of the newbies even though my foot is much better. If I find no sign of them, I shall be dealing with a fair bit of disappointment.

We shall wait and see.

Those Old School Comedians

It is true that the older one gets, the more nostalgic one becomes for the “good old days”. Whether they were actually all that “good”, or not. Today I remember “good old” humour.

My earliest memory of comedy came in the form of Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, and Harry Secombe. “The Goon Show” filled our house. Whenever this trio was on the radio my father would sit next to the stereo cabinet laughing and slapping his knee. I think I’ve already mentioned in a past post how, due to repeats on the air, my father knew many of their skits off by heart and could quote appropriate lines whenever the opportunity arose. Their silly British humour was soon available on vinyl record, as more and more comedian’s shows were recorded, and our collection of comedian albums grew, along with our repertoire!

The Goons

On the American front, before Bob Newhart, and Bill Cosby, there was Stan Freberg. A very clever satirical American comedian, who managed to tell it like it is in crafty tales and musical numbers wherein he drew attention to the faults in big business and the entertainment industry. He pioneered the use of humour in advertising, and got himself into quite a bit of trouble with his irreverent political ideas. We found him hilarious! I say ‘we’ loosely. My parents thought him hilarious, as they understood the irony, and we kids laughed because they did. For our part we just loved the stories and the songs and the way he told and sang them. Only when I grew up did I realise his sardonic brilliance. His “Green Christmas” ought to be listened to and taken to heart by every generation. And the spoofs he did on the popular crime TV show “Dragnet” are still hilarious today.

Stan Freberg

Another favorite of ours was Flanders and Swann, “At the Drop of a Hat”. This British pair’s humour appealed to all ages. Their silly songs, and Michael Flanders’ often rambling introductions to the songs, would have us in hysterics no matter how many times we re-listened. While their work was sometimes just silliness, there was often a little ‘dig’ at where society seemed to be heading. But mostly they just made light fun of things like the English weather, weird and wonderful creatures of the animal kingdom (“The Hippopotamus song”, and “A Gnu”), and just laughed at Britishness in general.  My favourites, and those I still seek out on YouTube today to listen to again and again, are “The Reluctant Cannibal”, “Design for Living” (We’re terribly House and Garden…at number 7B), “Madeira, M’dear” (although I didn’t really understand the whole seduction thing when I was little!), and one silly line in “Misalliance”, a courtship between a right winding Honeysuckle and a left winding Bindweed, has me laughing out loud still today!

Michael Flanders and Donald Swann

And all this was achieved without any swearing, rude words, or overly crude innuendoes. It was clever. One had to use one’s grey matter, to actually think and connect the dots.

We used to have at least one album of each of these comedians, and since we haven’t had a decently working turntable in decades, and the vinyl is packed away in boxes, I am not sure if we still have any of them.  But every now and then something I see, or hear, or that happens, will suddenly remind me of one of those old comedians, like a sudden scent would remind one of  granny’s house, and I will head to YouTube to seek them out again.