A peek into my studio

So… we’ve been back in Joburg for the past couple of months (while Nick works on 3 back-to-back Joburg-based films).  Once again, we’ve been living in our Joburg house (which we had previously rented out for a year while we travelled)… and – for now… (or – at least until the end of September)… Joburg is where we remain.

I’ve been a bit quiet on this blog of late… mostly because I have been investing MOST of my time and focus into finishing my illustrated book, “How Heather got her HAT’ness back”.

Today – I thought I’d touch base with you guys… (just so you know I haven’t dropped off the face of the planet)… and give you a little peek around my Joburg workspace.

My studio is a smallish room on the ground floor of our home.  It has doors that open onto the back garden (in Summer, I keep the doors open to let in a breeze… but since we’re nearing Winter and it’s getting chilly – I keep the doors shut).

When I write my poetry – I need a certain measure of silence.  I can’t listen to the radio… or even listen to songs… because the lyrics in the songs mess with the poetry in my head – and I get confused.  So… if I’m writing poems or songs… then silence it is.

But… if I’m drawing or painting… then I listen to NPR (I’ve become a bit of an addict).  My favourite programs are the TED Radio Hour – and On The Media.

So here’s the first pic:


That’s my art-desk.  If I’m not drawing or writing in coffee shops (like I am today)… I’m drawing at that desk.  It’s usually much more of a mess – but I tidied it up a bit for the photo.  The clipboards on the wall remind me of my tasks and to-do’s (because – unless things are right in front of my face – regularly – I forget about them!).

In the far corner (behind the purple lamp) is my Basket-of-Ideas.  Every time I have another idea (which is pretty much all the time)… I decide whether the idea has any value-for-the-future… or whether it’s just a “pleasant thought”.  If the idea has potential – I scribble it down on a scrap of paper and add it to the Basket-of-Ideas.

I do this – because I can then carry on focusing on the Task-at-Hand (instead of being distracted and led off track by every single idea that pops into my head).  Once I’ve added an idea to the basket… I can just, in a sense – let-it-go… and tell myself “It’s okay.  The idea won’t be forgotten.  It’s in the Basket.  But right now, you need to focus on the book!  Book FIRST!”


(Above):  This is the door to my studio.

As you can see, it says “Creative Creature lurks within”.  I do odd, random stuff like this.  There really is no method to my madness.  I’m not the type of artist that has a very specific thought or idea in my head of how I want any painting to “look” afterwards.  I’m very much a go-with-the-flow kind of person.  I throw some paint onto the door – and kinda see what it turns in to.  In this case – it turned into a very weird, mad-looking person with an afro.  And the word “Why”.  I can’t even remember why I painted Why.

Next to that is my  black filing cabinet…. where I pour out the content of my head (as a means to stay sane).  That cabinet is packed with ideas, scribbles, quotes, sketches, essays, potential blog topics, photographs, stories…. endless… endless… content and ideas….

On top of the cabinet is a basket containing some of my (many-many) art-journals.  Behind the cabinet is an old door… where I’ve pinned a bunch of random photos and postcards.  And next to that is a bookshelf that contains my heavier coffee-table books… and a shit-load of photo albums.  If you look carefully, you’ll see my coconut pirate grinning from the shelf (I like quirky, random things… that just bring a little sideways-smile to my face)… 🙂

Here’s a closer photo of the bookshelf stuffs….:


IMG_0007(Above):  This is my Design-Mode desk.

It’s on the opposite side of the room to the Drawing-Desk.  This is the side of the room that I work on when I’m writing, blogging or designing.  The Big-Mac is a throw-back from my years when I still ran Cops Creative Corporation.  I love the huge size of the screen… but, it’s now such a dinosaur… and so-so-so painfully slow!

I’d like a nice new (fast!!!) Mac to design on…  (but that’ll have to wait for a while).

Next to that is the faithful laptop (which I’m typing this blog on).  That laptop has travelled all over the country and the world with me.  It’s – by far – the most used piece of equipment that I own.

The round, black thing in the bottom left-hand corner is a microphone that I’ve borrowed from a friend (so that I can record a voice-over for a promo video that Nick and I are making for the Hat-book).

On the far-far right… in an old wine bottle…. is a big Protea.  Proteas are my favourite flower.  That one is half-dead… but I’m determined to keep it there for a few more days.


(Above):  The Art Materials…

These are the goodies I use the most.  Watercolour pencils… water colour paints… different coloured inks… basics like pencils, sharpener, eraser, scissors, glues…. Copic markers… and every size of black Unipin pen that exists.

I schlep this whole lot to coffee shops (including my blocks of water-colour paper).  I often say that… if somebody locked me up in solitary confinement… (say – in a prison)… I would be able to retain my sanity *if* I had paper and a pen.  Throughout my life… paper and pens have been (and this might sound a bit dramatic – but it’s true) – absolutely vital to my mental health.   Because my brain generates so many ideas… I *have* to get them out on paper… some how – some way.  If I don’t…  I start feeling manic. Try not to think too badly of me…


(Above):  Some of the stuff on my shelf.  My most dog-eared reference books are the dictionary, the thesaurus (now completely falling apart) and the rhyming dictionary.  These days – I don’t use them as much as I used to.  I usually use the online versions… but – I keep them close – just in case the internet is down.

Also – if you’ve read the first part of my book… you’ll know why the peacock feather is there.  It’s a daily reminder for me not to lose track of myself again… not to lose my HAT’ness again….


And that’s it!  A quick little tour of my studio space… and a reminder that I haven’t dropped off the face of the planet!

If you have any questions… or if you’d like me to post about anything in particular (whether art process… materials… or ANYTHING else you’re curious about)… just add a comment!

Chat soon….! X


The trappings of the Good & Normal Life

We’re back in Suburbia.

After a year-and-a-half of travel and nomadic living… we are back in the ‘burbs of Joburg.  Back in the big house.  Back in the throes of the Good & Normal Life.

I have space again.  There’s room to move.  We’re not piled on top of each other.  I’m not living out of a suitcase.  I have my studio back.  Nick has his studio back.  The kids have their own (huge) room.  We have our own (huger) room… with the giant en-suite tub… and the divine ceiling fan… and the world’s comfiest queen-sized bed.  We have the movie-room again.

Even the goddamn *stuff* has returned.  Creeping into our homes and lives… like an insidious mould… as stuff is wont to do.  Suddenly, Morgan has 5 pairs of slip-slops.  And 4 swimsuits.  And – I can’t even count how many dresses have taken over her cupboard.  How did that happen?  And where did Nick get all those T-shirts from?  Where were they hiding?  And where did all this medicine… and all these vitamin tablets come from?  And… why do we have – like, 12 pillows – all of a sudden?  And where did all these coffee cups come from??


Looking at our house – you’d swear we never left.  Nobody would be able to tell that it was rented out to somebody else for a full year.

We’re back to the convenience of being right next door to a shopping centre.  A carton of milk or a bar of chocolate is just a few steps away.  We’re back to the routine of weekday-work… followed by weekend friend-visiting activities.  The children have regular play-dates with cousins, friends and Zahra from next door.  The learning centre is down the road.  I shuttle them off to various activities.   We get to see the family again.

We’re back to the world of No-Surprises.

I know exactly what to expect here.  I know to bring the washing in off the line before the afternoon thunderstorm.  I know when the paper-people collect my recycled paper and cardboard.  I know that I need to put the rubbish bin out on Fridays before 10 in the morning.  I know exactly where to buy my inkjet refills… Greek haloumi cheese (in bulk)… acrylic paint… and grass-fed, hormone-free beef.  I know where the good coffee is.  I know who sells freshly baked baklava cheesecake.  I know every restaurant in the greater Johannesburg area that have play areas for children.  I know the doctors, the dentists and the best place to get a haircut.

It’s all very predicable.  It’s all very comfortable.  It’s all very convenient.

Omigod.  I can barely stomach it.

I feel like I’m wilting.  I feel like the ‘burbs… and the routine… and the ‘safeness’ of the convenience and the comfort… is deeply toxic to my adventure-loving, newness-needing soul.

Thankfully – my family feel the same..  All of us have had a taste of the Nomadic Life – and we loved it.  As a family – it was a great fit for us.

But there’s admin to sort out.  And BIG decisions to be made.

Nick is in the film industry (work he genuinely enjoys) and – although films are often shot in different locations… he is currently working on 3 back-to-back films…  ALL based in Joburg.

So – like it or not – I’m here in Joburg until late September.  With this in mind, we have concocted a Master Plan:

  • Make the Big House look all nice, homey and tempting… for people who like – and want – a nice, big house in the ‘burbs.  Make a couple more repairs… and SELL the big house!
  • With money from Big House… buy (for cash!) a funky, industrial-style, double-volume loft apartment in downtown Jozi (specifically, the Maboneng Precinct).  This will render us completely debt-free… thus having a small Joburg-base… and not owing the banks a single penny.
  • This will mean that our monthly expenses will be pleasingly low – and all excess money can be diverted towards travel, adventures, memory-making and experiences.
  • The Maboneng Precinct (by the way) is an arty, re-vamped part of the inner city… with all sorts of weird folk, artists, performers, entrepreneurs, out-of-the-box’ers, mall-haters, hippie-types, socialists, activists, anarchists, thinkers, poets, musicians who live and work there…. well, suffice to say, more of an *us* type of crowd.
  • De-clutter AGAIN.  Get rid of *The Stuff*…. (AGAIN!)…  (the Maboneng Apartment is significantly smaller than the Big House so we’ll definitely need to downsize).
  • The new apartment will be our little… debt-free… Joburg nest (for whenever we’re in Joburg – either visiting family & friends… or working on films).  It’s also a VERY handy lock-up-and-go situation.  When we travel… we’ll just lock it up… and GO.
  • In late September… after we’ve finished the films, the premieres, the film festivals… we’ll lock up the Jozi apartment and bugger off to Europe on a 3-month road trip in a camper van (woot!).
  • After that…. well, who knows.

In the meantime, for the next couple of months… while we’re Jozi-based, I have endeavoured to make the very best of the situation.  And, instead of whinging and grumbling about sameness & suburbs… I shall involve myself in the following enjoyable endeavours:

  • Lots of hanging with friends – both old and new.  I really love our friends.  We have some really stellar people in our life… irreplaceable, salt-of-the-earth types.  Friends, alone, would bring me back to Jozi… time and time again.
  • Family bonding.
  • Launching some exciting new projects with 2 potential Andrews.
  • Enjoying… with gratitude… everything that Jozi has to offer.  The weather… the greenness… the many amazing markets and unique places to chill & hang out… the parks… the easy-access to food suppliers who sell the fresh, untampered-with stuff… the interesting little shops and coffee places… and all the kid-friendly eateries.
  • Enjoying – while I still have it – the space of the Big House… the green garden… the weaver birds… the big bathtub… my big tree (that I sit under every morning)… I will savour these moments while they last – until we move on to new and different horizons.
  • And I want to make sure that Morgan and Joah really enjoy this settled-season… that they can take advantage of some of the things they’re not able to do whilst travelling (i.e.: music lessons, baking classes, indoor climbing classes… and regular play-dates with cousins and best friends).

But right now… I need to walk to the shops, re-stock on milk… and enjoy a cup of Bean There Fair Trade coffee… whilst sitting under my beautiful big tree.

Change is great.  Future Plans are peachy.  But *NOW* is all I have.  So I’m going to do my best to make it count.


The crappy part of living differently

So… we are back in Johannesburg after 7 fabulous months in Cape Town, 2 months of road-tripping around the United States… and 6 weeks of roaming the Karoo, Hoedspruit and the Garden Route.

We’re back in Joburg for work:  namely – Nick’s latest film… which requires him to be here… in this city… for 3 months.  And we are all here with him because… as much as we love Cape Town (and other beautiful places)… we love Nick more… and being away from him (while he commuted on the past film) was difficult for the kids and I.

Here’s a round-up of the good and the bad news of the past 3 weeks:

The Bad News:

  • I’m suffering Cape Town withdrawal symptoms.  Actually no…  I think I’m just suffering from general travel-&-explore withdrawal symptoms.  I really hate having to return to the Sameness of Joburg.  It’s achingly familiar… and I don’t find familiarity and sameness comforting.  I find it limiting, boring and frustrating.  Yes, I could probably do with an attitude adjustment – but right now, I’m finding it tough.
  • I’ve been sick for 3 weeks with a wheezy chest cold that has only just started easing.  I don’t know what brought it on… (perhaps submerging myself into Joburg’s smoggy pollution after enjoying 7 months of fresh sea air!).  I visited the doctor… who prescribed antibiotics and other pills… which did nothing for me – except bring on horrendous depression and (this is a first for me) a full-blown anxiety attack.  I don’t know whether the depression and anxiety was as a result of moving back to the dull routine of Joburg… or whether it was because I was feeling physically sick… or whether it was because of the dodgy meds… or a combination of all of the above.  But nonetheless, I have been feeling VERY unlike myself of late.  And I don’t like this feeling.  At all.
  • I’ve also been feeling like a bit of a hypochondriac (also very unlike me).  I’ve been having all these dark, doom-brooder thoughts about how I’m going to end up dying before I’ve truly LIVED.  And every ache… pain… or bruise on my body… leads me to instantly think things like “Cancer!”… “Heart disease!”… “Fatal affliction!!!”… “Death-coming-soon!!!”…  I mean, WTF???  This is (so!) not like me!!!  What is Joburg doing to my head??
  • All 4 are of are currently squashed in to the tiny garden cottage of our old Joburg home (which is currently rented out to the awesome geeks of Dee-Twenty).  It is not an ideal situation.  I would be able to manage the garden cottage situation if we just *lived* here…  but Nick needs to work here too!  And productivity is impossible when all of us are home…  so I need to make sure that the kids and I leave the cottage every day so that Nick is able to work.  And – of course – it’s not like Joburg has the…. options… that Cape Town has (for curious, energetic kids!).  It’s not like Joburg has beaches… and wine farms… and mountain trails… and a gazillion things to do.
  • We were planning to rent a furnished apartment in Joburg… for the 3 months (and Nick would continue living in the cottage).  But finding a furnished cottage…  (with landlords prepared to sign a 3 month lease – and no more) has been harder than what I anticipated.  Joburg doesn’t have a lot of short-term, furnished accommodation options… and the stuff they do have – called “Executive Apartments” – is outrageously expensive.  Just on principle – I flatly refuse to pay the same amount of money for a small, shitty apartment with shiny floor tiles, fake bullrushes in urns and orange chintz scatter-cushions…  I refuse to pay the same amount (for that) as what we paid for the Misty Cliffs Beach House.  Beautiful… beautiful… Misty Cliffs 3 bedroomed beach house with pool… for the same amount of money for a bling’esque Sandton apartment?  No!  I refuse!  I’d rather stay squashed in our garden cottage.

Here’s some garden-cottage pictures:

Our weeny-weeny kitchen...

Our weeny-weeny kitchen…

Looking through the kitchen serving-hatch onto the lounge / TV room / living room / Nick's studio space...

Looking through the kitchen serving-hatch onto the lounge / TV room / living room / Nick’s studio space…

The bedroom… where all 4 of us are currently sleeping...

The bedroom… where all 4 of us are currently sleeping…

The Good News:

  • The main bit of good news about Joburg (which will always be the thing I love most) – is that it’s close to our family and very dear friends.  I have loved catch-up time.  I’m really not nuts about Joburg itself…  but… the people in Joburg are another matter entirely.
  • More good news is that… in spite of the compressed discomfort of the cottage… what it means is this:  It saves us money!  And where do we plan to invest this saved money?  Why, another road trip, of course!   (December & January… country to be confirmed… but probably in Europe).  The December road trip is currently my light at the end of the tunnel.  Whenever the dark clouds of depression come rolling in, I just keep thinking:  “Keep your eyes on the Road Trip, Heather!  Keep your eyes on the travel!”
  • More good news is that I’ve just scooped a really big illustration job for a big international client.  Best of all – the illustrations themselves are on the subject of things I feel passionate about (i.e.: I’m not rolling turds in glitter).
  • And… more good news… is that I’ve discovered an awesome Learning Centre (a mere 10 minute drive away from our cramped-cottage).  It’s run by a group of people passionate about encouraging children to discover their talents and strengths… and to discover (without forcing or coercion) what they’re genuinely passionate about and interested in.  For a monthly fee, I can drop Morgan and Joah at the Learning Centre… whenever I want – and there’s loads of things for them to do:  art classes, music lessons, book club, maths club, robotics club, soccer club, jewellery-making, swimming, Ec0-Warriors club, drama classes (and so much more)…  plus endless recourses which they can choose to use (or not).  Books, games, art materials, computers & games, outdoor jungle gym… etc.  Oh – and a wide range of children (of all ages and from all backgrounds).  Homeschoolers go… unschoolers go… and children (from local schools) also attend after school for help with homework or for specific tutoring.  It’s a gem of a find for us.  The kids have been attending for 2 weeks now – and they love it.  So – for now – it’s a nice arrangement and change of pace (for the kids) for the next 3 months.

As I type this, I’m sitting in a lovely little coffee shop called Petits Fours.  I’m working on a few illustrations and Nick is back at the cottage, editing.  The kids are at their cousins for the weekend.  Last night was Cousin Danni’s “Disco Party” for her 7th birthday – and the kids stuffed their faces with cupcakes, danced the night away, enjoyed a night-picnic… and sang karaoke.  Happy kidlets.

Nick and I enjoyed a rare date-night last night… just the two of us… and managed to squash in a dinner, a theatre production (starring our friend, James), after-show chat with James… AND… dessert at the Haagen Dazs shop… AND a late night movie (all good news)…  followed by feelings of inexplicable misery (bad news)… and all sorts of out-of-the-blue, completely irrational fears that “Something Bad” was going to happen (more bad news)…

I fell asleep next to Nick… feeling uneasy and offish… and just… very NOT like my (usually optimistic) self.

I hate feeling like that.  I hate not feeling in control of my head!!!

A few posts back – I mentioned my personalities.  Well…  it feels like the Doom Brooder has escaped her cage in the attic…. and taken over my head.

The rest of us are working hard to gain control again.

Okay.  Random, strange post done.  I’m going to order a freshly squeezed carrot, apple & ginger juice.  And draw.



Adventures with a Scam-Artist…


It was inevitable, I guess.

We’ve been looking for furnished apartments to rent in Johannesburg for about a month now.  We wanted to stay in the Maboneng Precinct (but the only apartments available have been single-room bachelor pads)… so we decided to fish around for a place in Braamfontein.  I know a couple of folk who live and work in Braamies (and have been involved in a lot of the developments and upgrades there) – and we were very kindly hooked up with a nice, furnished loft apartment on Biccard Street.  It’s very small though… and I would have preferred something bigger…

And then I saw the ad (posted on Gumtree).  It was for a penthouse apartment;  2 bedrooms, wonderfully spacious – there was even a roof-top pool.  And – it was *cheaper* than the small apartment we had organised in Braamies.

Sure… it was a little bit out of our preferred area (closer to the public library than to the bustling coffee-shops and food market of Braamies)… but hey – it was BIG… and it was FURNISHED… and it had a DISHWASHER… and a POOL!

So – I sent an e-mail expressing my interest.

And I didn’t hear back from anyone.

“Rats!”, I say to Nick, “We’ve missed it.  Somebody got it before us”.

(This has happened a few times.  When people don’t get back to us, it’s usually because the apartment in question has already been taken).

But then today…  I received a very friendly message from somebody called Estelle Manera.  Estelle writes:

Sorry for my late reply, I was completely overwhelmed by the large number of inquiries and just managed to respond them.
Thanks for your inquiry, I can rent my apartment for long/short term, is fully furnished but can be rented unfurnished too (same price), utilities included (water, electricity, internet). 
The monthly price is ZAR 7050. Pets are allowed. 
There is washer/dryer in the apartment, A/C, dishwasher, parking, safe neighbourhood, nice neighbours, very quiet, no noise, close to transportation and everything else.
Apartment Address is: The Bank, 87 Commissioner St, Johannesburg, Gauteng 2000
Please tell me what exactly are you looking for and which are your requirements, as well as some information about who is going to live in the apartment.
Thank you,
Estelle Manera
And right there, my suspicions are aroused.  Something doesn’t feel right about Estelle’s reply.  First of all, most people would write R7050…  not ZAR 7050.  Secondly… who, in Jozi, says “Johannesburg, Gauteng, 2000”?
So I do a bit of googling on our friend, Estelle… and immediately find her on Brazil’s scam-list…  along with her reply to another website …. offering another apartment…. to somebody else.
Same old copy-and-paste method-of-the-Scammer.  Here’s her ad on the Brazillian website:

I can rent my apartment for short or long term; is fully furnished at the moment, but could be rented unfurnished too (same price); utilities included (water, electricity, condominium, internet). 
The monthly price is Reais 1110. Pets are allowed. 
There is washer/dryer in the apartment, A/C, dishwasher, parking, safe neighbourhood, nice neighbours, very quiet, no noise, close to transportation and everything else.
Apartment Address is: Rua Professor Lemos de Brito 27 – Barra – Salvador – Bahia – 40140-090
I uploaded more photos here (actual): http://postimg.org/gallery/acbepwia/
Please tell me what exactly are you looking for and which are your requirements, as well as some information about who is going to rent the apartment. 

Thank you,
Estelle Manera

Magically…. the Brazillian accommodation (with a whole new set of photos collected from God knows where)… has the exact same details as the apartment in Johannesburg.  Complete with “parking, safe neighbourhood, nice neighbours, very quiet, no noise, close to transportation and everything else”.
A scammer.  First things first, I report the gumtree advert as a fraud (don’t want other unsuspecting people to fall in to that trap – although I’m pretty sure that Estelle has a number of different properties for rent offered throughout the world… and someone is going to fall for it).
Her next e-mail arrived about 20 minutes ago.  It says:
Hi again Heather,
We can sign a Lease agreement between 3 months – 5 years, with the option to extend it further.
Couple info about me, I am a British woman in my thirties, recently divorced, worked 2 years in South Africa for the BBC News Channel and returned back to UK because I am pregnant, and I decided to rent my apartment so that I could pay my rent here in UK. The apartment became my property after the divorce was finalized. 
I am asking for the first month of rent (ZAR 7,050) plus 1 month as security deposit, it’s ZAR 14,100 in total. The security deposit (ZAR 7,050) is refundable at the end of your Lease.
The apartment is available for rent immediately, you only need to get the keys and the contract to check it, and see if you would like it. 
Obviously we need a way to complete our rental, that will allow us to make sure we receive what we are after. For that I chose to hire an international Real Estate agency named STEWART International, who will intermediate the rental procedure for us (here are explained their real estate escrow services: http://www.stewart.com/international/escrow-services)
For more details don’t hesitate to contact me. 
Estelle Manera
By now… fully aware that it’s a scam (but I’m just oh-so-curious to see how she responds)… I ask whether somebody can visit the apartment today.  I get an immediate reply:
Dear Heather,
Just so you understand better, this is the Stewart International rental procedure:
-You give me your details (full name, current address, phone number) and I will register our transaction with STEWART 
-You will receive their confirmation after I register our transaction, and they give you further details/instructions.
-Then you pay STEWART the deposit of ZAR 14,100 (as per their invoice request)
-Once your deposit is validated, STEWART sends the keys and documents to your address and chose a convenient date and time for inspection (an agent will meet you at the apartment at the booked date/time).
-You will then have 14 days to decide if you want to rent the apartment, since the inspection date
-If you decide to rent the apartment, your Security Deposit (ZAR 7,050) will be held into their custody until the end of your lease when you will receive it back.
-If you do not want to rent the apartment, you give the keys/contract back to the agent and you get your money back at the moment (there won’t be any hiding/extra fees).
This will be in writing in the contract I will sign with this company. The company fees will be paid by me when I will initiate the procedure.
I will wait your soon reply and if you agree with everything, I will need your details and I will get the ball rolling with STEWART International 
Estelle Manera
Interesting that she links so frequently to Stewart (which seems to be a legit organisation).  I imagine that – should I pursue this further (out of sheer curiosity) – she’ll put me in contact with another *person* (probably herself pretending to be somebody from Stewart…. with a second e-mail address that has “stewart” in it somewhere) who will supply banking details.
Also… interesting to note how her e-mail address changes all the time.  First it’s estelle.manera@outlook.com – but in her messages to me, she supplies two more e-mails:  manera.estelle@outlook.com and estelle.estelle@outlook.com.   Jeez – how do these people keep up with it all? 

This – of course – is CLASSIC scam stuff…. the PAY FIRST to “release the apartment”… or to “release the money”… or whatever.  Big, big promises – but you *MUST* pay first.

So… I thought I had heard of all the typical internet scams… but this is the first time I’ve seen a property scam.  Very creative thinkers, these guys.
Anyhoo…. so we’re gonna end up in the Braamies apartment – even though it’s a bit of a squeeze.
As the old saying goes:  “If it seems too good to be true – it usually is”.
Nuff said.
UPDATE:  These kinds of scammers change their names regularly.  There’s one currently going around called Ginette Roper.  Please guy – be aware of the many-many-many scammers out there – and don’t pay for ANYTHING upfront!!

Preparing to leave paradise

So – for the past 2 blissful months, we’ve been happily snuggled up in a divine beach house in Misty Cliffs, Cape Town.

As I type this, I’m sitting on my bed… looking out the window and drinking in uninterrupted views of deep blue sea.  Every day, the Southern Right whales come to frolic in the surf in front of our home.

The house is flanked by cliffs and fynbos.  It’s teeming with wildlife… and is so, so beautiful.  The sound of the waves crashing on the beach rocks us to sleep at night.

I really do love it here.  I love that it’s so secluded.  It feels like we’re in the middle of nowhere (but the city is about a 45 minute drive away… in good traffic, that is).  I love that the Southern Peninsula is so family-friendly.  Almost every restaurant and coffee shop offers a play area and a kid’s menu.

It’s certainly a lifestyle that I’ll miss… because the time has come, once again, to move.

Nick has been offered another film and he’s needed for 12 weeks in Joburg – from September to December.

I can’t say I’m overly delighted to return to Joburg… even if it’s just for a season.  Joburg (like Benoni) had been packed up in my mind and boxed away as a place that I had “left”… a place that we had moved on from.  I don’t like going back to the places I’ve moved on from.  I like going forward to NEW places.

However… work calls.  So, back we go.

Because our Joburg home is rented out indefinitely… I’m now hunting around for a short-term, furnished rental.  Preferably in a place like Monaghan Farm… or somewhere outside of the city where I don’t feel boxed in… and I don’t have to read the shitty newspaper headlines stuck on every lamp-post on every main road!

So… if there’s any readers who have friends in Monaghan Farm… who have a small, furnished cottage to rent to us on a short-term basis…  lemme know, okay?

We have one more month here.  We’re staying in Cape Town for this year’s Silwerskermfees where Nick’s latest film, “Hard to Get” will be featured.  Then, we’ll hit the road for a 2 week road trip.  Maybe we’ll go visit our Karoo friends… or the big hole in Kimberley.

And then… 12 weeks of Joburg.

And then… 2 months of holiday (much deserved for Nick!)…

And then… the next film (the location of which is currently undecided).  So… who knows?  Such is the life we’ve chosen to live…  we can only live in the *now*.  Tomorrow is another day.

This is where we are… and this is where we’re going…

We arrived back in Johannesburg on the 16th January – after 2 blissful months road-tripping around the United States.  I will write about the high’s and low’s of that trip at a later stage… (because I still have 2 more posts to share about our final 2 weeks in the States which included an Amish county experience).

(I just haven’t got the photos off Nick’s hard-drive yet)… and I’m also in a bit of a procrastinating mood when it comes to blogging.

So… here we are, back in Joburg.

We’ve spent the past week and a bit holed up with our friends, Rogan and Tracey and their kids, Matt and Erin.  The Kelsey’s have a lovely home and a large guest suite at the end of the house (where we can make noise… and do our thing… and not disturb anyone else).

They also have a lovely garden and a sparkling pool – and that’s where the kids have kinda lived ever since we got back… in the pool!

We walked straight from the freezing “Polar Vortex” in the States… into a full-blown heatwave in South Africa.  It took a few days of adjustment and getting used to… but now the snow coats, scarves and gloves have been packed away and we’re living in shorts, vests and slip-slops again.

This is what the past almost-2-weeks have consisted of:

  • Swimming, swimming and more swimming (the kids have vastly improved their swimming skills after all this time in the pool.  They both dive now… and Joah has started learning the freestyle stroke).
  • Lots of quality time with friends and family (for all of us).  We’ve been invited to dinners and braais and we’ve had a lovely time just chatting and catching up with everyone.
  • The kids have mostly been playing, chasing, swimming and gaming with their cousins and friends (with occasional bouts of quieter activities – like drawing and reading – slotted in-between all of the play).
  • Nick and I attended the premiere of Faan se Trein (the film that Nick edited – and the reason why we were in the Karoo for 6 weeks last year.  It’s open at South African cinemas right now – so, if you’re in the country – please watch!  It’s enjoying some fabulous reviews and has done very well at the box office too!
  • Nick has been attending numerous work meetings (he starts work on a new film project next Tuesday).

As for me, I’ve mostly been organising – and preparing our family (and myself) for the next part of our journey.

As many of you already know, our home has been rented out – indefinitely – to the geeks at Dee-Twenty.  I am very, very happy with this arrangement.

When we walked into our house… after 2 months of being away… I waited to see if there was *some* sense of nostalgia…

After all, we had lived in that house since January 2005!  It was our first home as a family.  Both kids were raised there.  We’ve had many special times… and created many special memories in that house.  It was our *home* for many years.

But it’s not our home any more.

Walking in to that house (just to say hi to the geeks)… was – to me – a confirmation that we have moved on.  I felt no nostalgia.  Nothing.  The geeks had moved the furniture and had created a whole new environment for their gaming community.  Nothing in me said:  “Awww… they changed it, what a pity!”…  because I really don’t mind what they do with the place.  It’s not our home anymore.  It’s their venue now.  I’m just happy that they pay the rent on time.

Attached to the big house is our little cottage.  For years, the cottage was Nick’s studio and editing suite.  It has a lounge & dining area, a kitchen (with a small, enclosed courtyard), bathroom and one small bedroom with double-doors leading out on to our backyard.

Currently – that little cottage houses all that’s left of our stuff.  The lounge area is still Nick’s studio and editing suite and screening room (and needs to be kept relatively neat and organised since he has clients visiting)… but the bedroom and the courtyard hold everything else (including our queen bed, bunk-beds for the kids… and all of our clothes, shoes, toys, art supplies, books, filing, computer-stuff and what-not).

Anyway – I have made it my mission to whittle down and purge even more of our stuff (Nick has to live in that cottage for the next 3 months – and I don’t want him to be crushed by an avalanche of boxes and bags!).

You may ask:  “Why is Nick living in the cottage?  What about you and the kids?”

Here’s why:

Nick has a new film project starting next week.  This film will be shot in Joburg… so Nick needs to be here in Joburg for at least part of the time.  He will work from… and live in… our cottage during this time.

Filming is always a hectic time for Nick and he will really need to focus on his work.  There is no possible way that he will be able to be productive in that tiny space (with the kids and I living and working in there too).

Obviously, we could have rented out a separate, furnished place in Joburg for 3 months.  But we still won’t be spending any quality time with Nick (especially on week days when he works long hours).

So – we made a decision.

The kids and I will move to Cape Town for those 3 months (maybe 4) while Nick works on the new movie.  We have found a beautiful 2 bedroomed apartment… right on the beach… in Noordhoek.

This means, that during the week… I am not restricted by the limitations of Joburg.  There are far more things to do in Cape Town (with kids) than in Joburg.  Apart from the usual kid’s play areas…  there are many museums to be explored, markets, galleries, aquariums… not to mention hikes, wine farms, picnics, docks and harbours and – of course – the beach itself.

Nick will commute to us on weekends (he will fly in on Friday and leave on Monday morning).  Best part – is that when Nick is with us – he’s *with* us…  we can really enjoy family time and go on little adventures and really enjoy our weekends together.

This is our life now.  It’s flexible.  

Some jobs (like the Karoo shoot) require Nick to be in beautiful, interesting places.  In the Karoo, we had the privilege of living in this gorgeous cottage – and Nick would come home from a busy day on set, and we’d cook supper together… and light a fire… or do some stargazing… or hike up the mountain to explore…

It was the perfect work / travel situation.

But — of course — there will be other times, when Nick’s shoots require him to be in places where there isn’t much for families with two learning, growing children to do… see… and explore…

In which case, we make a plan.

Or – we move to Cape Town!  🙂

So that’s where we’re going.  We should be in Cape Town by Friday.  Nick will drive down with us and settle us in… then he’ll fly back to Joburg on Tuesday morning.

So… right now, I’m packing again.  Different things, this time.  No more winter woolies and snow boots.  Now there’s buckets for the beach… loads of books and reading material… schoolwork stuff…  computers… cameras… lego… LOTS of art material… toys… Morgan’s craft and baking supplies… sun hats… sun-block… beach towels… and, of course, enough clothes for 3 or 4 months.

I’m dreading the 13 hour drive in our cramped, tiny car… but really looking forward to our Cape Town chapter!  🙂

So – there you go!

A little update for those who were interested.

Now, I’m taking the kids for a haircut… and then we’re going to visit my mom.  🙂



There is no one “right” way to live life…

As I type this… I’m sitting on the shady porch of the home of some very dear friends.  Their porch overlooks a beautiful, green, tropical garden and a sparkling pool – watched over by twin palms.  It’s the ideal garden for kids.  There’s a fort, a playhouse, a trampoline and a swing.

Their home is nestled in one of Joburg’s large, green suburbs.  There are toys, puzzles, books, bikes, games… and Chester-the-Dog, always eager for a game of Chase or Fetch.  Morgan and Joah have been thoroughly enjoying long, sunny days of swimming and fun with their two little friends, Matt and Erin.  The kids have been in the pool every day since we left the “Polar Vortex” in the United States and landed smack in the “Solar Vortex” of South Africa (Nick’s pun – not mine).

As for me, I’ve been happily enjoying the shady porch, the content purring of Sam-the-cat, the birdsong in the garden, cups of freshly brewed coffee and the interesting (and cherished) company of our friends, Rogan and Tracey.

The Kelsey’s have chosen a different life to ours… and they walk a different path.   They’re not nomads.  They’re not homeschoolers.  They have different goals and priorities than ours.

And, you know what?  I absolutely… 100%… support, value and respect them in their decisions and their lifestyle choices.   It’s their life… not mine.  I don’t expect or want them to think the same as us… to live the same as us… to find value in the same places where we find value.

Because there’s no one *Right* way to do life.  What’s right for us won’t necessarily be right for our friends.  What’s right for our friends won’t necessarily be right for us.

If you’ve been a long-time follower of this blog, you’ll probably know… by now… who I am, what I stand for – and how I would like to live my life.  You possibly know what’s important to me – and what’s not important to me.  You probably know that I’m not a fan of the public school system… that I’m a bit of a skeptic when it comes to religion… that I’m interested in the ideas of peaceful anarchy… that I’ve disengaged from the Rat-Race… that I have issues with advertising and runaway consumerism… that I’m an introvert who dreads the small-talk at parties… (but who loves to engage on a deep level with thinkers and questioners)…

You probably know that – as a family – we’ve rented out our home in Johannesburg to the geeks of Dee-Twenty… that we got rid of most of our possessions… that we got rid of most of the debt (and try to keep it that way)… that we now live as nomads – following the work of Nick’s films and – in-between projects – we travel and explore new places.  You probably know that we “road-school” the kids… and that Nick and I are both able to generate an income with laptops and an internet connection.

But – this is how WE choose to live OUR lives.

And – in all likelihood – it’s probably not how YOU would like to live YOUR life.

And that is perfectly okay with me!  I love diversity!  I love that the people of the world are different.  I love that everyone has different passions, different ideals, different beliefs and different dreams.  I love this.  Please don’t get me wrong and assume that because this blog is focussed very much on *OUR* ideals… on our passions… on our beliefs (including the occasional rant about this or that)… please don’t think that I scorn the choices of others.

I do not believe that there is one *right* way to live life… one *right* way to educate one’s children… one *right* version of success… one *right* kind of happiness.

Your version of success may be very different to mine.  And I celebrate that.  I really do.

I am not offended by the choices that other people have made for their lives.  Whether it’s your big dream to climb the corporate ladder… or to start your own business… or to nest in suburbia… or to live in a remote cabin and grow your own veggies and bottle your own jam – hey, enjoy!  Do what you love!  Maybe you’re a nomad (like us)… or maybe you prefer the comfort of routine and the security of living in a place where you’re understood and known.

Seriously – it’s none of my business how you choose to live your life.  It’s YOUR life… live it the way you want!

If this blog stands for anything… if there’s only one area where I’d like to encourage you – or challenge you… it’s this:  Live deliberately!  Live on purpose!  Make up your mind about what you WANT… and then take deliberate steps towards the life you really want for yourself and your family.

And, it’s a journey, by the way.  None of us have “arrived” at some kind of magical happiness destination.  Life is a journey.  There’s peaks… and valleys… and rivers… and mud… and thorns… and beautiful vistas… and meadows… and… and… and…

Right now, as a family… we’re in a happy place.  We’re enjoying the fruits of our labour.  We’re loving the view.  We’re excited about the road ahead.  But – there’s still a road… nonetheless.  We haven’t “arrived”.  And neither have you.

The mindset that I kick against the most (and that frustrates me enormously)… is the drifting mindset.  The folk who just drift along in life and allow life to happen *to* them.  The people who just sigh… and say:  “Oh well… I guess we just have to survive” or “I guess we’ll just get by and make do” or “I guess we’ll just be miserable-miseries for the rest of our days and then grow old and die!”

I really struggle to *get* that mindset.  To me, it seems like such a waste.  Life is short!  Life is precious!  The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying point powerfully what’s really important.

If I want anything for you – the reader of this post – it’s this:  Live deliberately!  Live on purpose!  And don’t put the keys to your happiness in someone else’s pocket!

Other than that… go in peace – and live in whichever way works best for you and for your family.

And I shall do likewise.