What a crazy month April was. It started with us moving my mum out of her wee house and into the Amber Valley care centre in nearby Howick. It was a distressing experience for all of us, which was hardly surprising given that she had lived with us, in Durban and on the farm, for close on 30 years. However, she managed to rally and the transition went better than expected – the hardest part really was getting her out of the cottage and into the car. After much fannying about, Kho, bless him, just picked her up and plonked her on the car seat, much to everyone’s astonishment! As we made our way up the driveway and onto the farm road, she said her goodbyes to her wee house and the farm and acknowledged that she was not likely to come this way again. It was, as you can imagine, quite an emotional moment.
Since moving, the transformation of Edna’s state of mind has been nothing short of amazing. She no longer spends all her time in bed and even enjoys being taken in a wheelchair for walks around the grounds. Gone is the agoraphobia and incessant complaining. It has once again become a pleasure visiting her; during the past 6 months I dreaded seeing her so much that I used to dose myself on Rescue before I did! But now I can finally relax and enjoy this time with her. Occasionally she’s still a bit delusional but we think this is more a case of how she, as a reclusive person, handles being around others and having them invade her space. The last time we visited, she regaled us with stories about how the carers and other residents all speak German and are plotting the rise of Nazism in Howick. Although she does believe this, she did have a twinkle in her eye as she confided her conspiracy theories to us. What a relief to see the sparkle come back, albeit a bit wackier than usual!
And what a weight off our shoulders; it’s definitely improved our quality of life – we have so much more freedom to come and go as we please without the constant niggle of worry about whether my mum was being cared for. This was hugely apparent and much appreciated during Kiera and James’ recent 3-week visit to South Africa. I haven’t felt so at ease in a long time.
April provided us with the most glorious autumnal weather as we spent time relaxing at the farm as well as travelling about KwaZulu- Natal. The first thing we did was to make a beeline for one of our favourite places, Nambiti, a private game reserve near Ladysmith. This time we stayed in unbridled luxury at Umzolozolo Lodge which is built on the highest point in Nambiti, giving us the most spectacular views from our chalets.
Umzolozolo lodge on the hill and sunrise from our balcony
Our game guide, Raymond, made the game drives an absolute pleasure and for the first time I didn’t freak out when we got close to lion and elephant. For years I’ve been terrified of close encounters with these animals but this time I felt quite comfortable and found the whole experience very enlightening. I also felt rejuvenated; months of worrying about my mum and all the guilt about the negative feelings I was having towards her simply fell away. If ever your soul needs replenishing, the African bush is a good place to head for.
Nambiti sunrises, game drive with Raymond and vultures on the pylons
Another place to head for is the hills and since we have the mighty Drakensberg on our doorstep, that’s where we went, staying in a timeshare resort in Champagne Valley. Some of us felt the need to walk in the mountains, while others felt quite content simply looking at them. A short hike in the Monks Cowl reserve reminded me that I’m not very good on uphills! On our last day in the ‘Berg, our friends, Ann and Bill, who are fortunate enough to live in this beautiful valley, took us for lunch at one of their favourite restaurants, Champagne Bistro. We shared a platter of tasty treats, which I can well recommend, as well as the very nice red ale from the brewery next door. We all loved being in the mountains, enjoying the great outdoors and the special energy generated by these magnificent peaks.
the Drakensberg and Mount Champagne resort
And on the subject of energy, Kiera and I spent her last weekend in SA attending a yoga retreat at the Buddhist Retreat Centre in Ixopo, while Peter and James went off to Southbroom on the KZN south coast to enjoy the wonderful hospitality of Peter’s younger brother, Richard, and his wife, Debbie. This was an incredibly precious time for me – Kiera and I have not spent any length of time alone since my trip to China nearly 10 years ago when the two of us spent a happy few days in Xiamen together. So this was very special. And the lovely couple running the retreat were our teachers when we first started yoga in Durban all those years ago when Kiera was still at school and later at uni, stirring up many fond memories of the times we spent at the Jivananda Centre in Durban North. The yoga, chi kung, meditation, as well as the healthy, wholesome food and serenity of the place was just what we both needed and we left with mind, body and soul suitably retuned.
Autumn at the BRC
Kiera and I joined Peter and James briefly in the lovely seaside hamlet of Southbroom, in time to enjoy Richard’s legendary calamari and prawn braai, catch up with Peter’s older brother, Billy, and his wife, Sharon, and to dip toes in the sea before heading home for the last few days of Kiera and James’ visit.
A week has passed since the painful goodbyes and everything feels slightly different; the house is quieter without our visitors, my mother’s house stands empty – her garden neglected and overgrown, even the dogs are subdued. But as the leaves gather under the Liquidambars and I reflect on April’s comings and goings, I am reminded of the need to keep moving forward. Autumn into winter, slowing down the pace but preparing all the time for spring. Must get those broad beans in, prepare the beds with compost and mulch, cut tracers for firebreaks ……. and plan my next trip to America.
If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward. (Martin Luther King Jr)
* I love a good sing-along and one evening at the BRC, Kiera and I joined in a Sanskrit sing-along, otherwise known as a kirtan. It was great fun and Jaya Shiva Shankara was one of the chants we learnt.