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Day Ten

Today was a real spring day, beautiful sunshine all day! This is perfect, as today was Mum's Birthday!

For lunch we went to the Old Gaol in Swellendam, which does something called roosterkoek which is a delicious traditional South African fire baked bread. I had mine with roasted vegetables and feta and it was amazing. The Old Gaol isn't actually in an old jail. It used to be, when it was part of the museum here, but for reasons I can't quite fathom (possibly small-town politics!) they ended up having to find new premises. They kept the name though. Another reason, to like eating here is they serve that Blush wine from Bon Corage I remain addicted to!

Over lunch Mum told me much about the small-town politics of the area, and we had a very interesting discussion about cultural heritage; you meet many people here with a strong connection to their cultural heritage. I feel that in England we lack that connection, and I struggle to think of something that is something I canbr 'proud' of inmy culture. Being proud of your country is actually a very un-english thing to do! It was a very long and interesting conversation, and I wish I'd recorded it earlier, as I have forgotten most of it now. We definitely solved the world's problems, so it's a shame I can't remember...

On returning to the house Mum and I made a fridge cake. Mum's mum and her aunt used to make this, I remember making it when I was quite little with Grannie and associate it quite strongly with being the 'family cake' which is why I was so amused when Prince William had one for his wedding cake! It's not a posh or a complicated thing to make, you just smash up everything you want in it, bung it in a bowl with melted chocolate and then stick the whole lot in a freezer for 2 hours. Then you defrost it for another 2 hours. Then, you have delicious cake!

There was a great turn out for the party, and the cake was so popular it was gone in five minutes flat and Mum didn't actually get any at all!

At some point in this evening I went to get my phone to take a quick photo of the cake and Mum and Dave to put on facebook, and discovered my phone, while left charging in a locked room, had suffered the HTC equivalent of the blue screen of death; in this case a white and green screen of death. I decided to worry about it in the morning so as not to ruin the fun of the party - but as any of you that know me well, and know how attached (almost obsessievely so)I am to my phone you will know how hard this was!

The weather continued to favour us well into the late evening, which was unusual as so far I've experienced that even though the days might be warm the evenings are cold, once that sun goes down it's freezing! Tonight the weather obviously decided to make a concession to Mum's birthday though and it was lovely and mild righ through to when the last guest staggered home.

Here's a lovely picture of Stepdave and the Birthday Girl!

Day Eleven

The first thing Mum and I did today was to make a second fridge cake, as she hadn't had any of it at her birthday party. The only problem with fridge cakes is how damn long you have to wait for them to "cook" - minimum 4 hours! It was worth it though.

A friend of Mum's, Renee (partner of George who took the photo of Ostriches I want to buy) came around to meet up with me so we could go to the fairy santuary, as Mum wasn't keen on going again. Unfortunately, it was shut (we later found out it is shut on Mondays and Tuesdays - as StepDave pointed out, even fairies need a day off.) Not wanting to waste the journey, Renee decided that we should go to the garden centre instead. The garden centre is just oustide of Swellendam, and is MASSIVE and beautiful. There are lot of different areas, and each one has been really well planned.

It's not just rows of plants, but in each section the garden has been desiged to show you how the planst might look in your garden, which makes you want to buy everything! There are parrots, loads of funny little metal sculptures, giant pots, and a bonsai garden. I find Bonsai really strange - how much patience to make these huge trees so tiny? And I always get the feeling that the bonsai is somehow tiny and yet also a huge tree all at once, and that any minute now it might suddenly spring up and grow leaving you trapped in its branches.

While in the garden centre, I happened on a little metal warthog. He looked so funny I laughed out loud, and Renee laughed too when she saw him. We decided that Mum would probably find him funny, and as he was only R160 (about 15UKP) I decided that he would be Mum's birthday present. We named him Wilberforce Van Der Vlakvark (Vlakvark is Afrikaans for Warthog). On the way back, we hatched a plan. I would smuggle Wilberforce Van Der Vlakvark into the house, and rather than give him to Mum right away we would take photos of him all over the house, and then tomorrow take him to the Fairy Sanctuary and photograph him there, and then show her the photos of his journey through Swellendam looking for a home. We started with him in the car coming home, and couldn't stop laughing.

When I got in Mum was out food shopping with Dave, but Beauty was in finishing up the guest rooms, so I let her into the secret and we ran around the house taking photographs of him doing all sorts of things - reading the e-book, looking at facebook, doing the leopard room jigsaw. Beauty warned me that Mum had returned, we hid him and tried to look like we hadn't been up to anything at all.

Later that evening, the family that had booked the cottage for 3 nights arrived. Mum was surprised to see that it was just a couple on their own, as they had specifically requested a cot, and so we'd been expecting a baby too. On showing them round Mum asked what brought them to Swellendam; they told us they were adopting a baby from the Orphanage down the road! How exciting! They were such a lovely couple and so excited to be making their family larger. They'd booked time in the cottage so that they could have a few days getting to know their new baby before heading back to Johannesburg where they knew they would have no peace from excited family and friends. This seemed such a sensible idea that Mum thought perhaps she should offer a discount to other families with the same plan.

We did nothing in the evening, but played the CSI Miami drinking game again, which inevitably lead to an early night.

Day Twelve

I had planned to meet up with Renee again to take photos of Wilberforce at the Fairy Santuary, but she was unable to make it so I had to go alone. This made Mum very suspicious, especially when she suggested that we collect Nosi from school and all go together and I replied that we could do that later, but I was going to go alone first. Hmmmm she said, suspiciously. So I smuggled Wilberforce out of the house and took him to the Fairy Santuary. I was so amused by taking the photos, I didn't really register that it wasn't quite the place I'd been to 4 years ago and been rather fond of. I bought some little presents for people in the shop, told them I'd be coming back later to have my photo taken as a fairy (you get ten photos on a CD for 100R, and they provide the fairy clothes...) and headed back to Impangele.

I hid Wilberforce, uploaded the pictures, and put him outside the door again, telling Mum someone was at the door for her. She was entirely suprised, having been suspicious that I was planning something completley different. I then showed her the photos of Wilberforce's adventures in looking for a home, which has us all in stiches, so I think that's a successful birthday present :)

Here is the full story of how Wilberforce Van Der Vlakvark found his new home.

Click on the first picture and click through to read his story!

We collected Nosi from school and went back to the Fairy Sanctuary to have our photos taken.

On this second time around the garden it began to register with me that the fairies appeared sadly neglected. The owners having set the place up haven't appeared to do much maintenance, and many of the fairies, dragons, pixies et al in the garden are in need of repair and repainting. Perhaps it was because we're just going into spring, and the garden isn't yet in full bloon; but there are part of the garden which need tending to. The owners have purchased the proeprty next door and are setting up a "Starchildren Sanctuary", whatever that is, so perhaps their time is taken up by this and the Fairy garden itself has become a little neglected. The photos they take for 100R are intended to go towards this Starchild thing, so you'd think they'd want the money. However, we found it very difficult to get them to let us give them our money. We were told they couldn't do it this afternoon, but we could come back in the morning. When we pointed out we couldn't come in the morning, as Nosi would be at school, they looked rather confused, and said that they only did photos in the morning! This seems totally bizarre to me, as what's the point of offering a service which is only really of interest to small children, but then only offering it at a time small children can't go? But then you get the impression that the Fairy Sanctuary is not a business so much as a labour of love, and presenting a business case could go down like a fat fairy in a small balloon. I do love the heart and feeling behind the fairy santuary though.

After dropping Beauty and Nosi back in Railton, where they live, Mum drove into the poorest area to meet up with a lady called Maisie, who is part of the new Swellendam tourist initiave that Mum is involved in. Traditionally the black community hasn't been part of the tourism initiatives here, but Maise has such great ideas and is so committed to improving the area she lives in and creating new jobs that Mum is working with her to try to get better communciation, and more awareness of what Railton has to offer to Swellendam. While we were there, Maise showed her some beads she'd made along with some local ladies - they were so beautiful and intricate. She also told us her ideas for an upcoming centenery celebrations; of course no one from the tourist organisation knew anything about them because all of their communication is done by email and Maisie doesn't have email! Maise has plans that will bring all of the different communities and cultures in Railton and Swellendam together, to celebrate and enjoy their differences. She already does tours of the townships, but these aren't really advertised anywhere and many of the B&B owners don't promote them, simply because it doesn't occur to them that tourists might want to experience this side of South Africa, which is a shame. Hopefully together Mum and Maisie can change some minds and hearts!

On our return to the cottage the family in the cottage had their new baby! He was so beautiful. 3 months old, and with loads of curly ringlets. The odd thing was that the baby actually looked a lot like his new parents, you would never know from looking he wasn't their's biologically! They were to meet the mother the next day. They knew her situation, she was quite old, and poor, with four sons already and simply not able to care for this little one. She'd taken him to the orphanage, and been involved in chosing her baby's new parents. Our family were very nervous about meeting the baby's birth mother, but both felt it was asbolutely the right thing to do. It was so sweet seeing them with their new son, they were totally in love with him already.

Renee and George had invited us to their house for a Brai in the evening, so we headed over there with a couple of bottles of Blush. Over dinner we discussed the fate of the Fairy Sanctuary, and the difficulty in presenting the need to improve the garden as a business case to owners who probably felt the garden was about the fairies, not the tourists. Renee suggested that it could approched by sending an "emissary of the fairies" to them, saying "we represent the fairies of Swellendam. We are sad, and faded. Please paint us and make us happy again..."

Day Thirteen

Today Mum had ANOTHER meeting of the tourist organisation, but luckily for me it was a lunch meeting, at a lovely gift shop and restaurant called Pennantwing. I forgot my camera, so I can't show you that outside are two little stone dogs, each wearing tiny pink leopard print mini top hats. The lunch was AMAZING and presented so beauitfully, and the owners were super lovely. I bought my own tiny little hat from there, black with peacock and impangele feathers! I am going to need some sort of wedding or club night out to wear it, but it was so pretty it HAD TO BE MINE.

In the evening Mum's friend Amy had invited me to a regular girl night she has with her friends. Amy took me out drinking last time I was here, I think she must feel like I don't get to party much with Mum and Dave! A friend of hers picked me up and we headed out to Sarah's house. I hadn't met Sarah before, but know of her because Dave and Mum call her 'Fairy Sarah' - she is the daugther of the people that run the fairy sanctuary! She was lovely, as were all of Amy's friends, and after I got over my initisal shyness (thanks to the better part of a bottle of Blush I took with me, they were all pleased with it too as it's really popular here!) we were all chatting away about life, the universe, babies, the weather, the riots, the health service, the Proplem With Young People Today and why you shouldn't give children sugar (they were all very amused with my story of teh sign at Moonshadow.

all of the photos from days ten to sixteen are here.

I'm not quite up to date, there are a few more days I haven't covered. Coming soon: Lighthouses, Shipwrecks and Rugby!

Tomorrow we're off to Knysna to see some birds and some monkeys, via Oudtshoorn to see some ostritch and some caves!
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February 2015


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