Sea Series. Day 3

My second morning had me leap out of bed quickly. Although it’s night 3, it’s only the second sea sunrise I get to see. I was convinced I saw more dolphins and they were hanging around (or leaping?) in one spot, so I grabbed my shoes and dashed downstairs.  The doors were closed due to the earlyness and I walked reluctantly away.  I got a notion to try the door at the lift and it allowed me access to the fresh morning.

Sunrises are very quick in South Africa,  well let’s say the pink colours are quick so I knew that I had to move quickly around the corner to try get a clear picture of the dolphins, which turned out to be fishermen on small boats. Argh! But I decided to keep walking as the street was alive with people which was due to the ( forgotten) public holiday.  I was amazed at how many fishermen there were.  Plus the tide was high so lots of the men were casting off from the pavement.  Families sat patiently in the cars, youngsters in their onesies which made me think about home and the Jozi frost. 

I walked along to the older cottages that I had seen the day before and I decided to go live  for my Facebook skit, with them as a backdrop as well as the size of the plant- covered dunes looming over the small homes.

I’m always curious as to how people live, and how different it must be in amongst all the modern holiday apartments. Three vocal dogs were wishing the fishermen a good catch as I made my way back to get ready for my run.

The foot traffic was far busier as families spilled from their beds onto the pavement and I decided to turn up the one street that didn’t have a ‘dead-end’ sign. You know that dune I mentioned earlier? Well it forced me to stop halfway up the road and catch my breath. I saw a family of fellow Joziburgers admiring a magnificent tree and we all lamented on how we don’t see this beauty every day.

The cars and people were at least 3 times as many as day 2 so I opted to go for lunch early to beat the rush. I had the most delicious tuna salad although I had to pick out a generous amount of tongue tingling avocado. The staff seem genuinely happy to serve down here albeit not with the inland haste, so I sat quietly and eavesdropped on the youngsters beside me,  and their hangover reports.


I managed to so some work, and walked along to the tidal pool which was busy. The narrow street parked to the max, I dread to think about life here in the Summer months with Christmas holidays. I sat on a bench for a while conscious of my mask and long sleeved top. I certainly won’t be returning with any trace of a tan, but I will have a glint in my eye. 

Sea series. Day 2

Waking up in a different bed with different light made me immediately focus on where I was.  I saw some grey clouds on the horizon and I knew that the sunrise would be impressive with the cloudy contrast. I wasn’t wrong.

Every Tuesday, I do a running podcast and I got myself ready for that while loving the milder temperatures than back home. Just after the podcast ended I saw dolphins skim the sea surface so I excitedly rushed out to the balcony to catch the beauties on my phone camera.  Fortunately they were playing for me and surfed some waves and did some impressive leaps and even more impressive is that I actually caught the shot mid-jump.

Wearing my running gear and a huge grin I made my way down to run along the 6km stretch beside the sea. There were a few fellow runners as well as dog and baby walkers.  I passed an incident where someone needed medical assistance on a boat moored on the sand. It pricked my interest as I saw the medics arrive and a few minutes later the medical chopper flew over but wasn’t needed. On my gently sloping return run, I saw locals loading their kayaks on their car roof, holiday makers sitting at pavement cafes, and a general relaxed feel on the street.  I ran past some of the original fishermen houses standing solidly in the midst of all the high rise holiday apartments and wondered about their history.

I took myself for a smoothie at the cafe and could feel my grin on the inside sending all sorts of good serotonin to all my cells. As I was taking pictures of coastal spider webs I saw more dolphins crack the sea surface.  Absolutely loving life in the moment I blurted out while pointing to them. The confirmation of awws from fellow cafe customers made me feel less crazy for my childlike wonder.

On my return to my apartment I decided to put my feet in the Indian Ocean.  But it meant taking my running shoes off. Yikes. I have incredibly ticklish feet and as my soles kissed the sand, my knee buckled.  I think it was from the shock, lol. The water didn’t feel too cold, but I didn’t give it a real chance because I was a chicken.  I then considered crossing the road on recently salted barefeet.  But as my sensitives touched the pavement I realized that I would have to go ‘commando’ in my shoes.  My running socks are like gloves and I certainly wasn’t going to be wiping off all the remarkably sticky sand to try squeeze the damn socks on.

Lunch was interesting to this ‘binnelander’ ( inland dweller). Inland we have hadedas and very few monkeys, here they are very, very brave and the maitre ‘d spent a lot of time chasing the unwelcome customers with a spray bottle of vinegar.  Although they are very cute, they’re still wild animals so I try respect their space and don’t want to share my plate of chips!

And to prove a point they’ve literally walked along my balcony, and I am five stories up!

Sea series. Day 1

‘I wish I had the confidence to go on holiday alone..’
I blinked slowly at my friend going over her utterance slowly in my mind .  Do I truly have confidence?
When did this happen, I wondered.  It feels like I have always had it but it’s only in the last few years that I can genuinely say that my chronic anxiety is gone and I am no longer riddled with fear.


I’m really enjoying my own time and choices. I have spent a lot of time alone in my life of unusual jobs and child free adulthood but I am really beginning to understand what I enjoy and will make the effort to do. Before it was a matter of what other people want, waiting for family to join or decide or what running races offered our ladies group.

The longer I live the more I appreciate my life.
I love the sea, although I seldom swim in it. I love music and right now I’m being delighted by a talented busker during my wait for my timeshare to open.
I love buildings, mountains, desert, and yes, I do love people.  But holidaying on my own means doing my things without putting the needs of anyone else before mine. It’s a strange feeling but once felt, it becomes a stronger need.


Today is day number 1 of writing by the sea.
Exploring a town, never explored.  Feeling the light and energy of a new place and settling in for a midweek trip. 
Often on solo trips I start off overexcited at what to do first.  This enforced pause at the airport, eating my musical lunch is giving me a chance to settle.  To be in my now. 

Airplanes really excite me. My  5 year old self kicks in at all the ‘new’. The idea that in less than an hour,  everything changes, weather, vegetation, birds, air, people and pace. My mind still boggles with that buzz

So I decided to get a ‘writing log’ of this quick trip to the sea. Too long for a Facebook status but I do like to share.

My accommodation is a timeshare studio apartment right across from the sea. That was one of my requirements. I have a partial view but I can hear the waves and am quite sheltered from the wind. I explored the immediate area and bought some groceries from the little spar. One thing I seldom do is go out to dinner alone unless there is a restaurant in the resort.  I usually have a decent lunch and a light supper and that’s what I did today. 

My apartment is fresh and bright and is fully equipped. In fact I could settle in here permanently lol. The east coast seems to get dark early in the winter so I settled down with some coffee and listened to the waves on my patio.

Loss of a borrowed dog

It’s been a little over two years that I haven’t had my own dog. Our two oldies died within two months of each other and it was heart wrenching. I have lived my adult life with furry beasts who are just hearts with a tail and so easy to love.

There’s something about the wordless pet love that just fills my soul, so to live without them on a daily basis took some adjusting. Life isn’t conducive to having my own dog right now, so I do the next best thing and dogsit.

In the process I have my heart expanded by someone else’s beast. The dogs don’t mind, because they are more than capable of spreading their love. It’s me who had the benefit of sharing this delicious space of love. So on hearing that one of my temporary charges has crossed the doggie rainbow bridge, gives me paws to reflect and be sad.

This particular king, Harley, was a beautiful beast. He helped himself to a swim and would bark cheerfully from the top step to tell the neighbours that the ‘water is fine’. He would lay his heavy head on my lap for a rest after his excited walk around the block and look up at me with thanks in his eyes. His boundless energy would follow up and down the stairs in an attempt to figure out where I was going to settle. He would groom his tiny brother with his massive tongue until his fur was soaked and would still want to do a second rinse. He understood the different sounds of my leaving and would take himself out of the door with a small sigh. The excitement of my return would always be loudly celebrated whether my absence was 5 minutes or 5 hours. He was a delightful dog and although not part of my daily life, I will certainly miss him. His lovely owners are the unlucky ones who deal with his huge absence.

But I grateful to have been in his happy presence for the short times in his life.

60 years

Twenty years ago, pre selfies, pre digital cameras, I was in Scotland to celebrate Joanne’s 40th birthday. She’d planned a girls trip to London to see the Lion King and on hearing that, my FOMO ( fear of missing out-before it officially became a thing) kicked in. I had to be there to celebrate this gorgeous sister of mine going into her fabulous forties. Mary also manoeuvred her work travel plans to squeeze in some time but couldn’t stay for the West End show. The perils ( Haha) of a big family living on both sides of the globe means that there’s very few events that we can always be together but this trip was an amazing one. The sad thing about it not being a fully digitized time means that many of the details are forgotten. Only triggered by the odd photograph here and there. I long for a chance to have kept a proper journal, filling it with details for the future that Joanne wasn’t gifted to us, in.

As usual, we invaded the tiny Paisley flat and air mattresses and sleeping bags, all talking at the same time, full of smiles and cups of tea. Aunt Margaret stopped by and I was always flabbergasted at seeing this older version of me stare back at me. Somehow, these large gatherings always feel so comfortable and easy, even if they seldom happen nowadays. The noise and babble can intimidate outsiders and no doubt young Kieran must have been overwhelmed by so many strange people in his wee hoos.

I often wonder what you would look like at 60. Mind you, we never got to see you at 50. No doubt you would still be glamorous and cocky as ever. Would you have had a party to celebrate the 6 decades, or being pandemic would you have been quietly celebrating at home? Mum never got to 60 either, so I like to imagine that are planning a huge soiree wherever you are and no doubt you have Simon playing the music.

I’m honoured to have shared the planet with you dear sister. Even more honoured I got to share some of that marvelous 40th birthday cake. Honoured to share your genes.

Party on sister! Remember you and mum can now travel on the busses for free, no need to drive, woohoo!

Sea Life

KZN North Coast became a favourite haunt of mine ever since I have run Comrades. We first stayed here in 2011 and every year I have looked forward to spending our winter, Comrades weekend here. With Covid preventing the big race from happening, I realised that I had missed my fix of Umhlanga air. When travel restrictions eased and the beach ban lifted, I realised that I could use my dormant timeshare and promptly booked a trip.

With much excitement, sister and I checked into a very strange OR Tambo airport, with everyone masked, sanitized and wide eyes we arrived at the sea without the familiar salty air, because of a light drizzle. We’d left behind three weeks of grey wet Highveld weather so we were hoping that the coast would be kind to us. It heard our pleas and we managed some amazing early morning runs. I always marvel at how much easier it feels to get up and just go run when looking at the Indian Ocean.

It was sister’s birthday and we started off full of exercise and breakfast and managed a swim in the pool. The water felt a lot warmer than Comrades time. I had also booked a walking tour in Durban and as the tour took us down an interesting Florida road, I wondered if it always felt like holiday time if I lived here permanently. Again we both looked at each other and wished we didn’t have to return inland.

More morning runs with my wee sister looking over her shoulder as she ran ahead, but I didn’t mind because I was busy looking at the waves, dogs, surfers and making sure my exercise wheeze didn’t make people think that I was carrying a virus.

All too soon, it was time to return home. Reluctantly we both packed up and silently conjured up possibilities of making a life at the sea. One day soon!

The day before my life changed..

Today’s date was always less significant than tomorrow’s.


24th July.


The day before mum died.
It was a day of breath holding for the past 28 years. Dread for the big day, the 25th. 28 years because the 29th year mum was still alive. It was the day that I actually dropped my shoulders with relief, with no idea of what was a few short hours away.

24/7/1991.
The morning started off with caution.

It had been a week since we got the news that mum had had a ‘mild heart attack’ while cycling to work. Her bike being pushed over 9km every morning to her ‘little job’ at a small manufacturing business on the other side of town. A rush visit to the doctor’s with my older sister and then admission to hospital gave us all the terrifying news. But she reassured me on a quick midweek visit that she was fine and I was to continue with our weekend plans to visit my then, fiance’s parents at the coast. I don’t think I relaxed at all those 7 days, and I was doubly concerned about me traveling 700km away from the crisis back home. But I couldn’t say ‘no’ in those days and I reluctantly went along dreading any horrible call, during the two day trip.

We returned from the coast and back at work after a quick stop at the hospital on route home, I continued to worry. The morning of the 24th was the first genuine exhale, I caught myself doing, after her phonecall. Mum was home and feeling great. Not having smoked a cigarette in the past week must have been stressful on its own, but she reassured Dad that she had stopped and told me cheerfully that Dad was going to return to work the next day. I can’t remember the full conversation sadly, it’s been wiped out of my memory but today I tried to recall what we must have said to each other. I know I told her that I would come down on Sunday after I worked on the big rugby match that was going to be played on Saturday. A few pleasantries would have been shared and I know I breathed heavily out when I put down the office phone. If only I knew that that was to be the last chat with her. I would have lingered longer, I would have asked her all sorts of questions, I would have told her I loved her and I would have asked her to tell me that she loved me.
I knew that she did love me, but I never knew how much I needed to hear the words until she was no longer here to say them.
I have reread my birthday cards, the letters written to me on my gap year and examined the thin blue airmail paper hoping that the ink won’t ever fade, to read her signing off
“Love Mum”
No clear ‘I love you’ but a very definite unwritten and unsaid message.

That 24th day of July in the year my life changed forever, was a day of hope. A return to normal after the scare. Plus, a life without Mum in it, was unimaginable. The relief spread over me, and no doubt I chatted to all the other sisters in the network. There was no cell phones yet, so landline calls were the extent of conversation at that time. Sadly the rest of the day remains insignificant. Much like all the other ordinary days when Mum was alive.

Now almost 29 years later, I can’t believe that it has been so long without her. An unimaginable future became my reality. My adult life has gone without her to witness it. I wasn’t able to think of her as anything other than Mum, because I was busy being young. It’s only as I appreciated the path of life, that I started to wonder what her young dreams were, the questions I could have asked about her own mum and who she was before she met Dad.

This time of year always comes back to the trauma, the shock and the havoc that the 25th wreaked.

29 full earth orbits around the sun. The first few years were indeed without light, full of the shadow of death. But now it’s more a case of loss of what could have been. The missed chances to get to know her, for her to know me, to watch her age into the wise council of elders in our home town. I’m sure she would have enjoyed my skits, my dressing up and the laughter at my characters.
I sometimes see her reflection in my face, her footsteps in my slippers and I feel her in my heart.

Once again, I get reminded..
I am, because she was. xxx

Christmas run on 1 May


Traditionally, the first day of May is Worker’s day in South Africa and in many other countries worldwide, but for many of us locals, it meant Freedom day. Albeit that Freedom Day was on Monday… But the names of days and months have shifted dramatically in the 38 days of our Level Five Lockdown.

Today we moved into Level 4. This means that more retail shops are open as well as take-away food stores but the more relevant aspect is, running is allowed in a 3 hour window period!

I hadn’t planned on ‘going out’ to run. A part of me was a little nervous, to be honest. Agoraphobia can kick in quickly if a person spends too much time at home. But I am an impulsive person and if the feeling is right, I do things. 

I jumped in my running shoes, and was glad that they still fit, lol. Put my dusty Garmin watch onto ‘running outdoor’ mode and I could almost hear it gasp. I opened the gate and started waving Mel Gibson arms in the Freedom fist punch, and I saw a fellow club member running with his son. 

I chatted across the road, glad that this verbal function still does work without a smart phone screen in front of my face. I started out to the bridge that is under construction and was impressed to see that some big work had been done. I greeted some dogs, who looked dazed and confused but very excited to have some different visuals past their gates to their own constant prison. The hadeda’s were going mental, I swear I heard them ask what was happening with all these feet in the street. 

The pavements look long grassed and undisturbed, the trees look sad with their Autumn colours fading, the sky was a cobalt blue, like I have never, ever seen and not likely to see again. I deliberately crossed the pedestrian bridge over the highway, to marvel at the clean air and lack of traffic. I stood in awe at how nature seems to have had a big relief from the rush, smells, fumes and angry energy that we humans spew into it. People ran, cycled, walked alone or with their doggies who were wagging their tails so much they looked stationary. Masked people, unmasked, friendly, people and some militant types eager on keeping the strict rules in place. I did big body swerves when I overtook, (yes I know 😉 ) I have been Comrades social distancing since 2008, I know how to steer clear of germy beasts. It felt so liberating to be outside and being able to do this thing, called run.

I ran up the Marathon Cul de Sac street, just because it’s there. I probably woke the dogs up and 5 Jack Russels were super thrilled that I went by- their owners maybe not so much. I decided to run past one of my house sitting jobs to catch a glimpse of my foster pups. And there she was, young Olivia standing guard at the gate, I started calling her name, and she was a bit hesitant at first, but when she smelled me (yes, I could expand this, but won’t) she recognised me and started excitedly grinning and barking and calling the others. Benji had forgotten me, but she’s young, and eventually Chucky was let out the front door, because he’s not running around, while there’s commotion at the gate. Owner, Karen came out and we tried to chat across the gate, or at least shout over the barking of the three beasts, who realised that I wasn’t there to walk them. Leaving them was a little hard, but I caught myself smiling at the houses I recognised, as I ran by.

I was very thankful that my calf felt absolutely fine with it’s new scar, and pleased that my legs managed to keep supporting me, instead of shouting out all the chocolates and puddings that have been piling up in my thighs. I had dressed too warmly with my double long sleeved top, and the morning seemed to be showing off in it’s glory, as people were acknowledging just how much we missed the world. Now I need to readjust my early mornings to be able to fit in my short runs, but if I get a repeat of today’s experience, then I will become the most disciplined runner… haha!

Another birthday without my friend

It still seems strange that my friend is not here to celebrate her birthday. I am sure she would have found some way to entertain me through this lockdown period because she was so used to living a solitary life. Not necessarily her Choice, but her health issues made it difficult for her to find a partner that could cope. She was a fascinating charmer and made everyone feel special. Yet the life she visualized and imagined and dreamed of, eluded her in her last few years.

I never knew her when she danced ballet, tap and contemporary style and I believe she was very good at it. I never saw her embrace and develop the ‘troubled kids’ in her classroom as she impressioned their young minds forever. I never saw her when she faked her cycling skills to her boyfriend as they planned a cross-Europe trip, but didn’t dare mention her saddle blisters on her first day of cycle. I never got to see her flirt ridiculously with older MD’s of companies and took credit for winning the advertising brief for her boss. I never saw her when she visited the super-rich households and charmed both the married hosts and the butlers. I never saw her when she taught her art, gave her reiki, nor conjured up images with her crystal ball.

But I felt like I was transported to all these events as she shared her younger days of glamour and adventure. I knew she had shone the brightest light in any room. She shone her glittery love all over every hospital room I ever saw her in, every doctor she boisterously hugged, and nurse she confided in and then usually comforted. It was an honour to share her place on the planet and I know the ripple of love she gave me, will always fill my heart.

Miss you hen. Now stop charming Kenny Rogers and Sol Kerzner, you are too young for them.

Cathie

Before my mum got the name I knew her as, she was known as my name. Ok, I got her name but you get the idea. Before she was loved by my ‘dad’, she was loved by Alfie. And before that she was loved as a sister, a daughter. It’s hard to think differently about someone you know as one role only, especially as her ‘name’ defined that role.

Cathie Oakes sometimes showed up when I had moments of curiosity and I asked her questions. She seldom offered conversation or glimpses into her inner life. Now I wonder if she was always quiet and private, or did the burden of her adult role silence her in her exhaustion? I know if I had seven children I’d probably be a lot quieter. I think she had the ability to pause before responding whereas I am only learning how to do this in my later life. I remember her chatting about her school days and that she was ‘able’ to stay on an extra year. I thought it strange, I mean who wants another year at school? Now I reflect on how women were not encouraged to get educated and how children in general were put out to the workplace to help the large families cope. My dad left school to help his family survive but Mum stayed on. I wish I had paid more attention and asked her about her subjects, her interests and her young dreams for her life. I know she liked art, but I don’t know when she learned her craft of sewing. She never seemed like a perfectionist but looking at some of my siblings and their need for order and my need to understand that origin, I recall how impeccable her sewing was. She didn’t seem to make mistakes and never, ever cursed her sewing machine, like this Cathie did. When she sat behind the machine she seemed to merge with it, the creative process became one and now I can recognise what I saw, but I remember being frustrated as a youngster because there was no interrupting her when she sat in her cigarette-smoke filled cocoon.

My dad talked about her being a ‘looker’ which I couldn’t understand as a youngster. Who thinks their mum as a looker? But the rare photos of before being a glamorous bride, a proud mum and a tired parent, I see it. That chic ‘Jackie Kennedy’ look, with dark hair and wide smile that I saw in two of my sisters. I wish there were more photos of the young girl so I could form a bigger picture of her first 21 years of life.



The 35 years after marriage meant sacrifice, and no place for individuality. She became mum. Her individuality sometimes gets unearthed by friends who remember the women from a different perspective. Her quirks and habits seen as unique which used to surprise me when I heard them. A reminder of how one dimensional my perspective is.


She never got the chance to become old. Today is her 85th birthday. Almost 30 years that she didn’t get to explore her world, her hobbies and possible interests. I wonder if she would like the history tours I find myself on. I wonder if she would have cycled across Britain like her son and son-in-law did last year? How would she have managed cellphones? Would she check in on her grandchildren on video calls? Would she have done art classes or line dancing or gone on coach tours? All the opportunities that are available to me simply because she was.

Her life, my gift. Happy birthday Cathie Oakes!