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Travel : The Small Things

When my daughter said that it’s the small things that make a trip memorable, I realised she was right. We had a wonderful time on our recent visit to Ireland, wandering around Trinity College, touring a whisky distillery, visiting castles, cathedrals and so on but the real memories were made up of the small things. These are the travel stories you tell your friends and family over a couple of glasses of wine.

My stories of this trip will include include my granddaughter’s request that we have something sweet to “give closure to the meal” – from then on we made sure our holiday dinners had proper closure at the expense of our waistlines. Another fun story will be our encounter with an Irishman who warned us of the dangers of wondering around Dublin, “especially at night”. He obviously didn’t realize that South Africans are masters of self preservation.

… and then there was the one about our visit to the hotel leisure centre to have a swim in the heated pool. I dressed into my bathing suit and put my things away in the locker and locked it, using a euro coin. But I’d forgotten to take off my glasses. So I had to reopen the locker. I took another euro out of my bag and locked the locker, again forgetting to take off my glasses! I reopened the locker, took off my glasses, put them in the locker and relocked it with another euro. I then realized I’d locked my towel in the locker and had to reopen it for the third time! My husband was well into his swim by the time I joined him. I didn’t tell him the whole story, just the part where I forgot to put my glasses in the locker.

We came across enormous turnips, so remarkable in fact that they deserved a photograph – my son-in-law used his watch to give perspective to the photo. And the daisies! Huge and lovely. The watch was hauled out again for a photo shoot. Finally we came across a gigantic box of washing power in a corner cafe. Surprising stock for a local grocer in a small village to keep on his shelves, especially as the boxes took up a good portion of his limited space. Boxes of this size would be far more at home in a wholesaler’s warehouse. Thank goodness for the watch which was used for a third time!

One of our stops was for lunch at a beautiful hotel nestled in the Irish countryside. The story here is not the hotel or the lunch but it’s about Bruce, the resident Staffordshire Bullterrier, who ambled over to us wearing a tag on his collar which said ‘Bitch Magnet’.

As much as we loved the touristy things we saw and did, the stories of the small things are what we’ll treasure whenever we reminisce about our wonderful trip to the Emerald Isle.

 

Port Edward Lighthouse

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Port Edward Lighthouse situated at 130 Milford Road, Port Edward on the Lower South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal

We visited the Port Edward Lighthouse on a beautiful summer’s day. It’s not on the beach, as I had imagined, but is built amongst the houses in a residential area.  It is fully operational so my first thought was for the neighbours. I wondered how they slept at night as the lighthouse has two beams, is powered by half a million candlewatts and is visible for 40 kms!

It’s official name is “North Sand Bluff Lighthouse”.  Here are some interesting facts:

  • It is 24 metres tall;
  • Was originally built in 1968;
  • And rebuilt in 1999;
  • It is about 5 storeys high;
  • And has a spiral staircase;
  • The lighthouse is owned and operated by the Transnet National Port Authority.

 

“Sometimes amidst all of the wars,

all you need is to become the lighthouse,

not the sword”

Akshay Vasu

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Port Shepstone Lighthouse

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Although I lived in Port Shepstone for a long time, I never took much notice of the lighthouse. I rectified this on a recent trip down to the South Coast when we stopped off to take some photographs of this attractive building.

The lighthouse is situated near the mouth of the Umzimkulu River and is about 8 metres high. It is made of cast iron and was shipped from the UK to South Africa in the 1890’s.  On its arrival on South African shores, it was erected at Scottburgh where it was used to indicate part of the reef of the Aliwal Shoal.  It was moved from Scottburgh to Port Shepstone in about 1906 where it has stood for over a century.

The lighthouse is a National Monument and is well maintained. It is painted in black and white checkerboard style which looks beautiful and distinctive. The lighthouse’s revolving electrical light flashes once in every 6 seconds and it has a light range of 26 sea miles.

Apart from it being essential to the safety of seagoing vessels, it is also a perfect landmark which says “Welcome to Port Shepstone”.

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Red Desert

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We visit the KZN South Coast each year and this year I decided to browse the internet in the hopes of finding something different to do or see.

Well, I got more than I bargained for when I discovered from my research that there is a desert in Port Edward which is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the smallest desert in the world.

it didn’t take much for my husband to agree to visit the desert and so we set off from Margate to Port Edward in search of the Red Desert.

We turned off onto the Old Pont Road at Port Edward and then onto Maurice Road where we arrived at the Red Desert Nature Reserve sign. A short walk through the veld led us to the Red Desert which is only 200 metres wide and about 11 hectares.

The bright red of the desert sand is quite startling against the surrounding lush vegetation.  I have read that the desert’s layout is similar to that of the Arizona Desert, in miniature, of course.

The reasons for the Red Desert’s existence vary from being caused by overgrazing of cattle by the Zulus to being an alien landing site. Apparently archaeological artifacts have also been discovered there.

Finding the Red Desert has reminded me not to take any place for granted –  I lived on the South Coast for many years and had never heard about this little gem.  I’m sure that the people of Port Edward are very proud of their desert which is a National Heritage Site.

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The Feast of Corpus Christi, Lisbon 2016

We had planned to ride on the Yellow Tram during our visit to Lisbon last month but, when we arrived at the tram stop, we were told that the tram would not be running – it was the Feast of Corpus Christi on that day. I must admit that I knew nothing about the celebration.

As we turned to walk up the hill we saw what seemed to be a parade and we stepped back onto the pavement to watch. My husband took lots of photographs and the disappointment of not riding on the tram faded as we were treated to a colourful and moving display. Loud speakers were installed all along the route and the air was filled with religious music.  First came the horses and their riders, then the clergy, nuns, monks, boy scouts, girl guides, police, traffic officers and so followed by hundreds of people who also formed part of the procession.

When I got back to our hotel, I looked on the Internet for more information and I found that Corpus Christi commemorates the Last Supper and it’s direct translation is Body of Christ. In Portugal the celebration is known as Dia de Corpo de Deus. Corpus Christi is mainly celebrated by Roman Catholics although Anglicans are also know to mark the day.

I found this information on Wikipedia in my search under “Corpus Christi”:

At the end of Holy Mass, there is often a procession of the Blessed Sacrament, generally displayed in a monstrance.

The procession is followed by Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. A notable Eucharistic procession is that presided over by the Pope each year in Rome, where it begins at the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran and makes its way to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, where it concludes with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.”

The Feast of Corpus Christi is celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday – the date of the celebration is different each year as the day depends on the date of Easter Sunday. In 2016, Corpus Christi was celebrated on the  26th May and in 2017, it will be held on the 15th June. It is always held on a Thursday. It is also known as Corpus Domini, which means “Body and Blood of Jesus”.  Although the celebration can differ in various places, it is usual for bread and wine to be consumed. The bread signifies the body of Christ and the wine signifies the blood of Christ.

Christians commemorate the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus by taking communion as Jesus did the when he shared the Last Supper with His Disciples.

1 Corinthians 11:24-25 (New International Version of the Holy Bible)

24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

25 In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying,

“This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

Not all Christians participate in the Celebration of Corpus Christi, but many Christians take Holy Communion in their Churches throughout the year which fulfils the purpose of Corpus Christi.

In retrospect, I’m delighted that the Yellow Tram wasn’t running on the 26th May 2016 and we were able to watch the celebration of Corpus Christi instead.

“Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come

when we stumble upon one thing

while in pursuit of something else.”

Lawrence Block, American crime writer.

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The horses led the procession.

 

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The Crucifix

 

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Clergy

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Banners

 

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Priests

 

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Celebration of Corpus Christi

 

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26 May 2016

 

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Lisbon

 

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Girl Guides

 

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Procession

 

 

South Africa, dear land…

I find it difficult to process what is going on in South Africa. My parents always voted against the Nationalist Party Government. I followed in their footsteps and when the whites had the opportunity to go to the polls to vote for/against the continuation of apartheid, my whole family voted for its abolishment. We delighted in the release of Nelson Mandela and had high hopes of a better future for all.

The lustre has faded and those first heady years after 1994 have disappeared.  My simplistic view was that we would all work hard and pay our taxes uncomplainingly to a democratic government. In turn, the government would improve the lot of previously disadvantaged groups in our county and we would try together to right the wrongs.The focus would be on the black communities and the main areas of improvement would in access to proper medical treatment, clean hospitals and clinics, children would be able to go to properly equipped schools and be taught by caring and competent teachers, communities would have clean, running water, functioning electricity and so on. In short basic needs would be given priority.

What a dismal failure that has turned out to be. The hospitals are filthy and the majority of staff uncaring, children are hungry and have to be taught under trees in the heat or cold after walking for miles to school without any shoes. Our politicians are corrupt, stealing out of the mouths of babes, the elderly and infirm. I could go on and on.

Two weeks ago the water meter was stolen from outside our offices. This meant water gushing down the street and no water in the offices. We had the damage repaired privately after the Municipality failed to respond. A Municipal worker jokingly told us that the meter would be replaced in a year or so and we should enjoy the free water in the meanwhile. I didn’t laugh as, from all accounts, he was close to the truth.

A week or so thereafter, the copper from our telephone and internet lines was stolen, so we had to operate via cell phones and mobile data for over a week. The Telkom technicians told us that they are inundated with problems relating to theft.

We sent a parcel to clients in December 2015. It arrived on the 31 March 2016 – three months to get from Pietermaritzburg to Johannesburg via the postal service. We now use private couriers – no wonder the Post Office is bankrupt.

Crime is all an all time high with endless farm attacks and robberies. Our present drought is exacerbated by leaking pipes, ailing infrastructure, inadequate dams. And don’t get me started on Eskom.

We have a deceitful president who flouts our constitution and has a “get out of jail free” card,  permanently affixed to his jacket by a bunch of merry men and women who are no better than he is. To me, all of the above indicates failure. Failure by the government to deal with crime, to look after its citizens and manage state owned enterprises which are drowning in debt and inefficiency.

Something needs to change, something has to give. We cannot allow ourselves to stay on this potholed road to nowhere.

In the words of  Nelson Mandela

“If the ANC does to you what the Apartheid government did to you,

then you must do to the ANC what you did to the Apartheid government.”

I hope and pray that voters in the coming elections heed his advice.

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Sunset in the Cape

Polesden Lacey

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Polesden Lacey

Polesden Lacey is situated in Surrey, England. Mrs Margaret Grenville bequeathed the property to the National Trust in 1942 in memory of her father whom she adored.

She was the illegitimate daughter of William McEwan, a very wealthy Scottish brewer. Mrs Grenville rose to be highly influential in English society and entertained royalty, prime ministers, ambassadors and business people. She could boast the friendship of King Edward VII.

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Flowers

The Estate has remained mostly intact since the Middle Ages. When Mrs Grenville bought the property in 1906, she and her husband, Hon.Mr Ronald Grenville, employed the same firm of architects who designed the Ritz Hotel to attend to the upgrades and changes which they wanted. As Mrs Greville was a very wealthy woman, money was no object. 

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The Main house

A section of the upstairs portion of the house has been occupied by the National Trust. However, they have relocated and the rooms are going to be restored to their former glory. These were mostly used as guest bedrooms by Mrs Grenville as well as staff quarters.

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The Saloon

Weekend parties took place in the Saloon and on the afternoon when we visited, a pianist played the piano which added to the atmosphere in the lovely old house.

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My granddaughter, enjoying the summer sunshine at Polesden Lacey

The grounds are beautifully cared for by the National Trust and the gardens are amazing. There is a Rose Garden, a Lavender and Iris Garden as well as a Winter Garden and a Summer Garden.

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Surrey

When I visited the house, this Afternoon Tea Dress was on display. It was recreated by a group of volunteers who used a photograph of Mrs Greville wearing the dress.  34 volunteers spent 2000 hours over a period of 2 years on the project.  

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Recreation of Mrs Greville’s Afternoon Tea Dress in the Tea Room

I hope to go back to Polesden Lacey as it definitely deserves more than one visit. There is so much to explore. Apart from its historical interest, guests can picnic on the lawns, go for walks and wander around the manicured gardens and absorb the atmosphere of this beautifully maintained Estate.