The contrasts of colonial Durban

Having spent a year in England, I was primed for the colonial side of Durban. The colonial street names are on their way out as we encounter double barreled street names like Solomon Maglangu rather than singular names such as Moore road. I have no idea who Edwin Swales is so I am happy to see him go.  I am quite happy to see more african changes. But there is still places like Victoria embankment and Queensborough. In fact the colonial side of Durban is very difficult to erase.
So I went to visit the colonial centre of Durban, and little England it is, from the sweet little hanging baskets (the pay and display parking also very reminiscent of olde England),

to the surprisingly undamaged royal statues and arches.

This is the city hall20170413_142008

Identified as South African from the cycads in front. (could be India from the palms).

In this precinct there are, as in all of Durban, the most amazing trees tat have just burst fort in flower. The alien police have not got here yet. This comes from Madagascar..looks like a normal tree for most of the year and then suddenly bursts into these amazing inflorescences. South African plants are beautiful, but some of these foreigners are utterly stunning.

No this was very british. Its the playhouse theatre

Teir shows are, however very African in style although they may have european origins. Inside it is quite stunning..with some very African artifacts. How about an African style corset?

The other import from Britain was the buying up of tickets and reselling them with an additional 50% price tag, I discovered when I wanted to see Handels Messiah over Easter. Someone called Zee had bought “too many tickets”. Strangely she hadnt even paid for them yet…sounds like some inside job too.

Open a space, and Africa will fill it. And so I wandered into a vibrant flea market

with some stunning shweshwe clothing (not shown here) and beadwork.

There were amazing fever trees..my favourite African tree..I love the colour of their trunks and the generous spread of their canopies.20170413_144122

There were also relics of the colonial and apartheid masters juxtaposed between the lightness of the market.20170413_144152

Open spaces also mean busking and this was a play with the audience. Difference to Blighty..less white skin thats all.20170413_143307

An odd and largely unnoticed sculpture was this Eduardo Villa’s mother and child. His sculptures appear in odd places in Sout Africa, and is a comment on te soft roundness of Africa compared to the hard sharpness of Western intellect. An unsung ant-Western commentator.20170413_142710

Ten I walked through the alleys to the Docks and unexpectedly in a dark narrow alley, I found this:

Rather taken over by a huge concrete monstrosity.

Durban has enormously diverse architecture..none of it all together but interspersed with hideous uncared for blocks. below is a beautiful art Deco building next to this pink thing.

This is on prime estate overlooking the harbour. Durban has these orphans needing paint and love but some may be too awful to do anything about. This is the view from these buildings.

And so I drove home, passing these iconic (art deco?) warehouses that sets the imagination off when you consider that they could be filled to the brim with sugar. 20170413_152322

A NEW ADVENTURE IN DURBAN

So here I am moving to Durban to study homoeopathy at this late stage of my life. they only accept one “mature” student per year, and I am she.

Durban is a strange city and almost feels like a foreign country. The climate is so different. Hot and tropical with warm rains and warm seas..lovely lovely. I have been sweating so much it literally comes out of my eyes and drips down my face. The effect is also that I drink a lot of water out of pure thirst. I am a person who never drinks extra water..other than in tea and coffee. Here, I am just loving being thirsty and being able to drink clean water.

THE JOURNEY

Well I packed everything into my car that I own..dropping a few things at my sweet sister, Claire on the way..mostly photo albums and memorabilia. Things I find difficult to throw away because they are irreplaceable. Things that my dear son, Byron thinks I should have thrown away long ago. I drove with a full car with some essential items like a bathroom mat and a couple of vases.

I knew it would be a HOT drive without an air conditioner and so I manufactured a makeshift thing I got off the internet that uses a coolbox a fan and ice. It kept me cool enough..I was surprised.

I decided to go slowly this time and took 4 days, stopping for lunch and sleepovers. I first stopped in Barrydale after tea with Claire. It really is a friendly town, and the backpackers found me some wonderful accommodation, which was surprisingly empty..as every other place was full. ..I think because the front of the place is so non-committal. 20161229_065416The décor was artistic

and surprising there was a small plunge pool –cum-Jacuzzi downstairs.

The breakfast was good and it was reasonably priced.

 

Barrydale is full of surprising little businesses with lots of originality.

20161228_195944A faux banksy on a hotel wall.

After driving a HOT day, I found some chalets in Middelburg with shady trees, that were very reasonable and HAD A POOL! They had bought up almost an entire block of houses and converted them to chalets. The décor was typically small town SA, but with some real boere rusks in the morning, I just plunged in the pool in my clothes when I left in the morning..and that kept me cool for a good deal. Middelburg is a lost little town with a mix of colonial and Afrikaner influences..see the names of these streets that intersect. 20161229_185355

But many shops are closed or sell loans and funeral services.

Aberdeen was lunch where I could actually get wifi..but had a real retro outside loo.20161229_140352

From here, there is really no place to stay until Kokstad 200 kms away. Here the prices skyrocketed suddenly for shitty little places..but I had no choice, and stayed in a funny place..not really clean with a hundred policemen and women. Noisy with lights blaring..only compensation was the bath that I cooled down in. No outside space to sit. Definitely a non-repeat.

And so I arrived in Durban a day earlier than I intended.Such a confusing place to drive around in. EVERYONE hoots all the time for nothing. Here I also witnessed the worst driving ever. My nerves were on edge by the time I got to the Bluff on new years eve. Luckily the cottage I had found online and was renting was being vacated and I could blow up the air mattress my sister had lent me,20161231_152732 wash off all the sweat in the shower and sleep..with earplugs as my landlord was having a new years get together.  I was rudely woken at midnight by VERY LOUD bangs from next door.  Nobody here seems to follow the firecracker rules as crackers were going of everywhere as in England. But I had arrived in one piece..more or less.

THE NEXT DAY

I discovered that the flat was not very clean, as the previous tenant had just left and also and needed a paint job..things you could not see in the photographs sent to me. The ceiling had mould on, the outside walls had paint cracking off, the previous tenant had a dog that pooed all over.(I found the place on gumtree and so hadn’t seen it. ) Also I had no furniture other than the blow up bed. Its redeeming feature was a lovely tropical garden with cycads, and an enormous avocado tree, bananas, paw paws, and my bedroom window looked out onto it.20170109_064527

My landlord and lady have two small children and three dogs, a couple of cockatiels and a fish tank.  They, however, were very sweet and nice and so were their kids and dogs,  (despite pooing on my doorstep.)

The garden was obviously planted lovingly by someone else and was neglected..but still beautiful..luckily nature thrives on neglect …but the dogs had denuded areas.

So my next task was to make the place liveable.

My landlord said he would fix the ceiling and paint the walls. He brought in the ladder etc, but didn’t get very far. He works and so has to fit it into his day. I decided then that I would do the painting etc. I got rid of an enormous amount of junk left around the place and went around picking up doggie poo..just to make it safe to walk around without stepping into it.  So I painted my bedroom and one wall of the kitchen..it looks rather nice. My landlord said he would get more paint for the lounge but that hasn’t happened yet, so I thought I would in the meantime just clean the walls and ceiling with bleach. It already looks so much better. I also bleached stains out of the outside piping.

I now have a small desk, a table and 4 chairs and a three quarter bed..a lot more comfortable than the air mattress. I trawled Durban for second hand shops, finding my way around at the same time. There are very few..I think because of gumtree and olx. Luckily we had some rainy days, and it was not too hot to travel around. I made sure I visited a different beach every day too. Its so great to swim in warm sea..but it was really rough too..no calm Fishoek beaches here..but good exercise and knocks you thighs into place.

The beaches are quite different to cape beaches, having yellow sand, but just as beautiful even though it was high season. People tended to congregate at the swimming beaches..and congregate is the word. Here is wall to wall gazebos. people really go to town when spending time on the beach.20170101_094010 For the rest, the beaches were empty and lovely to walk on.

Durban has a lot of rubbish lying around, but the landscape is so forgiving and covers everything with green bush so that you don’t notice. Someone needs to start taking care of the place.

You certainly feel the difference with the ANC running the municipality. I am not anti ANC, and in fact vote for them every time, but I can see the complaints of lack of service delivery. One wonders where all their energy goes and whether they even notice the problems. Rubbish collection is still in black bags, torn open by dogs. Library, thin on books and librarians. Roads needing repair..although with all the rain, I think it is a bigger job than CT. however there are enormous engineering projects north of Durban. Looks like they focus on the big and forget about the small things.

The city centre is very run down but in contrast there are HUGE elaborate shopping centres. Racially, Durban is very mixed. 20170103_121831Relics of apartheid delineate areas into poor black, poor Indian and affluent, which could be Indian, Black or White. Its good to see the ratios change a bit on the beaches. Durban is a busy city with a lot of Industrial spaces. This makes travelling around difficult as you have to contend with railways, Industrial areas, the Harbour, rivers and peninsulas, with low cost housing thrown in here and there and occasional informal settlements. The heat adds to the constant hooting from taxis particularly , who announce their presence ALL THE TIME, enormous trucks and others who hoot at you every second you take to move from a robot. The roads are also not well marked, the streets have unfamiliar new names sometimes together with the old names, as Durban tries to Africanise the very colonial streets of Durban. I can understand that, as Durban was like mini England even with a Victoria Embankment, George V road etc..

People

I have found the people here to be very friendly and chatty. I suppose that I have got used to Cape Towns ways and now see now how reticent it is. Also my year in England was even worse on that score. Polite but cold. Durban is warm in lots of ways and has colour and vibrancy. Also people of all races and walks of life chat at the drop of a hat. The Zulu and Tswana people approach you quite readily.  You really stop noticing race..and I must say I am confused as to peoples races here. It is also good to see some Zulu newspapers readily on sale.

 

A cross section of the SA country in 4 days

I seem to do a lot of things in four days (see previous posts). The last time was London..well there its kind of a whole country in a few square miles. Well, this time I went across South Africa to Durban by the sea from Cape Town by the other sea. Why was I so foolish? Well I was heading for an interview at Durban University of Technology to study Homoeopathy next year. Only 2 places offer Homoeopathy, the other one is in Johannesburg, so there was really no choice. Also, they only take 35 students per year and ONLY ONE “mature” student..and that had to be me.

Now, I didnt realise that Durban was further away from Cape Town than Johannesburg and even further than Windhoek in Namibia. 1700 km to be more or less exact . Thats more than the whole of England from top to bottom. (England is 1349km from John O’ Groats to Lands end). Okay, we dont have lots of villages where you have to go 30 miles an hour to slow you down.  We have long straight and hot roads that go straight there, right? Well not quite. So I estimated that it would take me 2 days to get there quite easily at 100km per hour on average..I didnt intend to drive at the average speed of 140 like other South Africans. Well, it didnt quite work out like that either. Also I have a millenium Toyota (ie over 15 years old)…but it has a reconditioned engine.20160818_112845 I did consider flying, but not only would I have spewed huge amounts of pollution into the air (apparently 6 to 47 times as much as by car per person! Especially short flights, as the runway fuel is the most damaging. http://www.yaleclimateconnections.org/2015/09/evolving-climate-math-of-flying-vs-driving/). Besides, I am still in travelling mode, and wanted to get an idea of the country I had been neglecting for so many years. What is South Africa like now? The last time I had been to Durban was 10 years ago, when my son and I went for a round trip to see all the skate parks with his BMX on the back.

So off I set, visiting my dear sister along the way. She lives in Riviersonderend, a sweet little village 200km from Cape Town, with many skeletons in the cupboard. But thats another story better told by her.

A quick cup of tea, and I had to get a bit further..like another 400km to George. Looking for a place to camp was not so easy…it was out of season so everything was closed at about 5. I finally found a rondawel (a typical South African round building..last used in Europe at stonehenge 3000BC, for those who dont know) where I spent the night. .serenaded by frogs, as it was on a river. I finally nodded off at 12pm, woke at 5am to continue my drive. (5 hours sleep). I went for a little walk before I left in the morning, and found some wonderful medicinal plants everywhere. Although this place was a typical RESORT, in the most typical south african way.(.including the black and white TV),

it gave me a sense that it was a haunt of some sangoma or other.

There was a beautiful landscape across the river where an irritating sound came from..like a couple of flies, and I realised it was workers riding lawnmowers over a golf estate. Welcome to civilization. 20160930_064457

Following wrong directions, and realising my Afrikaans was not as good as I thought, I headed off, got a speeding fine for going 78 in a STUPID 60 km zone (downhill on a pass outside a built up area. Consolation was that the fine was only 400 rands as opposed to 2000 in Britain for going 37 in a 30 zone.) Realising I was on the coastal road which was much longer than any other, I decided to cut inland back to the short cut road I intended to be on, on an old road I hadnt been on for years..thinking that it must have improved. (It used to be  a windey dirt road..very beautiful) Prince Alfred Pass..yes, colonial throwbacks everywhere..George..prince Alfred…Baden Powell drive (the coastal road outside capetown), Durban (sit Benjamin D’Urban).

Well, it was very beautiful still..if not more so, as it is now a reserve of tropical forests and ENORMOUS trees..but the road is worse.

Well it took me 3 hours to go 75 km. Not only because I couldnt go more than 30km per hour, but because it was so beautiful, I HAD to stop and photograph. I WILL be back to look properly…but not in the rainy season, as I can see that the roads wash away regularly. I did come across a strange sculpture at one point.

From here to karoo..dry straight hot roads..beautiful in an endless way. I had lost a lot of time and had to get to Port Shepstone (colonial) at least, as my interview at DUT was at 9.30 am the next day.20160930_113608

Well, it doesnt help to calculate when there are road works along the way..you know, STOP wait ten minutes (and go). This Karoo town had ENORMOUS cacti. 20160930_132125

It was getting dark as Ii went through the edges of the Transkei. This was when the roads lost all their signs, started winding up and down hectically and no one dimmed their lights..it also started to have waves of thick mist and light rain. The views were likely spectacular, but I could not see them, where I was going, where the next town was and how far away..so I drove blindly. By now, my neck was killing me and my bum was totally numb, and my eyes were glassy. I stopped in a typical one street town for petrol..nothing else was open for trade..not even KFC. Luckily I had some dry biscuits and cold tea in my flask. .

At this point, I knew I would need to drive through the night to get anywhere.

50km from Port Shepstone (more colonial), driving through cloud banks, I decide I was going to crash..as in sleep, if I didnt want to crash..as in accident. So I turned off the road into an inlet…there were no lights, so I assumed I was in the middle of nowhere, folded back my seat and slept uncomfortably.

In the morning I discovered I was in a sugar cane field. At least I knew I was close to Durban. I got going at 5 (another night of 5 hours sleep), coffee at the garage and off to Durbs by the sea via a convenient motorway. I wisely decided to leave the sight seeing till later.

Durban was a revelation of hooting taxis and busyness. I dont think it was the safest place, judging by the security walls.

I hadnt had breakfast, but decided to find my place of Interview. Of course I hadnt banked on the fact that because of the #Feesmustfall protests, the place was closed. Luckily I found an open gate. and found that the interview was still on. I hastily bought a couple of apples from a vendor…they do not have breakfast places in downtown Durban.. only chicken outlets..it was a bit early for that.

I was last to be interviewed, as my case was special..being so “mature”, so I was only released at 12. No tea was offered only water. All the Interviewees were YOUNG..still at school and very nervous..so I had some use in allaying their fears. These were pictures of some of the homoeopathic remedies on the wall.

I was interviewed by a true cross selection of the Durban population: Afrikaans, English, Zulu and Indian..all women. It was a good interview, and I was instantly offered a place..the only “mature” student. After that, I realised that I could eat a horse, raced off to the waterfront and finally sat down to an ENORMOUS breakfast with coffee served in a POT, while looking over the sea front. BLISS.

I will report further on the trip home.

 

 

Being a tourist in my own country

And so I returned to South Africa after a long flight via Dubai. I was nervous about getting home, as there was so much trouble in Europe and the middle East. I never thought I would think that the safest place to be was actually South Africa in its lonely corner far away. I had a good seat in the plane and could watch as the landscape changed from green square patches over Europe and the UK, then the dryness of the middle east, the absolute blue of the immense sea, the dryness and occasional patches of cultivation through Africa. you could see a transition into SA, where cultivation was more extensive and defined, but still dry, as it was the end of winter, and then coming into the Cape where everything is green again, extensive wild mountains with lush green patches of cultivation.

I couldnt help feeling like crying when Table mountain appeared through the clouds and we landed in Cape Town, and I realized how much I missed this beautiful land. After that I found myself relishing everything I had previously taken for granted and felt like a tourist in my own country, as if seeing things for the first time:

SO, HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU ARE IN SOUTH AFRICA?

Well first was that you dont have to deal with a machine for everything. Second people smile and are helpful. Third, there are many black faces, which are rather rare in Britain. So arriving at the airport the smiley BLACK faces with AFRICAN accents and a smattering of Afrikaans and that wonderful, South African accent. People could actually understand what I said first time I said it. The airport was clean and open and efficient, and not cluttered with shops and harassed people.

Familiar people

In Britain everyone was a stranger. Of course, the best was seeing my son again, and realizing how much I missed him. Then bumping into familiar people everywhere.

Then there were so many other things I discovered over the first weeks back:

One ply toilet paper.20160814_093004 In England I could only get 2 and even 3-ply toilet paper, thats so smooth its like using plastic.  One ply absorbs so much better. I never thought I would appreciate that. In the UK, you also go through a roll very quickly, and they all have methods of cutting corners, like making shorter rolls or wider inner cardboard or thicker rolls.

 

 

 

 

 

Large sachets of sugar in the coffee shops. 20160808_144128In the uk, they give you such tiny sachets, you need at least four in a cup. Here I only need one and a half and its more than sweet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coffee shops allow you to help yourself to condiments..as much as you like. In Britain you get charged for each sachet (R15 each!). and the price of coffee in a cafe. What a relief to pay from 15 to 20 rands rather than 40 to 50.20160816_133723

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue skies are a normal occurrence rather than unusual, 20160805_135130and I headed for the first beach, where there is soft white sand rather than hard round pebbles or purple mud. And so is bare feet. I had bare feet only once the entire year in England.

20160819_161642.jpg

BEACHES IN ENGLAND

Wide vistas, where you can see for miles

rather than just a hedge, which is mostly what you see when driving around in the UK.  Where there are views, you are not allowed to stop..or you get charged a parking fee!

Pavements on BOTH sides of the road, and wide enough for 3 people not just one. I realized that South Africa is a generous country.

Parking that is FREE and available.

Wide, well engineered roads with furrows either side for rain run off and NO potholes. Yes, dont kid yourself, South African roads are much better than the UK, where rain constantly potholing the badly made roads that have very bad drainage, and then taking ages to fix them.

Money is not so heavy and we only have only 7 coin types that are light as opposed to 8 heavy coins in the UK,(including 1 and 2 pence that are worth F-all, and hardly ever used, but they insist on giving it.) My purse always weighed half a ton, and nobody wanted my change.

South African prices! Boy, was I glad to see those! when you are paying over R40 for a coffee or tea, R20 minimal for parking anywhere, even on the beach, R300 to enter any National Heritage site, R2000 for a small speeding fine going 3 mph over the very slow speed limit of 45kmph in a built up zone. The only cheap thing is cars at a third of the price in SA even taking into account the horrendous exchange rate

Despite there being many throwbacks from the colonial era, like the street names that hark to ye olde England,

most are quite reasonable rather than the weird names you find in England. Very occasionally you can rely on something odd.20160813_104007

It was really great to have someone put in petrol for me instead of doing it myself. 20160813_141127

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here you DONT PAY FOR AIR AND WATER. (R10 for 5 minutes or air or water in the UK, which you have to put in yourself! to me this is criminal!). Okay you do give tips in SA, but to have a friendly face doing it all for you its worth the tip which is much less. R10 (50p) tip is seen as a HUGE tip.

In the UK, you dont have to worry about your car being broken into, but it is true here too, as we have car guards. they also expect a tip but its nothing like the parking fees you pay in the UK. (more like 25p is generous for a whole morning)20160824_13454120160813_111538

Rain shelters over shops. In the UK, the shops do not have rain shelters over the pavements despite the fact that it rains constantly. In SA we dont use umbrellas because we know that it is easy to skip from shelter to shelter and whole streets are sheltered. This is something that is so generous that we take for granted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SA is also a very generous country when you go touring. Besides all the wonderful views, there are always special turn off places at the best views and road verges and MANY designated FREE picnic sites.

Real  Mountains. Everywhere.20160818_174953

Empty spaces for miles

Real wild animals, not just squirrels and bunnies.

Cows grazing alongside the roads. This was only true in one site in Britain,on Minchinhampton common.20160814_105146

Sunsets. In the UK, the sky is generally covered with cloud.20160818_174247

Night sounds. There are no sounds of frogs and crickets or night jars , or anything other than cars unless you live near the sea..and even then, you are never sure that it isnt the cars you are hearing.

Night skies:

To actually see stars in the UK is unusual. Although they often announce celestial events, on TV or radio, you never see them because the skies are always clouded or too many lights. Capetown has a lot of light scattering, but even then, you can see the stars because there are no clouds.

Good Libraries with actual books.

Libraries in the UK are terrible. They have very few books, the choice focuses around British writers..usually romance or thrillers. There are NO interesting non fiction books to expand your mind (only history books about Britain..nothing too controversial) and its all self service. Books taken out with a machine, books handed in with a machine, and only one librarian for the entire library (and a few volunteers) In SA its hard to choose a book because there is choice, friendly librarians to help you locate a book, which, if they dont have it, will find it for you. Also videos for free. (In the Uk you pay R20 to loan a video or music..and not much choice.)

National Art gallery and museums do charge you in SA, but the fee is reasonable. R30=1.50 pounds) In the UK, some of the art galleries and museums are free, but despite what they say, most are not, and they charge you at least R180 (9 pounds)to R300(15 pounds)! Even if you take the highly inflated exchange rate out of the picture, you are usually paying the equivalent of R100-150. They do say that it is valid for a year, but who is going to come back inside a year? South African Art is also very exciting.

Route markers tell you which direction you are going. This one tells you it is going SOUTH.20160825_174401I cant tell you how often I got lost in the UK.I had no sun to work it out as it was cloudy and no mountains or landmarks..just hedges hedges hedges. Route markers just told you which route you were on, and if you didnt know the town you were going to (there are so many funny names) you could easily be heading to Landsend when you should be going to Norfolk. I kept having to back track.

The speed limit in built up areas in England is 30mph (48kmph) and you darent go above it. so everyone creeps through the towns, thats why it takes so long to get anywhere. Distances are measured in time not miles. In SA it is 60kmph (37.5 mph) a little more reasonable. Top speed in England is 70mph (112mph).

 

 

Roads are STRAIGHT.

The only straight roads in England are the roman roads and the motorwys and there are only a few of those. Further confusion arises at circles that are everywhere and can lead you in a totally different direction to your map even if you follow the signs. Heaven forbid if you are not, you may end up on a highway. These have very few exits, so you could be going for man miles before you can turn around. In SA if you head one direction, it rarely changes..this could be boring, but it makes for easy driving where you can relax rather than be on tenterhooks looking for the next exit, or back tracking when you discover you are not in the town you thought you were. All towns in England are pretty, but also all look the same, so if it wasnt for the signs, you wouldnt know where you are.

Cars older than 15 years and not in peak condition are seen everywhere on the roads.

Dogs run free and are not muzzled.

Toilets have a mechanical flush that actually needs you to touch the handle and energy to use.20160819_150844

Spring has sprung with the first South African wild flowers.

People talk loudly and shout across streets. People laugh with a belly laugh. People talk straight so you know where you stand. They actually want to know how you are when they say “how are you?” They rarely use the word “nice”. They hoot at everything. They say sorry if you get hurt even if they have nothing to do with it. Ubuntu is not just a trade name on a can of cola..it is a living everyday reality.20151020_134719

Viva South Africa, Viva. I am so glad to be back.

 

 

London in 4 days again

I decided to reverse the way I came to the UK, but going by bus to London for 4 days and then on to the airport. So I booked into the Hostel I was in before. Luckily tings had improved there over the year. They got rid of the miserable front staff and now have polite and helpful people (this was a major complaint on their website) They also had improved their entrance and gave free wi-fi instead of charging an arm and a leg for it. I was put one floor lower, whew, those stairs are a killer, but it was in season so my 6 bed room was full of 6 sweaty people. It was hot and muggy and the window opened only very slightly. Also because of Health and safety fire rules, every lading was closed by a fire door. Now I am sure that no fire would spread there, but the health of the occupants wrt fresh air was definitely compromised. Its funny how some issues take precedence over others..too bad if you cant breathe, at least you wont get burnt down. One fat Italian had luckily bought a fan that he kept running and we opened the fire door with a fire hydrant.

Unfortunately the same fat Italian was also a LOUD snorer. My earplugs were not designed for those decibels, but somehow, amongst the other MALE snorers, I managed to sleep. (As I said before, the rooms were mixed male/female..but I was the only female.

London was full of tourists, as it was holidays for most. This gave it a good vibe too. So I planned to meet some of my OLD friends there.

I first planned to go to Camden market to get some souvenirs to take home, despite the fact that I literally had no place in my suitcase, which was already overweight, but I decided to throw away some clothes,  I had got too fat for. (yes, despite all that exercise and healthy food, I had put on weight! I put it down to the huge amount of carbs you end up eating on a low protein vegetarian diet, as you are constantly hungry. Also the fact that you cant buy a small bar of chocolate..they are ENORMOUS..so you end up eating it all in one sitting.) Camden market is some place you wont see anywhere. I had come previously with Amie (a German girl who had volunteered previously in SA and came to visit me in England).

They had this zulu restaurant with boerewors rolls for R180! (9 pounds).

I thought that I should first go to Portobello road market, as I had not yet been there. Well after that I didnt really need to go to Camden market, as I got all my souvenirs there. Its an incredibly long street lined with market stalls and shops, but difficult to find, as its not advertised.

There was this shop with literally hundreds of old singer sewing machines that echoed a similar one in camden market. In Malawi they would have been used, not just posing in the windows.

I wished I could buy more, but my bulging suitcase said no. I thought of sending some things home by post, but the cost was prohibitive. (R2000 for 5 kg). So more clothes got turfed out.

The next day I met my OLD friend, Andrew, and we walked to Kensington castle, which was where Lady Di used to live. Well, I am sure I would also have been depressed there..what an ugly square building..just lots of square rooms, and the garden was so formal and full of tourists. I am sure the paparazzi were lurking at every corner.

Then we found the memorial to prince Albert, the love of queen Victoria. Well you cant miss it..it is HUGE. She must have really loved him. At each corner of the memorial was a statue commemorating the conquered lands: Africa, Asia, Europe and America..it looked like she did it all for him.

Coming from an ex-colony, I was not impressed, and wondered what the “Rhodes must fall” group would have done. London is FULL of colonial relics. I found that the street leading to Trafalgar square had a statue of a (male) war hero very 100 yards or so, I began to wonder if that was all that was commemorated. then I found one for all The FEMALE war heroes…but war heroes nevertheless.

The worst was finding the funeral mask of Lord Kitchener in ST PAULS CATHEDRAL. He was responsible for the slash and burn tactics that led to the establishment of the first Concentration camps in South Africa during the Boer war that the Germans emulated so sadly in the second world war. Eventually 26,370 Afrikaner women and children (81% were children) died in the concentration camps. I am not surprised that he is guarded behind an iron gate, as I am sure his memorial would have been defaced.20160801_133435.[.

Frederick Joubert Duquesne, a Boer soldier and spy, claimed that he had assassinated Kitchener after an earlier attempt to kill him in Cape Town failed. I was shocked that such a cruel man was lying in state in one of the most important Cathedrals. I wonder if one day he would be brought to justice by the ICC. (The ICC seems biased towards Africans and Germans)

Another sculpture that had SA echoes, was this one in Hyde park called ” Physical energy”. 20160730_180547Three of these sculptures were created and one is at the Rhodes memorial in Cape Town! The artist: George Frederic Watts. It was dedicated to Cecil John Rhodes, but the plaque does not mention him at all.

Watts said the statue was “a symbol of that restless physical impulse to seek the still unachieved in the domain of material things”. This was particularly appropriate for Cecil Rhodes, made his fortune before he was 30 and in 1880 established the De Beers mining company, which has dominated the diamond industry ever since.

Rhodes used his wealth to try to extend the British Empire in Africa from the Cape of Good Hope in the south to Cairo in the north. Rhodes’ dream came true shortly after he died when Britain took control of one million square miles of the Transvaal at the end of the Boer Wars. Rhodes left his fortune to Oxford University to fund the Rhodes Scholarships. the third sculpture is in Harare, Zimbabwe. “Rhodes must fall” would have  a field day in London.

Talking about de Beers and gold and diamonds, we went to Harrods, and at last I saw where all the money has gone..well the SA gold and diamonds. As Trevor Noah said Britain never thought of giving the gold back, but that we could win it back at the olympics, one gold medal at a time. (I found out that each gold medal contains 0.1 ounce of gold. Thats a lot of medals to win!)

Harrods has to be seen to be believed. It is really a hub for the ultra rich, I am surprised they dont charge you to go in. Frankly, its quite embarrassing in its opulence in a world of so much poverty. When you flaunt riches like that, you are asking for economic migrants to come to your country. (I also wonder how much can be truly said to be earned rather than stolen at some point in history and even still.) I am afraid I felt quite sick.

The fashion, however, was unusual and creative, but totally unaffordable.

We walked down Baker street, where people were queueing to go two by two into Sherlock Holmes’ tiny house at 221B, 20160730_142348then we  went to Regents park, where we were serenaded by the open air theatre that was staging Jesus Christ Superstar, and sounded magnificent although we could only hear it. Other typical scenes were bobbies on the beat that still wear those Mr Plod hats, women doing a race for cancer awareness and many street performers..mostly levitators.

The next day I went to meet a colleague from Constantia Waldorf school..Eva Binamu, who is now Eva Godfrey, our wonderfully popular and under appreciated (by staff) eurhythmy teacher who is excelling at Kings Langley Waldorf school in London.

We had trouble meeting each other, as London roads were blocked off by a bicycle race similar to the Argus in cape town, (but not as big, even though they say theyre the biggest in the world..I have checked..its not as long and not as many people ride it). it raises funds for charity..see the flags and see my previous post about charity in the UK.

So finally we met at Kings cross station which is huge. 20160731_164822The Eurostar to Paris leaves from here and so does the Hogwarts express, where I saw platform 9 and 3 quarters..with everyone in line trying to get a photograph next to a baggage trolley.

The new harry potter had just come out and a harry potter shop was doing a roaring trade in wands,owls and funny sweets.

The queue was too long to buy any momentoes. It was lovely seeing Eva, and we had a good skinder..although she’s too sweet to skinder. It was good to see how fully involved she was..a member of college and board, and planning to start a school in Tanzania.

Last and not least, I went to the Tate Modern again. A new wing had been opened that I wanted to see. 20160801_101817By this time, my feet LITERALLY were blistered from walking, so I took the tube. First to Big ben and watched the hundreds of ways people were photographing it in all kinds of ways.

Then to the millenium bridge, which I walked over, admiring the contrasting views of St Pauls cathedral and the shard.

There were some of my favourite artists like Kandinsky, Matisse,

but not their best works, but the Picasso was my all time favourite,the weeping women, that I had seen many years ago in Paris. 20160801_115835I ventured into the new wing that had HUGE spaces for HUGE art pieces.20160801_101658 The installations were so odd: this was a mirrored installation, used as an excuse for a selfie20160801_102210…that I found I had mistaken an office for an installation. 20160801_110642I found an interesting African artist making a comment on colonialism using a colonial desk, gold bullion and money. 20160801_104608Active installations like the one of Marina Abramovic, who lets herself be abused by the pubic by displaying a host of items on a table that can be put on her, then videoing the results;20160801_105816 and another woman artist from Bangladore, who uses human hair to knit these great spider webs. 20160801_112138However, the installation that electrified the audiences who could not stop photographing was that of Jane Alexander, a South African artist who used a the red kalahari soil and created a  surreal 3 dimensional landscape that stopped you in your tracks, with Chandeliers dripping from the ceiling, a commentary in the appropriate place on colonialism.

And so, my exploration of my colonial roots ended as I passed some vandalized bicycles to remind me that Britain is not so different to SA.

and  in me pushing my overfull bags to the bus stop using a Tesco trolley bergie style, as I refused to pay the exorbitant taxi fare to get around the corner. I didnt take a photo of that! But this is me at the airport, using the disabled toilet so that I could get my baggage in with me, taking a selfie in the mirror.A20160802_123834

And so I headed home, having had some enlightening experiences and also VERY glad to be back in SA. My next blog will be looking at my own country from British eyes.20160803_081312