Tuesday, January 06, 2015

one month in south africa

Happy New Year!

Look at me, rising from the dead.
I haven't blogged for almost an entire month, which is quite extreme, even for me.

Truth be told, I didn't have the time, or the inclination. I unplugged in South Africa, pretty much right up until now - where I am currently sitting in a Starbucks in cold, grey London, while my son attends his first settling-in session at nursery.

I've left him with a stranger called Hannah (his "key worker"), all smiles, numbing myself to the fact that this is my last week with him full-time.

A month in South Africa; it was full of all sorts of things.

Happiness watching my son thrive in the sunshine and open spaces, being showered with love and affection by his doting grandparents.
Sadness as all my grief, emotions, frustrations, everything came to a head. I had what I believe to be, a full meltdown. Being with family in such a short and intense period of time can do that to the best of us anyway, but mine only manifested.

Now through the clouds, I have come through it extremely focused, if not numb - on the future and going forward.
So this is another reason I haven't bothered to blog. I've been in a bit of a bad way.
Anyway, the good part of all of it is that I feel like I've turned a bit of a corner. I now know where my loyalties and priorities lie, I have realised that I need to deal with my grief properly and actually go and see a professional, and I need to work on myself and try and be more tolerant (losing a child while attending to my survivor 24/7 hasn't made me an especially nice person to be around).

Trying to get my head around going back to work, and hoping that it won't be as difficult as I think it'll be.

I think I am finally ready to go back. I think I will be a better mother for it as Sebastian gets older, as I will have something else to focus on, give me a bit of my identity back, and he will thrive at nursery, and do things there I can't offer him at home.
I've forced myself, perhaps by jamming my head in the sand, to try and be positive that the almost 10 months I've had at home with my baby are over, and it's back to work and reality.

Going back this time was different.

For one, we had almost a month, so when we left to come back to London, I was happy to get back to our home. I thought I'd be an hysterical mess, but as I am so numb to everything right now (self-preservation maybe), I was actually composed on leaving the country.

I had time to see friends and spend time with family, and actually make some observations on both.
The last time I went back was over a year ago and suddenly things have shifted. Many of my friends have moved into big, palatial houses, many of them are onto their second and third child, many are pregnant at the moment, so aren't doing much by way of festive celebrations.
I felt like a lot of Johannesburg is a race that I am no longer familiar with or running in, but everyone else is still going at it hammer and tongs. Who has the biggest house with the biggest garden, it's all very showy.

I know that us South Africans can be very showy (we love driving nice cars, for example, while here in London a clapped out Renault will mostly do), but I suppose I am now on the outside looking in, and I really see it.
Everyone seems to live in a big, expensive house. It's hard not to want a piece of that lifestyle too. We had to constantly remind ourselves that we live in a world class city, where most people live in a small flat, and everything is safe, blah blah blah.

Johannesburg just isn't home for me at all anymore. There's a huge piece of me that wants to go back, even just for endless sunshine and socialising with friends around a fiery braai every weekend while our children play on the lawn under the watchful gazes of African nannies.

But I dunno. I don't know if I can deal with all the big houses, finance salaries, and so forth. I am naturally competitive, so the first thing I would want to do is look at property in Westcliff (as does my husband it seems. "This is a nice area. If we came to live here for a few years, could we look at houses in this area?" Yes darling.)

That said, it was good to see old friends. Their friendly little faces, full of chat, how I miss them. Especially Dove, who as Sebastian's godmother, showered him with love and gifts. She is one friend who has read up and researched the grief of losing a twin. She has tried so hard to understand my loss, and she acknowledges Molly at every turn. I am so grateful for her, she tries so hard, and miss her so much.
Many of my friends acknowledge her in their own way, and I am also grateful for that. E planted a special rose for Molly at her old house, and moved it especially to their new house. Others don't know what to say, so say nothing at all, even when I mention her. This is something I just have to learn to deal with. It's so hard,; they just don't see her as she was: a baby, a person.


On a brighter note, Capetonians really don't know how to drive. Cheeses Chroist. We hired a Chevy 'Spork' for two weeks down there, and saw some pretty interesting things on the roads. I almost forgot.

I also almost forgot how bad a South Easter is. Maybe it's something you get used to over time or if you live there, but there were days when we were staying in Oranjezicht, that I thought the house would blow away and arrive in Kansas the next day. The raging gale howled so much, I am pretty certain it was the thing that set off my meltdown. I'm not even joking.

I hate wind. I am completely wind averse. If the Brit and I made a set of pro's and cons about Johannesburg vs Cape Town in which to live one day, wind would be top of that list against Cape Town.

Of course Cape Town is beautiful, and so well run. Helen Zille has created this whole little bus system throughout the City Bowl area, she is impressive.

We also discovered new things around Cape Town; things I haven't really done before. I pride myself on knowing Cape Town fairly well, given I was a student there.
I consulted my Capetonian mummy friend here in London for some local tips, and so instead of hitting Stellenbosch for some wine time, we went to Steenberg, for example. Which serves incredible food, is low key, friendly, and chilled.

We also went to the Alphen in Constantia for tea and bubbles, and I walked around new spots that have cropped up over the years that I haven't seen, like The Old Biscuit Mill, the new boutiques in Kalk Bay, and Kloof House - this gorgeous little restaurant set in a house and graden on Kloof Street.

Sebastian got to swing on the swings in Oranjezicht City Farm, and we got a breakfast view on the corner of our street.

 The Melrose Arch Hotel

We thought we'd splash out and stay a couple of nights here while we see friends in Johannesburg. While it was lavish and the service was brilliant, we experienced something that reminded me that South Africa is a different place from when I left it almost 5 years ago.

Up at the pool deck, we took Sebastian up there for a swim and so we could chill in the heat. The Brit went to the bar and ordered a himself beer and a green tea for me. The bar was set to close at 6pm (it was 5pm), and the staff behind the counter said they couldn't make us a tea.

Looking around, the Brit saw people sipping on coffees and hot drinks, everywhere. He also noticed that we were the only white people on the deck. There were a lot of rich black businessmen and couples with children up there.

Why is this important? Well. Many of these people were being served tea. They suggested to the Brit that he fetch the tea from downstairs. (Er, beg pardon?)
He insisted they bring me a cup of tea, to which they reluctantly agreed.

About twenty minutes later, the waiter bought him his beer and me a teapot full of tea. Hmm. Could I perhaps trouble you for a cup?
The waiter said yes, and then just never bought us one.

So we decided to leave, clearly not welcome up there, and told the guy we would not be paying for tea. As I didn't drink it straight out of the teapot spout, sans cup.
The waiter pretended not to know what we were talking about and still tried to charge us by printing out the slip.

Was this "reverse racism" that everyone speaks of? I think so.

Christmas was fun and dysfunctional

But in the best way possible. I loved Christmas, possibly for the first time in ten years. I haven't spent a Christmas with my mother and father in the same room since I was 17 years old. That's 17 years. ago. Half my life now. Fuck.

My parents are friends now, and in fact socialise quite well. For that I am extremely grateful. So it was myself, my father, my mother, my step-father, his son, me, Brit and Sebastian, and a handful of family friends. All getting palookered in one place, and engorging ourselves on a massive braaied Turkey with all the trimmings.

I think the Brit's first summer Christmas was a successful one. I wish we could do it every year.

We ate so much biltong.

It's actually embarrassing. But, as they say, in for a penny, in for a pound. We went through biltong from my step-father's 'Vleis Paleis' like water.
It was so fucking good.

Apparently my son looks like Prince George.

About 7 people - friends and strangers - think so anyway. The sun, a daily vitamin D injection, plus being surrounded by lots of talking faces, really had an effect on Sebastian's speech. Suddenly his babbling is almost coherent; he calls anyone 'baba,' when he needs them, and he has started saying 'mama and 'dada', even though he isn't meaning it. He is using these sounds to get our attention, and it's amazing to see.

He isn't crawling yet, nor does he have any teeth. Still.

He paddled in his paddling pool, and it was the most delightful entertainment you could ever hope to see.

He also found his willy for the first time. And had a good play every time he swam.
 Sebastian happily ate sand like it was an actual meal.

He loves people, and he smiles at everyone. He is not discerning of the company he is in; as long as someone is talking to him or holding him, Sebastian is happy. Regardless.
Leave him alone and he gets most upset. He needs to be in the action.

I am so lucky to have him.

I miss South Africa.

But I also feel London really is home now. I'm a tourist now, true blue.

London. Where, like a minute ago, a 60 year old Jamaican granny walked in, threw her china cup at the barista, and broke everything on the counter, while screaming garbled obscenities at everyone. Just shows that nutters really do come in all shapes and sizes.

And look at that, it's almost time to pick Sebby up from his first few hours at nursery!

2014 was a shitty year

Despite having and rearing a beautiful little survivor, last year was awful. Just look at the highlights reel on the big news channels, and they'd agree. ISIS terrorism, planes going missing/crashing, Nigerian schoolgirls being kidnapped, the ebola epidemic, Bill Cosby et al  and other high profile paedophiles, nearly losing Scotland, I mean, the list goes on. Losing my twin girl, it's been an incredibly hard year for lots of people.

So I look forward to 2015 with hope, improved happiness, and betterment in so many things. Plus the joy of seeing my boy turn 1, and all the other milestones to look forward to.

I hope your 2015 is all about that, too.

1 comment:

Vannessa said...

I'm glad you had a generally good stay back in SA. It has been terribly windy here in CT, it's driving me crazy too. Feb/March and of course winter are the times when there is usually no wind.

I can understand the meltdown, but sometimes we need it and, ugly as it can be, it helps us move on as best we can. I hope everything went well at the nursery, I am sure he will settle in quite quickly.