Friday, December 23, 2011

Moving: A Late Account

A couple of weeks ago, when I was still without Internet, I wrote the following post and never ended up posting it. I thought that it was about time.

Our new house from the road.

I have a love-hate relationship with moving, as I think many people would have. You see, I love the excitement that comes with a new house, trying to decide where things will go, buying new curtains and odds and ends to make a house a home. But the act of moving itself is both stressful and exhausting. This time was no different.

Our lounge before the lounge suite arrived.

Considering the number of times that I have moved over the last couple of years, I thought that I was becoming quite the expert. I moved from Cape Town to Grahamstown, from res to my digs on Cross street, from Cross street to Grant's digs on African street (even if it was only for 12 days), from African street back to Cape Town, from Cape Town to Korea, from Korea back to Cape Town and from Cape Town back to African street. Each time boxes were packed, cars were filled and the moving took place within a few hours. There were odds and ends to buy – a computer when I moved into res, a bed when I moved into digs, etc – and then there was unpacking and settling in, which would always take a few days. I thought I had the packing up, moving and unpacking thing down to a T. I was wrong.

What is to become Grant's bar.

First of all, while you can prepare and pack in advance, there are some things that you cannot control. Take our situation for example. I had been well prepared and had arranged with the previous tenants that we could start moving in the weekend before the actual move. You know, just taking over some boxes to make things on the day a bit easier. They were moving out on the Saturday into the home that they were building for themselves, and so I had phoned a month before and arranged that someone would be there on Sunday so that we could bring in some of our stuff. Awesome planning ahead, I thought! And then the Friday rolled around. Two days before we were supposed to get moving, I phoned the tenant to make sure that everything was going according to plan. And it wasn't. Due to recent rains, their house was not finished which meant that they couldn't start moving out and we couldn't start moving in. Which meant that Thursday was going to be a busy busy day. So much for my master plan.

Our kitchen (a slightly wonky photo, I admit).

And then Thursday dawned. And due to pure laziness on all of our parts (me being no exception) we were not finished packing. Not only that, but the weather decided to play a cruel joke on us and, despite the beautifully boiling Summer day that had graced us on Wednesday, we were woken up on Thursday at 6:30am by thunder, lightning and torrential rainfall. Perfect moving weather, no? It wreaked havoc with the moving process, as things like beds needed to be move in the brief gaps between downpours. And so, as the boys (Grant and Jono) braved the weather, I was left behind in the house to finish off the packing and look after the Puddims who was most perturbed by the movement all around him and his favourite play toys (ie. Our belongings) being packed up and shipped out. By 5pm, nine hours after we started, we were ready to make a final trip with our last few bits and bobs and Puddims and were all soaked to the bone.

The bedroom that Grant and I share (Jono's was a mess and the study was where Natalie was staying, so photos of these will need to come later.)

And then the fun started as we began to explore our new home. When we made the decision to rent the house, it was on a whim. We had taken a five minute tour around the  place and decided that it was the best we were going to get, and so we said we'd take it. That was way back in August, and we hadn't seen the place since. Our vision of what it was like was starting to become blurred, and I was getting nervous that the house was not going to be all that I had imagined. And then we arrived. Now, no house is ideal, but this one is pretty close to perfect for us. Sure, the carpets are a bit grubby, sure there was a cockroach or two in the cupboard that made my skin crawl, but these were minor irritations compared to the pleasure of having a giant garden, a large lounge, a dining room/bar, a kitchen big enough to fit a dining room table and chairs and enough cupboard space for an army.

Our en-suite bathroom. 

The house is not particularly modern, and the rooms are a fair amount smaller than what we are used to, but there are other benefits to staying in this house. Benefits like a gorgeous, modern, recently renovated en-suite bathroom which may be small, but is absolutely beautiful. Benefits like a patio perfect for a braai even when it is raining (we tested it – it works!) Benefits like a garage to park our cars in. And finally, benefits like two stunning gardens – one in the front and one in the back – filled with fruit trees and flowers. I had forgotten just how big the garden was, and walking around the back of the house, I was amazed at just how much space there was. The garden at our house in African street was not particularly small, but compared to this it was piddling. We have lemon trees galore, a plum tree, a peach tree and, I suspect, an orange tree. Mike (Beans) is also fairly sure that we have a nectarine tree buried in amidst the others. On top of that we have gooseberries, chives, a small hibiscus, a strelitzia and a tree around front that has the most beautiful white flowers. We also have numerous palms and a loquat tree that reminds me of home. Oh, and did I mention that we are paying less rent here than we were before?

The front garden from our patio

The back garden, with Natalie reading a book on the steps. Some of the flowers that were found in the back garden are below. From left to right a hibiscus, a strelitzia and a passion fruit flower.

Anyway, enough of the bragging and on to the stories. After a stressful day of moving, packing and unpacking I had a nice early night since, unlike the boys, I had to be at work on Friday morning. It was the last thing that I wanted to do, but I made my way into the office and sat down to the longest day of work ever. It was almost impossible to concentrate as in between answering phone calls and emails, there were the phone calls from Grant himself, first in excitement that Puddims had used his catbox (we had been worried that he had found somewhere in the house when we woke  up on Friday morning to find the litter untouched), and then to ask about phone numbers and furniture. At lunch I met up with the boys for a bit of furniture shopping. One aspect of the house that can be considered as a downfall is that we have to buy all of our furniture as the house is completely unfurnished and has only come with a stove/oven that does not work very well. This does mean that we get to pick the furniture and move it with us when we move houses, but it is also incredibly expensive decking a house out, and my photography studio is going to have to wait a few months until we can afford to start work on it. After picking out a dining room set, a coffee table, outdoor furniture, a cabinet for the lounge and new curtains, it was time to head back to work where I finished off the day watching the clock and waiting for the stroke of five.

 (Above: Mike and Danika enjoying the relaxing weekend braai)

Saturday started early with unpacking the last big boxes and picking the necessities from the small ones before packing them away in cupboards and making the house presentable for our friends who were coming over to help us put things up. We bribed them with a braai, which Vicky and I ended up making and cooking on while the boys (Grant, Jono, Enzo and Mike) ran cabling through the roof and hung (skew) mirrors on the walls. By the time work was done, food was ready and we ate way too much as is the tendency at braais before settling in to watch some TV and play some board games.

(Above: Danika chasing Piddles around the golf course and Puddims enjoying a hard-earned golf ball).

On Sunday, we woke up a little later only to find that the electricity was out. This, of course, led to us freaking out. Had the municipality cut us off? We hadn't received our final electricity bill for November, so we suspected that they might have and, because it was early morning and the sun was shining rather brightly, there was no way of telling if the neighbours were having the same problem. This utterly flummoxed Grant whose first action of the morning was to go and turn on the kettle and looked at us as though we were crazy when we told him he couldn't have his coffee. By lunchtime, there was still no power and, thanks to a number of phonecalls, we found out that this was not a localised problem – the whole of town was out. Which meant that another braai was in order. We brought out the leftovers and bought a little more to add to it, and invited people round for yet another braai, which was made by the boys (Grant and Mike with Tom putting in his two cents worth every now and then) this time around. It was, once again, followed by board games and, when the electricity had still not returning at 4:30, a walk on the golf course with Mike and Vicky's appropriately named puppy, Piddle. A light dinner was in order as, by 7:30 we were feeling peckish again (not having gone overboard with the braai like the last time) and Natalie, Jono's visiting sister, suggested sushi. We all jumped at the opportunity and the weekend came to an abrupt halt with a final meal of sushi and a movie that Natalie and I picked out.

 (Above: Puddims helping to pack and making his first escape).

And so the weekend of moving came to an end with all of us feeling that this house was more of a home. It certainly feels like more of a home to me than the house on African street did, as that always had the air of men around it, Grant and Jono having lived there for over a year before I moved in. Even Puddims has made himself at home and has started being let out for walk abouts. The first time this happened, we kept a watchful eye on him, until he wandered too close to the neigbour's garden, not noticing their dog, and got the fright of his life when it approached him. Off he sped, straight back into the house, and from that moment, we knew that he had decided this was his safe spot. I think we’ve decided that it’s ours too.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


So it is time for my bitch and complaint session of the month, also known as my rant. Often my rants end up being about random things that have been on my mind, but this month my rant is directed at someone. Not someone as in a person, but someone as in a company. And it’s a company that pretty much everyone in South Africa bitches about – Telkom.

I have had my issues with Telkom in the past. For example, earlier this year when my parents Internet suddenly died and I was put in charge of contacting Telkom to resolve the situation.
“No,” they said. “It is not us. It is your router.”
“It is not our router,” I responded. “The router is sinking perfectly. If it was the router, the light would not be flashing. If it was the router, our computer guy and my boyfriend who works for an ISP would not tell us unequivocally that this is a Telkom problem.”
“No,” they said. “It is not us. It is your router.”
“Send a technician out then,” I replied. “We will PAY for the technician if we are wrong.”
“Okay,” they said. “We will send a technician to [ENTER WRONG ADDRESS HERE].”
“That is not where we live.”
“But your telephone number is [ENTER CORRECT TELEPHONE NUMBER HERE].”
“Then you live at [ENTER WRONG ADDRESS HERE].”
“That is the wrong address! We have never lived there! The only other account that we have with you is for my father’s company which isn’t at that address and never has been!”

This battle of wits continued for a solid three days of me phoning Telkom and telling them to send someone out to fix the problem to no avail. On day four, however, a technician miraculously appeared. Not because of my phoning in. No. Because Grant had convinced someone at work to phone in on our behalf and send someone out. The technician brought in a router and plugged it in… only to find that it didn’t work. Which is what I had been telling them.
“Oh,” was his response.
Half an hour later, it was discovered that our wire linked to the neighbour’s telephone pole and something had gone wrong. It took another 20 minutes to resolve and then we had internet again. Hooray! While he was fixing our line, I was standing in the front garden and happened to witness another guy who was driving past screech to a halt, swiftly reverse and stop in the middle of the road outside our house, climb out of his car and come running towards me screaming: “WHERE IS HE?” It turns out that we were not the only ones having Telkom issues in the neighbourhood.

So, knowing how much of a pain Telkom can be, when we decided to move to a new house and we learned that we were going to need a new phone number (the old tenants were migrating the line with them but, of course, leaving the infrastructure), I insisted that we place the order for the phone line ASAP. We went to Telkom in the first week of November and ordered the line and ADSL upgrade, and even though we were not impressed that we were going to be paying for an installation when all of the equipment was already there, we did not complain. We asked that everything be sorted out by 01 December, and on 01 December, lo and behold, the technician arrived. We were most impressed! We were told that it would take a couple of days for the ADSL line to be active, and we were pleased. Sure, we wouldn’t have internet for a couple of days, but we could live with that.

A week passed and we still hadn’t heard anything from them. Grant had been emailing the Telkom rep in Grahamstown and she was being really apologetic about it, but there was nothing that she could do. Each time we asked, she phoned Telkom and was told that it would take a few more days, information which she then passed on to us. By Friday (a week and a day after the line was installed), I was getting irritated. Not wanting to bug Surita more than was necessary, I decided to contact Telkom directly. I spent half an hour waiting in the queue before finally being seen to, was then informed that it should be done on Monday and that Surita would contact us. Most frustrating, but at least we had been given a date.

Monday came and went with no ADSL. On Tuesday (now a month after we had first placed the order) we were told that we had been given an installation date of 23 December. We were furious! Working at an ISP, we know what is involved in enabling ADSL on a line. It involves walking into the exchange, signing a couple of papers, finding the line, unplugging it and plugging it in elsewhere. It should take no more than 15 minutes and yet – 23 DECEMBER! Surita, once again, was most apologetic and promised to do all that she could to get it done sooner. Surita, we have decided, is magic. On Thursday we were told that the ADSL had been enabled and we were practically jumping for joy. It was still not working at home though, so Grant ran off to Telkom to get a phone and went back to the house to test it. Only to be met by the dull BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP that indicates a dead line. A dead line that told us that the installation that was done on 01 December had not been done correctly. A dead line that indicated that the bill that we had already received for the line rental might as well be torn into tiny little eetsy beetsy bits since there was no way in hell that we were going to be paying for a landline that we couldn’t have used even if we wanted to.

It is now almost a week later and we have finally been told that a technician has been sent to work on the problem. It has been most painful getting hold of Telkom to discuss the matter with them, since the Grahamstown branch is in fact closing and are therefore no longer answering their phones and phoning the main branch in Johannesburg leads me to want to shoot my work phone. Here’s hoping that this is the end of it, but something tells me that it really isn’t and that there are long struggles with Telkom ahead. In the meantime, I am not happy with the service I have received and if I were rating the company, I would give them 1 star. Not that it would make any difference, of course. Practically everyone in the country complains about Telkom and nothing comes of it. I was tempted to write a complaint on HelloPeter (something that I was reluctant to do because I have issues with HelloPeter, a story for another time) but I doubt that they would even bother responding to that. They have a terrible reputation and they are doing nothing to better it. And so I will just rant on my blog where no one is likely to pay attention, but at least I get my frustrations out in the open. /end Rant.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Deck the Halls!

I love this time of the year, and I know that is a little weird what with me being Jewish and all, but it is true. Christmas always brings back the best memories – decorating the Christmas tree with Granny Ellen, baking (and eating) mince pies and Christmas pudding, Christmas lunches with Uncle Ashley and my mom’s side of the family and, on the few occasions that I haven’t been home, spending Christmas with friends.

This year, Grant and I are staying in Grahamstown, which means that we aren’t going to be with our families. Our friends are spreading out around the country to celebrate with their own families, some going to Zimbabwe or Cape Town and others just visiting nearby Boknes. Even Jono (our housemate) is travelling to Limpopo to be with his family, leaving Grant and I on our own! This will be a first for me. But we weren’t going to let that get us down! All that it really meant is that we had to celebrate Christmas earlier than usual this year, while our friends and family are around!

This last week has been the week of Christmas for us. The festivities started on Wednesday with a Christmas/Birthday dinner at Mike and Vicky’s. Vicky has always seen her birthday as the start of the Christmas season, since it was only after her birthday that her family started putting up the trees and decorations and started getting ready for Christmas proper. So what better time to celebrate the festive season than with a Birthday dinner including all of the Christmas favourites? Well, some of the favourites and some of their own modern twists! Dinner kicked off with homemade sushi which was followed by a turkey-sized chicken, gammon, roasted sweet potatoes and veg. Once we were all filled to the brim, it was Secret Santa time and we unwrapped gifts galore before finishing off the night with some mince pies and custard. Yum!

With Friday being a public holiday, Thursday became the Friday of the week and we were all in great moods by the end of the day. Grant was in a particularly good mood as his dad and stepmom were arriving on Thursday evening. A little shuffling was in order as Jono’s sister was also staying with us at the time, but with a ton of space in the new house it was no problem getting everything in order! Natalie moved into what will soon be Grant’s bar and Grant’s dad moved into our Study with Sharon. Everything was back in order and our long weekend began with a trip to the driving range where Rob, Grant, Jono, Natalie and I swung away at golf balls. It has been way too long since I last did this and I was completely out of practice – picture balls bouncing in every direction but at the course – but by the end of it I was back in the swing of things and balls were flying into the distance (though not nearly as far as Rob’s, Grant’s and Jono’s. Clearly I need more practice.) Having had a late breakfast of scrambled eggs, no one was particularly hungry at lunch time, but we made up for it by having a homemade lasagne dinner which was delicious as always.

Saturday dawned nice and early as Sharon and I had to drive Jono and Natalie to PE airport stopping for some coffee, some shopping and a Nanaga break on our way. When we arrived back, I was surprised by a small LED Christmas tree together with decorations that Grant and his dad had bought just for me! I spent a good portion of the afternoon decorating it and presents were then brought out of the woodwork and put beneath it. Saturday has become Grant’s favourite day for a braai (we have had one every week since we arrived at the new house and even had two on the weekend that we arrived thanks to a power outage) and this one was no exception. Mike and Vicky came over and an abundance of meat ensued – chicken sosaties, kudu steaks and wors – with the potato and table salads becoming the fillers. But Saturday was nothing compared to what was to come on Sunday!

With Grant’s family down for the weekend, we decided to take the opportunity to have our own Christmas celebrations by having a Christmas lunch. Or what was supposed to be a Christmas lunch and ended up being a Christmas linner (lupper? lunner? sunch? dinch?) The day started nice and early with everyone waking up at 8 and starting on the dishes from the braai so that we could have something to cook with. With dishes ready, Grant started preparing the turkey. And my God was it a big one. So big that we weren’t sure that it was going to fit into our teeny tiny oven. Which it thankfully did. The gammon that we bought was also pre-cooked, which meant that we didn’t have to worry about that having to go into the oven. What we did have to worry about were the potatoes, stuffing and veg, all of which did require oven and stove-top cooking in an oven that could barely fit the turkey on its own and a stove that could only have two plates on while the oven was going. Not fun. Preparations were also halted when Grant sent his dad out to get toothpicks that were essential for the turkey cooking and his dad ended up getting distracted and chatting in the street for an hour while we waited for the toothpicks to arrive. 

Nonetheless, dinner was ready by 4 and it was certainly a great one! Our linner of turkey, gammon, stuffing, roast potatoes, carrots and cauliflower was followed by pressie opening which in turn was followed, a good while later, by dessert of mince pies, Christmas pudding and fruit cake with custard and ice cream. Of course, the ice cream was all that anyone wanted to eat since Sunday ended up being an absolute scorcher of a day, and by the time it was all over I was ready to collapse into a food coma. It is now almost 24 hours later and I am still full!

And so, our Christmas celebrations have come to an end. Grant and I are still looking forward to celebrating actual Christmas together, but the big gespiel has been completed and we are looking forward to a relaxing Christmas day rather than a rushed frenzy of food.

Here’s hoping that everyone else’s Christmas is as merry as our early one and looking forward to speaking to and seeing you all in the new year!