The Move – the garden

One of the things that we really loved about the house when we first saw it was the garden. And the pecan nut tree of course. It’s got several tall trees, some covered with ivy, little nooks and crannies and a teensy pool. It’s also got four – yes FOUR – wendy houses! In the back yard. Then there is still the front yard which is not that tiny either. After being incarcerated in the complex with 5 square meters of garden – this is total heaven.

The third time, several weeks later, when we took mom to see the house, the garden was still lovely but that much drier, as it gets in Pretoria in the winter. We laughed a bit and said that perhaps we would not have been quite so smitten had we seen it at this time of year. Of course, by that time we had already signed papers and there was no turning back.

In the six weeks that passed between then and the date we got the keys, the previous owners managed to turn that lovely garden into a bit of a droopy wilderness. Crunchy brown grass, sad looking plants, and oh my goodness – piles and piles of dead leaves stacked up against the wall.

See what I mean! Both Chris and I had visions of snakes and rats…

The soil is red and plenty of it was visible too. But we were totally undaunted. A poke around the property yielded a treasure trove of stuff, garden tools, hanging baskets of all shapes, sizes and variations of loveliness – full of dead or scanty plants of course – but just waiting to be filled again.

Emma found all sorts of hanging things that tingled and jangled. She retrieved them and hung them from the bougainvillea that rambles between their flatlet and mom’s granny flat.

There’s a divine bird feeder and a bird-poop covered old wooden bench.

Then there are an assorted collection of pots and statues of various oddness. Some will stay, some will be buried in the ivy.

The first weekend we were so busy moving there was no time to do anything in the garden. Then we were so busy settling into the house all I did was unearth the garden hose (they left those too, although we did have a piss-willy little one ourselves that would have been most inadequate) and unleash jets of water on the wasteland.

There was peculiar black dust on many of the plants – we are not sure if it’s from one of the trees or if maybe somebody tried to make a bonfire out of the leaves and it was a sooty residue. It washed off rather easily – so we’ll see if it comes back next year.(It turned out to be black mould-from aphids)

We were loathe to dig up any bits of the garden at that stage because we’re sure it is full of bulbs and all sorts of other exciting stuff that will start growing when the rains come (although I am watering and the grass is starting to turn green again). Luckily Pretoria does not have water restrictions at this stage.

The second weekend came around – the Saturday was Em’s birthday and she had invited some friends over for a braai in the evening. Chris was on a mission to just clear all the stuff that was lying around outside. Most of it came from our double garage. This house does not have a garage. It has two large car ports and the four wendy houses. Originally we thought we might remove one or two of them. I mean – we are not running a campsite for heaven’s sake! But then I’d started thinking that I could possibly run workshops out of the newest one in the middle, and the scary ramshackley one with covered ivy next to the veggie garden could house the garden tools. Chris could have the one nearest to the house as a sort of work shed and the one in the furthest corner could be used to store arb stuff. Em shunned having a wendy as a studio and opted to snag the laundry area instead.

Problem was – they were all scary and needed to be cleaned, painted or fixed up a bit and sorted out. The previous owners had left lovely shelving in two of them, but the shelves had all sorts of stuff on them too. Chris did not want to pack anything away before taking ownership of the wendies.

He’d been busy at work and taking odd bits and pieces of leave during that first week – a few hours here and there – but there was just so much to do. He, with the help of Luan, managed to get them more or less sorted, so that he was happy to pack things into them by the Saturday.

The back courtyard was finally cleared and Ems was able to have her birthday braai.

My hands were a tad destroyed from the moving. I had fingers covered with plasters that kept falling off and they were too sore to do anything, but of course, I persisted doing ridiculous things and the little nicks turned into full blown cuts. Garden gloves were scant protection – but I managed to prune the roses on the Sunday, once again messing up my arm that I had hurt moving initially.

It’s a bugger getting older! Hanging curtains, shifting boxes and moving things into places that you actually want them takes its toll. Moving is not for sissies.

By the end of the second week the house was almost straight (not quite – and that’s when you get to the lazy stage and leave the odd box for later… which is a long time in coming).

The second Saturday we leapt up early. By 10h00 we had gone grocery shopping, hardware shopping, wine shopping and had also hit the mall to buy some gizmo that Chris needed for the TV.

We were ready to get stuck into the garden.

Must say – I sort of envisaged some gentle pottering around. But Chris had other plans. We were going to make a compost heap. He’d bought some compost activator at the hardware store and had it all planned out. We’d dig up part of the veggie bed. The square in the corner next to my going-to-be-fabulous once it is summer again grenadilla vine.

I thought not. No ways. Hell no!

So we agreed to make it in the other section closest to the garden instead. We needed to dig out a square – 1.5m x 1.5m and it had to be about 20cm deep. The soil taken out would then be used to cover the heap – when we were finished. Chris had come up with the clever plan of using the lawnmower to mash up the leaves – which would make them decompose more easily.

Digging that soil was a bitch but we did it. Then I raked the leaves that were scattered around the grass into piles to be mowed. Chris broke out our trusty mower machine that had been in exile for 8 years. Okay I lie, it had been used two or three times whilst we lived in the complex – when the blue dudes were on Xmas break.

Between Chris and the lawnmower they mashed and gobbled those leaves like a hungry monster. I shuttled wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow off to the fast growing compost heap. Somehow, I had heard that there would be two layers. 20cm of leafy mulch, a sprinkle of activator, then another 20cm of mulchy stuff – then the soil.

Hmmm…. Turned out I also have defective hearing. There were, in fact to be four layers.


Halfway through, the job ceased to be fun and became a mindless drudge of snorting leaf dust and aching arms. But the pile of leaves banked up against the wall diminished considerably and the compost heap grew. Em and Charl went off to have a braai – with nary an offer of help. Luan took a break from studying to see what we were doing. Said he’s help for a bit, then cavorted around the place digging out all the musty pecan nuts that he could find. Think he might have ferried one wheelbarrow full of leaf smoosh. Once he’d exhausted all the manky nuts – he took himself back to his room like a squirrel with his haul of nuts to study.

Eventually… much much later… we got to the stage where we could cover the heap with the soil that we had removed several hours earlier.

It was exhausting but also exhilarating, and knowing that we are going to have a fat pile of lovely compost to lavish on our garden at some stage in the future is simply fabulous.

The Move – the cats

Emma and I had been worrying a bit about moving the cats. In the last month or so, there had been an influx of cats to the complex and the furries had taken to fighting. In particular, there was one critter, by the name of Oros (Em always gets the names of the neighbourhood cats) that had an unbecoming yowl that sounded reminiscent of a baby being dunked in and out of hot water. He drove us all crazy.

Em did some research and pronounced that the cats would be kept in a room in the new house for two weeks before being released into the house, and then, only then, into the garden.

I privately scoffed but made no comment. Could not for the life of me imagine keeping Ralphie incarcerated for a single day, let alone two weeks!

Whilst Ralph and Edge are not big fighters, they do like to supervise and on the odd occasion felt the need to join in. As a result, Ralph’s nose was looking decidedly dodgy and after having a dream (I think it was a dream but he could have been sitting on my chest in the middle of the night beaming thoughts into my brain) where he asked me to take him to the vet to have it looked at, we loaded him into the cat box and complied. The vet wrinkled her own pretty nose and said we’d try cortisone first, but if it did not get better – we’d have to consider a biopsy – it might be cancer. Apparently they treat cats quite effectively these days with radiation. Did you ever! He had a jab and I got some cream to dab on his nose. Was vastly relieved not to get tablets – last time he had to have pills Chris and I damn near lost our fingers.

I asked the vet about moving too. She agreed with Em’s googling, said we should move them last – once everything had been moved, and also offered up the solution of Feliway Classic. A plug-in synthetic pheromone copy which would supposedly make the cats all calm and happy in their room. (When cats feel comfortable in their environment, they rub their cheeks against corners of furniture or your leg, leaving a message, undetectable to us, known as the feline facial pheromone. This “happy marker” provides reassurance to cats.)

I gulped a bit at the price of this – R558. But cheaper than two calming collars which are basically the same thing – plus it would last for a month – which meant we could probably use it for Grey Cat (mom’s cat who would also be relocating to our “commune” early in September). She agreed to order one for us.

The cats were not one bit bothered by all the boxes that slowly accumulated and piled higher and higher in the passageways and rooms.

But then moving day arrived and Ralph skived off, flat-eared, into a cupboard. We put them both into their cat boxes and positioned them nicely in the sun on the balcony. Edge is not a fan of cat boxes. He was like those bug-eyed, wide-toed cartoon cats that required nine hands to stuff him into the box. He mewled pitifully. Ralph looked at him through the bars, a contemptuous sneer on his face. The two cats are not always such good buddies – I was a tad worried about them being stuck in a room together, pheromones or not.

A few minutes later Em shrieked for me to come quickly and check out Ralph’s nose. It had been healing so nicely and I was beyond chuffed that it looked like a biopsy would not be necessary. Ralph had smooshed his almost healed nose against the bars and it was a total bleeding mess. There was not a lot I could so at that stage – apart from put a blob of cortisone on it. All hell was breaking loose in the house and I was needed. Despite the fact his nose was a mess – he was totally chilled. Edge, on the other hand, was still mewling like a baby in his box.

Once we’d emptied out Luan’s room of all his things – we put the cats into that room – and let them out of their boxes. There were a good few hours before we’d be able to take them to the new house and they were becoming anxious looking at all their stuff being driven away (they had a bird’s eye view from the balcony).

Around five o’clock, after a busy day of shuttling to and fro, Em and I moved the cats to the new house. We had earmarked a room in the granny flat – seeing as mom would only be moving in later on. Em plugged in the happy-cat juice and settled them down with some food and their respective baskets.

The first night they slept in their own baskets. The second they swapped over. The third day we found them cuddled up in Ralph’s basket (a huge one he inherited from Fudges). They went from tolerating each other to being best buddies. After the first day we let them out of the room and gave them the run of the granny flat. One day Ralph was missing. Eventually he was located, snoozing in the kitchen sink.

We ended up keeping them in for four days. By then they were fed up and wanted out. Gemma was also badly wanting to make acquaintance with the strange furry critters. She’d been howling at the door for the past two days.

We closed all the windows and doors and let them out into the rest of the house. Ralph stalked (tail up) through each and every single room, sniffing everything. Except Luan’s – because the door was closed. When he’d finished his tour, he landed up outside the closed door, patiently waiting for me to let him in. He checked that out too and then settled on the ottoman by the window in our room. He gazed and gazed at the garden – wide-eyed.

The garden is full of trees and birds and is a veritable cat TV.

Edge was not so happy. He slunk around the place, tail down and scuttled at the sound of nothing. It took him a good few hours to get his mojo back and feel vaguely comfortable. Not that I think Ralph was exactly comfortable. I don’t think he closed his eyes for the next two days. He found himself a spot on the bar, out of reach, where he could monitor all the comings and goings. He was not an instant Gemma fan either. Don’t think he could understand that you even got dogs smaller than him.

Edge on the other hand, was not bothered with Gemma. Not long after being let out, I heard Gemma shrieking down the passage way – ears flying, and surmised the Edge had showed her who was boss. Not a very hard lesson though, because Gemma can often be found tailing Edge, sniffing his backside and every now and then it looks like she wants to hug him. Probably because he is big and fluffy and ever so soft!

After his initial sacredness, Edge got more adventurous and did a tour of the garden. He found himself a nice patch of red dust and has rolled in it twice a day ever since. It took Ralph a few days to do the same.

It will be two weeks tomorrow – all three furries are now on good terms with each other and happily co-exist. Ralph likes to tease Gemma by blocking her way in the passage and eating her food. He also installs himself in spots that she considers hers. Once he walked on her whilst she was burrowed under her duvet. Her anguished howl shifted him chop-chop. I have no clue if he did it on purpose or if he was considering stealing her baskie.

Edge sleeps with Em and Charl in the flatlet. Ralph hogs large portions of our bed – as he did before.

Just when I was on the verge of taking Ralph back to the vet for his nose – he kept smooshing it against stuff – it started healing up again. It’s still a bit of a mess, but looks at lot better than it did before. I’m keeping an eye on it though.

Thankfully – it seems as though our cats have settled down to their new house as well as the humans have.

The Move… the kitchen

Know I should be writing the cats’ blog first, but honestly – I have to rave a bit about the kitchen in the new house.

Yes! It is very blue, but this does not bother me in the slightest. For the last 8 years we’ve had a brown/black kitchen with no window to speak of. There was one that went out the back door – sort of in the scullery bit, but it led onto the covered over, walled-in back hokkie where the bin was kept. No light and certainly no view.

Not only was it dark, but the fluorescent light had a mind of its own and sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. Over the years the oven seemed to get more and more temperamental – if you tried to cook anything at 200 deg C. it smelt like the kitchen cupboards were on fire. (They felt warm to the touch too.) It also took just about longer to get up to temperature than it did to cook the food. Lastly – if you used more than 2 plates at one time, the electricity tripped. I know we could have called in the fixer-dudes but somehow that always felt like more trouble than it was worth.

The first day after we moved, I tackled the kitchen. There are cupboards galore – loads of space. Nothing has to be stacked on top of each other. Em and I had a brief altercation over the “pantry”. She felt I should put food in there. I said it was not practical. I won. The biggest problem was trying to figure out what should go where.

Apart from all the cupboards… did I mention there is a pull-out dedicated spice rack, and a built-in pull-out veggie rack, there are couple of serious highlights in this kitchen.

The sink has a fancy tap. One of those swishy things that you can un-hinge, hit a little rubbery button and it turns into a sprayer type thingy. The previous owners had a dishwasher but our washing machine goes into that slot (seeing as Emma is using the laundry as a work room). Anyway – we don’t have a dishwasher so it’s a moot point. It makes it really easy to hose down huge baking trays in the sink. A doddle in fact! Except the rest of the family takes great pleasure in leaving that little button engaged so that my own unsuspecting self comes along, turns on the tap and nearly dies of fright when it hisses and sprays at me. I have instated a rule – use the hose thing with pleasure but turn it back into a tap when you are finished – or I’ll spray you with it!

Another highlight is the oven… A DEFY Gemini Gourmet Multifunction double oven. OMG! We made pizza the other night and… well… see for yourself. 20 minutes and it was cooked perfectly. Today I made biscuits – same story. (This is where the HUGE baking trays come in – I can fit two of my trays of biscuits on one shelf!) Okay – there is a little glitch – seems like if you use the oven at a high temperature – the power trips – but only in the house – not in the flatlet. We’ll be getting hold of an electrician – but in the meantime, we know how to circumvent it – switch the geyser off whilst cooking.

The stove top is one of those DEFY glass plate thingies – that heats up instantly. Turn the dial and poof! It’s instantly cherry red and ready to cook. (None of this taping it with your hand shite, waiting for it to heat up… maybe.It’s even got a special plate for me – one that regulates the heat and it’s almost impossible to burn anything.

Our kitchen is light and airy and has a fabulous window – a huge one – that looks out onto the front garden and you can see the road beyond – so washing up is not one bit boring.

I know these are things that people maybe take for granted – but after our shitty complex kitchen – it’s a real treat to have a fully functioning kitchen again.

This lovely kitchen totally makes up for the crappy bathroom!

The Move – Gemma the dog

As I said… we got a dog with our new house.

The second or third time that we visited the house, I made a comment that I hoped we could find a little dog that was as well behaved as Gemma.

Isabella, the daughter of the house and owner of Gemma, perked up her ears.

But Gemma needs a forever home!” she exclaimed. She was not able to take Gemma to New Zealand and was looking for a nice home for her.

I said I’d think about it. Fudges had been gone for a few months but I was not necessarily ready to have a new doglet quite yet.

However, we had a family conference and the verdict was that we would happily have Gemma along with the house.

Turns out we adopted a little doglet that is seriously full of quiddities and quibbles. When she was a puppy, her male “parental agent” was somewhat nasty and took it out on her often. She has a memory as long as her little brown body.

Chris gave her a neck rub and it would appear that he did something she does not like… so she shrieked at him. Very disconcerting because you are not sure what it is you’ve done. Or if you’ve hurt her or not?

I picked her up to put her on my lap (which she was asking for) and she shrieked at me. Still not sure which bit of her I offended.

Luan went out of the front door to go to varsity the other morning and stood totally bemused on the outside whilst Gemma howled and shrieked at him from the inside. He had visions that he’d accidentally shut a bit of her into the door (which he knew he hadn’t) but it turned out she just wanted to go outside too. The sliding door was open – but she wanted to go out of the front door.

Whilst she does not run out of the gate onto the road, she has a horrible habit of coming precariously close to the car wheels, and seeing as she has been run over before and has a gait like a drunken sailor sometimes; I am totally neurotic about scrunching her.

She is damn tiny – a little brown mouse.

A pile of rather odious bedding was left in our room – Gemma’s baskie. I was tempted to immediately wash it on the hottest setting possible, but was vetoed. Shame… they said. It’s the only thing that still smells familiar to her. After the second day Chris wrinkled his nose and remarked that I should feel free to wash it anytime I felt like it.

She puts herself to bed. Burrows under her duvet like a little groundhog, into the depths of her “baskie” and slumbers peacefully. But if she even has a whisper of a thought that she’s been locked into the house alone, she howls in her high pitched little voice.

Yesterday morning there was a yelping from our bedroom (Chris and I were sorting out the office). Ralph had meanly positioned himself in the middle of the passage – a few feet from the bedroom door – and Gemma was too scared to charge past him. Every time she ventured out, Ralphie would haughtily flick his head around and glare at her. I swear that cat was laughing his whiskers off on the inside. He also likes to stalk up to her food bowl at breakfast and snarf a few pellets down first – simply to tease her. I’m figuring they must fight their own battles.

She fancies Edge too. Sometimes looks a bit like she’s trying to hump him – but I think she just likes how he feels – all soft and cuddly. Edge is a tad more forgiving and does not mind having his butt sniffed whilst he waddles around the garden.

Gemma has the habit of doing a very hard-done-by act. She puts her head down and trudges sadly off into the garden/house/front yard, as though nobody in the world loves her.

Then just around the corner you’ll find her happily crunching on a pecan nut.

Sometimes she goes completely doolally. Does laps around the house and then leaps into the nearest flower bed panting frantically. Luckily she is so light she does no damage. She was engaging in this unladylike behaviour last week when Edge clearly thought she has overstepped the mark and chased after her. Gemma accelerated, fuelled by fear her yappy siren going full blast at the same time. Emma and I fell about laughing at their antics. Ralph looked very disapproving.

Airy fairy Gemma is obviously very different from my lovely solid, sturdy Fudges. She would stay with me – glued to my side. Gemma has no such alliance. She goes where ever the comfy spot is – and often that’s on the couch, snuggled into a Winnie the Pooh blanket, in Em and Charl’s flatlet.

She’s not a ball fan either. I rolled a tennis ball at her and she looked totally horrified and leapt out of the way. She likes a nice stick though.

She’s inordinately fond of tummy rubs and frequently hurls herself down at your feet, smiles and demands a belly scratch.

She’s also figured out that 4pm is dinner time and she comes and fetches me in my office, then does a little tap dance on the kitchen floor, eagerly waiting for her food to be dished.

All in all she’s a very cutie little woof and she’s adjusted to her new life with us very well, but sometimes I spot her lying in the sun in the driveway, watching the gate and I wonder what the little furry sausage is thinking, and whether she’s patiently waiting for her “real” family to come back home.

The Move

A couple of weeks ago we moved. Not far… about 5km. But it does not matter if you only move across the road – it is still traumatic. In fact they put it right up there with death and divorce. Moving is third on the trauma list.

Our move came about relatively suddenly. One night, after playing poker, my lovely man decided to check out some real estate websites. He spotted something interesting… 6 bedrooms… a granny flat, another separate little flatlet… space… a garden. He mentioned it to me the next day and I wanted to see it too. He showed me and we both wanted to see more… so arranged a viewing.

It’s one of those places that you instantly felt at home in. Not that the house was fabulous or anything – in fact it was a bit of a tip and we identified several things that would need work. We winced a bit at the colour scheme in the lounge, admired the outside “bar” area and then walked out into the garden.

I crunched something underfoot.

Looked at the estate agent… what are these?

Pecan nuts, she replied.

Seriously! A pecan nut tree? In our back yard! I want this house.

We trawled through the rest of the house. The granny flat was great – a bit dark maybe – but the space was awesome and the kitchen door opened out into the pretty yard and sunlight streamed through.

Emma thought she and Charl could happily live in the little flatlet too. We’d have to share a bathroom with Luan… not something I relished – but doable.

We left. But we asked the estate agent to alert us if there was anybody else who was seriously interested in the house. We went home to do the math and figure out if we could afford such a house. We wanted it, but decided not to get too excited.

We’d been living in a complex since 2009. It was supposed to be a temporary thing. Before that, we’d always lived in houses for 2 years or so. But for one reason or another we’d been stuck in the complex for a whole 8 years.

To cut a long story short – our finances worked out, we qualified for the financing and we bought the house. Mainly Chris did – but seeing as we are married in community of property – it is a “WE” thing. Sounds a bit like a mansion but really it is a rambley old lady.

Mom will also come and live in the Granny Flat (a scary prospect for her because she has lived in the Western Cape for the last gazillion years). We’ll go to Cape Town in early September and help pack up, and then drive Mom and her moggy up to Pretoria to join us in our “commune” as Chris refers to it.

On the 28th July we arranged to get the keys from the previous owner. We were very grateful to have a few extra days before the end of the month. We desperately wanted to cover the yellow the mauve walls with white before we moved in. Also, the complex owners were hassling us to move out early on the 31st because they had new tenants for our unit.

In return for some strong drink and a bit of petrol money, Luan had arranged that his lovely friends would help us move on the Saturday. One of the guys has a Nissan X-trail with a tow bar – so all we needed to do was rent a trailer. The whole move basically went without a hitch!

It was rather hysterical watching four B.Sc. students and a Physics HoD Professor maneuvering heavy furniture, appliances and giant pot plants in and out of narrow doorways.

They’d gather and ponder and postulate before attempting anything. Chris let them try things out first and only intervened when it looked like the piece they were trying to move was likely to be destroyed in the process.

A lot of joking went on. Em and I had a fat laugh when Luan, positioned precariously on the trailer was giving orders to his friends on where to put stuff.

“Say please!” they ordered. He groaned and then redirected his request in a more civil manner.

Chickens were bought and devoured by hungry helpers’ in-between bouts of moving. The bulk of the big stuff had to be relocated by 16h00 on the Saturday. Our X-trail owner had other plans and needed to be gone. This meant the trailer had to be returned by then too – because not one of our cars has a tow bar.

That night we braaied some wors outside around our tiny pool and marveled at our new space. We slept in our respective areas of the new house for the first time. Charl was away in Cape Town due to his dad being very ill (sadly he subsequently passed away), but Em opted to sleep alone in the outside flatlet anyway. Figured I was so tired I’d sleep like a log – but my sleeping patterns take more than a move to shift them.

We did misjudge slightly – one last trailer load on the Saturday would have meant that we would not have had to spend the entire Sunday shuttling loads of bitty paraphernalia back and forth in our three cars. The Tucson doubled as a bakkie and Luan’s little Corsa worked it’s tyres off too.

Luan always washes his clothes on a Sunday. This was the first time he had ever really experienced a moving process and it had not occurred to him that the washing machine might not be available for this weekly task. Luckily his father is every accommodating. It was not a one hundred per cent straight forward job to get it going and some handy-manning ensued.

I was at the complex – cleaning and scrubbing, so was not involved.

On one of the shuttle trips, Chris looked at me with a puzzled, somewhat perplexed, expression on his face.

Hmmm…. He said. I’m not sure that we put the outlet pipe in the right place.

Since they had put the washing on they had not been inside – they were simply dumping the stuff under the carport and dashing off for a refill.

I laughed and replied that we were obviously going to have a very clean kitchen floor then!

True enough – on the next round, when they ventured inside, the kitchen floor was, indeed, flooded. I’d told them where the towels were – so they could mop the mess up. Of course, all the boxes with kitchen stuff from the day before were piled on the floor, so it was a tad soggy and shambolic.

Luckily Em and I were working our fingers to the bone at the ex-house and missed the whole episode. (This did mean that I had to do six loads of washing the next day though! Fortunately our new house has fabulous washing lines and the sun was shining!)

This was the first time we had ever moved in such a higgledy pigledy fashion. Usually we get the movers in and it’s very orderly – everything has been packed into boxes and labelled with a room number – those boxes then go to said room. Easy to unpack – no problems. This time things got dumped all over the place. My office (another blog) became the dumping ground.

The first room that I tackled on Monday was the kitchen. I needed to get that in order so that we could function.

Wasn’t kidding when I said I’d worked my fingers to the bone either. My digits were criss-crossed with a myriad of little cuts that stung like crazy. I soon discovered that everything to do with moving (and life) involves fingers and it was rather frustrating to be so incapacitated. Plasters layered onto sore bits kept coming loose because my fingers were constantly in the water.

Could not even type…

Chris also nearly brained himself on this elaborate light arrangement that hangs smack dab in the middle of the dining room. We decided to pile stuff up around it – so that nobody else did the same thing.

We inherited a little sausage dog, Gemma (fondly referred to as “Germy” by Riaan – one of Luan’s friends) with the house too, and had to move the cats – but that’s another blog.

Slaying Dragons

Yesterday Emma and I were sitting in the garden in the early morning sunshine, having a cup of coffee and discussing the launch of our new book.

Suddenly she leapt up yelling WTF!

She backed off a bit, and then cautiously inched up to the base of one of the largish trees we have growing in the garden. 

She’d near as dammit been sitting under it.

I went to look too – I mean there are all sorts of weird and wonderful things in this new garden of ours. Some of the trees are covered with ivy and so are large sections of the ground (it’s not going to stay – soon as I get my fingers back into shape I am planning on tackling it).

There is odd stuff that lurks in nookies and crannies.

Once I finally saw what she was gasping and spluttering at, I leapt back – almost over the neighbours fence. It appeared to be some type of lizard. We could only see a bit of its back, the rest was covered with ivy.

Closer, very cautious inspection, showed that it was indeed huge. But was it alive?

Emma decreed we should give it a gentle poke to see if it moved.

“We” I scoffed. Not on your Nelly! Feel free to poke away, child.

I backed up a little more.

Let’s be honest – I have a reputation with some people on Facebook as “The Dragon Slayer” but it refers to fighting fires and getting shitty work done – not freaking slaying actual dragons.

I know you are thinking that we were probably overreacting a fair bit and that it was probably a scaly bit of bark pretending to be a lizard – but you should know that the previous owner’s younger daughter was dubbed by us as “dragon lady” because she had one of those bearded dragon type things in her bedroom. So it was not totally unrealistic to think that they might have “lost” one in the rather large garden!

Em went rooting around at the bottom of the garden and returned with a stick. A long one. Breaths were collectively held as she gingerly, ever-so-gently poked the critter. Nothing happened. She poked a little harder.

Something moved. We both leapt shrieking into the air waiting for it to turn and gobble us up.

A leaf fluttered to the ground.

Breathes were taken. It was, after all, not alive.

But was it plastic or was it some sort of stuffed beastie.

 Em – a feisty little creature – was determined to uncover the truth. Literally.

Poking, prodding and grunting – she managed to wrestle the creature out of the ivy until it fell with a thud to the ground. (More shrieking and squealing from both of us.)

She hooked the stick under its tail and dragged it out of the bed of ivy (see – I told you we have too much ivy). Then she flipped it over on the paving.

It looked incredibly lifelike but we finally figured out it was indeed plastic when we saw the seams along the sides and a trademark on its belly!

Em carted it off to stash in her room so that she could scare the pants off Charl later. (Turned out Charl, upon spotting the creature, grew incredibly excited and wanted to catch it a keep it as a pet – so the joke fell a wee bit flat.)

Wonder what else will turn up in this garden?

22 Sawkins Road

When I was a kid, my grandparents lived at 22 Sawkins Road in Mowbray (Cape Town, South Africa). It was one of those sort of major roads that led to Pinelands and Rondebosch, was close to Rondebosch Common, and all sorts of other interesting places. But I was little at the time and had no clue.

We lived in Malawi and visited South Africa, specifically Cape Town (sometimes Durban to see my Dad’s family) every so often. Mostly we would drive, through Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe into South Africa. Only on odd occasions would we fly.

But always the destination in Cape Town was 22 Sawkins Road – the place where our gran and gramps lived. Mom’s parents.

Close to their house, less than a block away, was a park. How we loved that park. There were swings, one of those horsey jiggedy things that rocked and could take three or four people, a see-saw with great bouncy tires and there was one of those witchy-hat type roundabout things that rotated and oscillated. And of course there was the real roundabout.

The park smelled of exhaust fumes, grass and pine needles. The swings were the best. One would kick off and swing as high as you could. Then preferably, when you were at optimum height, you would launch yourself from the swing and juuuummmmp.

Mostly it worked. We never broke anything. But sometimes your heart pounded a little more than you expected until you landed with a thump.

As soon as politely possible after we had arrived at 22 Sawkins Road, and we’d been thoroughly hugged and kissed, we’d skive off to the park.

Once, a strange man came into the park. He was very friendly toward my sister and me and tried to engage us in conversation.

Oh no”, said Deb-Jane. “My mother said we must never speak to strangers.

The stranger went off looking rather perplexed and came back a few minutes later with our mother. Turned out it was her brother, our uncle Billy, but we had not recognised him.

(Uncle Billy – next to Gran. My mom is the lady at the back – my sister the cutie one on the right – obviously I was taking the picture and we were a lot older by then.)

It wasn’t a big house either – only two rooms. Our family of four would camp in the one room. Upon reflection, we probably disrupted their orderly lives something terrible.

Other cousins with parents living in Zimbabwe (it was still Rhodesia then) also lived with gran and gramps whilst going to varsity. Somehow the room was always available when we came to visit though.

When we got older, 22 Sawkins Road was a sanctuary. A haven where we could escape to from boarding school in Worcester (my folks still lived in Malawi). Can remember my gran telling me, when I once bought her plums with hard earned cash, that I was silly because there were plums growing in the plot next door. Was a tad gobsmacked. Never noticed that there was an empty plot next door and certainly had no clue that it belonged to gran and gramps. She gave me the key and I went to check it out. A wild and overgrown secret garden! There were indeed plenty of plums. (We didn’t get plums in Malawi – so they were a treat!) Much later the plot was sold and a double story house reared up, changing the atmosphere of the back yard completely.

Gran was an old school, stay at home housewife. She was always pottering around the kitchen. She would make the most divine roast potatoes (know she made a million other things but cannot remember them). There was always Ribena and Nestle Drinking Chocolate in the cupboard. And chocolate digestive biscuits…

She would fall asleep at the drop of a hat, most elegantly (at any time of the day) with a cup of tea in her hand. Fast asleep. Never, not once, did she ever drop that cup of tea – or even slop tea into the saucer.

Another clear memory is my gran gathering up snails from the plants down the ally and popping them into boiling water. Always thought that was a tad cruel and gross, but she loved her garden and hated the fact that the little slimies decimated her flowers.

She made fudge. Copious amounts of fudge. I remember having to bag those frigging little sticky blocks for many different campaigns. The bowling club was having a do. (They were both expert bowlers.) The fish and chip shop on the main road was raising funds. The Sons of England were having a fete…. There was always some needy organisation and Gran was always making fudge. 6 pieces in a packet, fold and staple… or was it 8? Can’t remember now. But before one could go off and have fun – that wretched fudge had to be bagged.

Upon reflection… it was totally divine fudge – but I was too swamped by the quantity to realize it. It was a legacy that gran passed down – because my mother made fudge too – for school fetes, church bazaars and the Lions annual fair. We had to bag those too! I have never made fudge in my life and don’t plan to.

Their house had a special smell… nothing that I can lay a finger on… but special. Probably Gramps pipe tobacco and polished wood. Gramps was a master craftsman when it came to woodworking and was well known in Cape Town for the excellent products that came out of his woodworking company in Observatory – W.E. Key and Co.

There were two ginormous cats – Hokus and Pokus – pitch black witchy cats – that strolled around the place and demanded attention.

The lounge had Gramps’ special squishy chair in it and a lot of Louis L’Amour westerns on the bookshelf, along with those fancy china beer mugs with little lids that you flipped open with your thumb. One even played music. There was a round window – like a porthole – that always fascinated me. It was used, but not all that often. Mostly we seemed to hang out in the dining room or the kitchen.

Can remember when we were older – Gramps would get a tad pissed off with us. We used to arrive from Worcester or Helderberg for our off weekends (often with a variety of friends), and once or twice gave them heart attacks when we did not come home at night at the designated hour. Often we’d secretly hitchhike to Mowbray to save money. But Gramps would always drop us off at the station on a Sunday afternoon and watch us catch the bus back. I suppose we were often typical selfish teenagers – upsetting their calm existence. He’d quietly yell at us for messing coffee in the kitchen, or sneak-smoking in the bedroom (we’d hang out of the window). Once he told my older cousin to “Fuck off on a slow boat to China”. My sister and I were terribly impressed that our darling old aged grandpapa had used such bad language!

You will get cold – you must wear a spencer (vest), Gran would insist, when I was off to the disco wearing a skimpy top in the middle of winter. I’d begrudgingly comply – only to ditch it behind the toilet tank in the disco a few hours later. Then I’d have to lie… Oh Gran – that vest was so cozy, please can I keep it? Meanwhile – said cozy garment was gone forever.

We’d walk down to the local cafes and marvel at all the cool stuff. There were no cafes in Malawi. Nor was there liquorice, sherbet, pink sweeties, lucky packets or neat little coloured cool drinks that came in molded plastic bottles. As for those 3-D postcards that moved when you tilted them – they were treasured beyond belief. We’d upset the cafe owner by laughing uproariously at his “queen pines” that were nothing compared to the size of pineapples that we were used to in Malawi.

We’d walk up to the station and catch a train to Claremont, or into the City, or maybe to the beach. Trains were relatively safe to catch in those days – during the day of course.

The bathroom was black and white. You could have played checkers on the floor. The bath was a huge old ball and claw tub and it was a draughty cold place where you definitely did not linger.

Gramps had this very orderly garage, full of stuff and machinery. His car barely fitted inside. When he wasn’t sitting reading, smoking his pipe in his chair, he was tinkering around in his garage. Everything was very orderly, stored in little jars and labelled. He had bolts, nuts, nails and screws of every imaginable sort and size. He knew where everything was.

The house was on a main road and there were no fences. There were always loads of needy people who’d long since figured out that gran was a sucker and was always good for a mug of coffee or tea and a sandwich. Don’t think she ever gave money. They made gramps furious and if he caught them near the house both they and my gran were in trouble. But for as long as she lived in that house, she sneakily fed them. You’d find a mug neatly washed and hidden next to the carport – from where she’d passed it through the kitchen window.

Gran and Gramps hailed from England originally and gran never managed to learn Afrikaans. Nor did she ever learn to drive. But those days it really was possible to get around on buses and trains. And be taxied by gramps to and fro of course.

(Gramps and my gran’s sister – in England.)

Our favourite – very cool – cousin Richard (the one who was told to eff off to China) was only a few months older than my sister, and would cycle over from Pinelands. We’d hang out in the park. It was just as much fun when we were older. Or we’d walk back along the highway to his house.  Sometimes we’d have to babysit the younger cousins.

There was a total sense of family and belonging.

(The younger cousins – when they’d grown up a bit – Sam and Greg)

Eventually they both got too old to live alone, and moved in with their younger son and his family. 22 Sawkins Road was sold and became unrecognizable.

Gramps had a stroke and gran got emphysema (probably from breathing in gramps second-hand pipe and cigar smoke for a million years). We were there with her in hospital when she breathed her last, just a few days before my own daughter’s 13th birthday. Up until then she had still been dispensing wise advice to us all and ruling the roost from her bed in Rob and Fleur’s house.

We still had (and have) family gatherings after gran passed away in her 90’s, but somehow the family is now even more scattered around the world and things have never quite been the same.

Gran was the glue that kept everybody together.

Sponsoring a Sibo title


You or your company can commission or sponsor a book in the Sibo Series?

You can sponsor a brand new Sibo title or one of the existing titles in the series.

Branding is printed on the inside front cover.

You have a say in the text of the story (if it’s a new title) and illustrations (i.e. any specific information you would like woven into the story line or graphics you would like portrayed).

The smallest print run is 3000 – although you can order less and have your branding attached to the front inside cover in sticker format, instead of being printed. (There is no limit to a large print run, and they do not go in batches of 3000 e.g. you can order 4000 or 16250!)

30% discount is given on orders of large quantities. (To give you an idea of prices – in 2017 a single Sibo book sells for R60.00. . 3000 books would cost ~R180,000 plus tax however the discounted price would be ~R126,000 plus tax – these prices are subject to change – please contact the publishers.)

­ These 3000 books would then obviously belong to you, to either sell (at the recommended price or less) or give-away as you wish. If you need help in this regard, Ginny does have connections with the Science Centres in South Africa.

It should be noted that whilst you or your company may sponsor or commission x amount of copies of a title – please do understand that this title still remains part of the Sibo Series. It may also be sold in various retail
outlets (without your branding).

If you should want a book that BELONGS solely to you/your company this would have to be negotiated differently.

Whilst we are prepared to write stories on all sorts of different topics please do take note that The Sibo Series has a “green” theme that runs throughout all the books. Our aim is to convey messages in a gentle non-threatening
way, empower young children, help to change their mindsets, and give them confidence to go out and make a difference themselves. (Not to scare the pants off them!)

Titles in the series that have been sponsored/commissioned to date:

  • Sibo in Space – written to celebrate 2009 being International Year of Astronomy – 8000 copies sponsored by SAASTA/Dept of Science & Technology.
  • Sibo Sizes Things Up – commissioned by SAASTA for their nanotechnology awareness drive in 2010. 8000 copies sponsored.
  • Sibo Likes Life – written to celebrate 2010 being International Year of Biodiversity. 10,000 copies sponsored by SAASTA.
  • Sibo Mixes Things Up – written to celebrate International Year of Chemistry 2011. 3000 copies sponsored by BASF – The Chemical Company.
  • Sibo Saves a Stray – private sponsors 2012 – Michele & John Hattingh (1000 copies)
  • Sibo Fights Malaria – commissioned by the University of Pretoria Centre for Sustainable Malaria Control and The National Department of Health (8000 copies) – 2014.
  • Sibo Looks Right – crowdfunded – but sponsored mainly by NASH NISSAN (800 copies) ebook freely available on web site – 2016.
  • Sibo on the Move – commissioned by Gautrain (10,000 copies) – 2016. (This book recently won a Golden Quill International Award in the ‘writing’ category.

PLEASE NOTE – this does not prevent anybody else from sponsoring the same titles again.

We are also currently looking for a sponsor(s) for the following ideas for Sibo books.

  • Bullying
  • Manners
  • Sports
  • Communication
  • Immunology
  • Housing

If you are interested please contact either Ginny or Lets Look Publishers squiggle[@] / imfundo[@]

Become a Sibo Agent!

If you enjoy our books and would like to sell the Sibo Series then please read further…

2018 price of a Sibo title is R60.00 each.

You buy 100 books (minimum quantity to qualify for 30% discount) – can be the same title or a mixture of all the titles. There are 14 titles in the series at the moment.

100 x R60.00 = R6000.00

However, if you buy 100 books you get a 30% discount. Which brings the price down to R4200.00 for 100 books.

Which you could then sell for the recommended price of R60.00 – thereby making R1800.00 profit. Simple right?

If you would like to become a Sibo Agent – please contact:

Lets Look Publishers
Tel: +27(0)12 361 2329
Fax: +27(0)12 361 8060

Visit here for more information about Sibo’s books.

Sibo becomes a TV Star

In 2011 Lets Look Publishers decided to jazz up their marketing of the Sibo Series (books written by Ginny Stone) and employed Amaiye Productions to get creative. The producer of Amaiye thought that bringing little Sibo to life
with a series of cartoons based on the books might just do the trick.
Now we all know, sadly, that most kids would much rather watch TV than
read a book – but reckoned that this was a good “mass-produced” way of
introducing Sibo to children. It was hoped that they might then be
inspired to not only consider recycling their cool drink cans, start
conserving water and generally think more about saving the earth, but
also think about dashing off to their local bookstore to check out Sibo’s

Of course, “dashing off to your local bookstore” is also funny hah hah because it’s actually not so easy to get books into bookstores unless you are a famous author – which Ginny certainly is not. It would appear that joe public has to ask (repeatedly in many cases) for the books – before they would dream of stocking them on their own. Otherwise, one has to work through distributors who demand such large discounts that you might as well hand over body parts. It gets worse… the “big” bookstores then happily send back a significant portion of the books supplied saying that they are soiled goods and nobody wants to buy them. A bit ironic when the goods actually got soiled in their very own outlets.

So… creating a “Sibo and Friends” TV show seemed like a great idea.

Based on the Sibo Series books, a 13 part, 2D animated cartoon series was created. Each episode a snappy 3 minutes short with a powerful “lets help save the earth” message embedded. The series was sponsored, and in return for their generosity the sponsors were looking forward to a “tag” at the end
of each episode.

Of course, nothing is ever simple … whilst the TV stations were more than willing to flight the series free of charge they were not willing to give the sponsor free advertising. And… in some cases, there were dodgy conversations around who Sibo belonged to from then on and for how long?
In the end – after Amaiye Productions had done some serious haggling with eTV, along with several postponed going on-air dates – a compromise was finally reached.

“Sibo and Friends” aired for the first time on 7th February 2011 at 14h30 on eTV. There are 13 episodes therefore this series will run for 13 weeks.

If you have young children… make a note, set your recorder, put a knot in your hankie, set your alarm clock… but whatever you do – don’t let them miss it. Blink and it’s gone, it’s only 3 minutes long! (Mondays at 14h30 on eTV.)

When you’ve finished watching – dash off to your local bookstore and demand that they stock the Sibo Series – all 9 of them! Failing that – go and visit Sibo’s website – where you’ll find a direct link to Lets Look Publishers and you can buy the books on-line. And… you can also
download the cool “Sibo and Friends” song – written by Karen Zoid – for free! 

Remember – if your children have handy tips on earth saving habits, or draw cute pictures of anything relating to the books or cartoon series – feel free to email (or post) them to Ginny and she’ll put them on the website.

We only have one earth. Sibo wants to join hands with all the children in South Africa and help save it. She cannot do it alone.