Tuesday, 12 January 2021

The books I read in 2020

2020 was one of my best reading years in a while. I always read. Every night before I go to sleep - even it is only a few pages at 2am. 

I did well this year with being back to listening to audio books. I enjoy listening while cooking or gardening or doing other tasks with my hands where I can concentrate on the story and still accomplish what I'm doing.

There were also a couple of books not featured here that I would have read 50-150 pages and then abandoned after deciding that I could live the rest of my life without knowing the outcome.


Educated is one of my top three from this year. Station Eleven, a book I bought for bookclub, was a bit prophetic. Written in 2014 and set 20 years after a virus has wiped out like 90% of the world's population. I read it in January. Haha haha


I love Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling) and her 'Detective Comoran Strike' books. The narrator is phenomenal.

The Glass Castle, like Educated, is phenomenal (a movie is being made of it). I had read Bill Bryson's At Home before (hefty tome). I gave it a re-read and thoroughly enjoyed it again. 

What Alice Forgot was also good. Great theme. Alice takes a tumble during an aerobics class, bashes her head, wakes up and has completely forgotten the last 10 years. She re-enters her lie to discover she is getting divorced from her husband, isn’t speaking to her sister, has two children (she was pregnant with the first 10 years previously, which is where her mind is), she has all kinds of things in her life that she loathed 10 years previously and would never have ever seen herself doing (being a crazy involved school mom) etc. 

I liked the concept of the book. We move on from week to week, year to year, decade to decade. The past retreats. How would my 10-year younger self deal with the life I now live. And, would she like it? Would she wish it for me?

The element that most struck me was that the bashed-head, 10-years-younger version of Alice was not too impressed with the person she’d become. 

That’s maybe quite key. No matter what you do or where you go, to be the type of person that you your 10-year younger and 10-year older self will still like.

Entertaining mix. I can only remember The Year of Living Danishly. I have Danish friends so this aided my interest.

Tony Horwitz is one of my favourite-favourite travel-genre authors. I've had this book for years and this year I finally read it. Some of these others I found at the house where I was staying.

I think I nailed these last five all in December. Nothing earth shattering - just fun fiction reads. I am really, really enjoying Jane Harper. 

In 2019 I started a thing where I have a photo album on my phone for books. As I complete a book, I take a photo of the cover or save an image from online. Most of the time I don't remember what I've read so this is a great way to look back at the end of the year to see where my time went.

I look forward to bettering my tally - and adding more variety - in 2021.

Sunday, 3 January 2021

Taking a while to settle

 I've been in George for TWO MONTHS already! It feels both longer and shorter. I'm not quite settled but am getting there.

I spent the first five weeks living in a magnificent, big house just outside of George - with an amazing view. It was fully furnished (a holiday home) and so all my stuff went into a storage garage. I spent the 6th week at a self-catering guesthouse and then moved into the house that I'm renting in mid December. I've been here for 2.5 weeks now.

While I moved in with all of my boxes from the storage garage, I borrowed a table and mattress from a friend in town to work at and sleep on. These, and other furniture items, arrive tomorrow. I got my couch a few days ago from the garage. I've got odds still in boxes (mostly office stuff) in my home garage and a few items, like gazebos, in the storage garage. I've felt like I've been camping.

The night I moved into this house, I was ready to move out. I discovered that the kitchen was infested with cockroaches, there was no shower door or curtain so water went all over the floor (it is not a 'wet bathroom' design), there are no towel rails, no toilet roll holders, the garden is mostly weeds and the lawn has been grown on top of building rubble, the back paving area was covered in mud that washes down from the retaining wall when it rains, spots of damp in some walls, loose toilet seats, garage door doesn't lock... For a house that really is beautifully done inside, they just didn't finish it off. 

I'm not the first tenant. A couple of guys lived here for about 18 months after it was built. I'm the second tenant.

The house won me over because it was the best of two I saw in November (in a market of limited availability), the kitchen is divine (gas hob in an island, open and lots of space), it had tiles throughout and its location is superb. 

I notified the estate agent of the issues on the Thursday morning. Within a few days I'd fumigated the kitchen and bought roach bait (they're still a problem but less so), the owner had put a seal on the roof and sanded the damp spots indoors to be painted and dealt with in January, I spent a night putting some veggie plants into the retaining wall, I'd started pulling out weeds and cutting invasive alien trees (bugweed) and the estate agent brought along a curtain rail and curtain for the shower (apparently there was one, that the guys must have taken). It took me over two hours of intensive sweeping to brush the mud/dirt off the back paving - removing around 50L of soil. Every time I stepped outside the kitchen, my shoes were filthy - it was driving me insane!

There is lots to be done here to gain some kind of 'control' over my environment. I find these niggles unsettling. I figure if I put in an hour here and there each evening, I'll get it done.

The moving truck arrives tomorrow so I'll have work ahead of me to get things in their place. 

I am delighted to have regular visits from peacocks, peahens and peachicks that live in the area. As a bonus, I have a peahen nesting in the garden. She is sitting on four eggs, which she barely moves from. Rusty keeps a protective eye on her.

The issues here are not insurmountable (there are a couple more that have come to light) and it seems like the owner is prepared to fix the problems.

Still, the kitchen is a dream (except for the cockroaches that I'm slowly getting the better of!) and the house's location is just perfect.

Rusty watching the peahen

Exposing the tree trunk goes a long way to making the tree look lovely and creating a space underneath to sit in the shade.

Left = before, Right = after - some vegetation trimming

Tidying up trees down the side. They are so the wrong type of trees to be planted here...


The start of making a dent in removing weeds from here. That's a pompon tree at the back, which I'll reveal. I'll also deal with this crazy tangle of ferns. I've done more work since I took these photos - and more clearing to the right of the photo.

Top is before, bottom is after. I planted these the second night I moved in. I needed something green to look at outside the kitchen window and to get some plants into this retaining wall. They have grown really well in two weeks. Tomatoes, green peppers, celery, basil, lettuce and spinach. A good start. I've put some succulents (I collect cuttings while out walking with Rusty) into other slots along the wall.



Work-in-progress in cutting down the bugweed tree -  a nasty fast-growing, alien invader. Loads of weeds below and around the tree. What I did discover underneath is a Cape Gooseberry, which I'll keep.

Exploring new trails

 One of the main reasons that I chose the house that I'm renting for the next year is its location. 

Location, location, location.

I'm a block up and a block across from the start of a trail, that leads up to more trails. Within 10-15 minutes walk, are entrances/exits for trails too. 

The weather here is weird. It can be crystal clear one day and the next is deeply overcast with misty drizzle. Or the morning can be overcast and wet with a completely clear afternoon and evening.

We usually head out around 5pm (or even 6pm) and have another two hours of light with these long days. We sometimes see other people (walkers, runners, mountain bikers). Sometimes not. Yes, I have my yawara stick in hand plus pepper spray in easy access. 

There are still so many trails to be explored that I can probably do a new one everyday for a month and still not cover them all!

I really, really like these flowers.

The path next to the railway line is our closest trail access - five minutes from home (walking).

A small, old dam on the mountain side. We visited it for the first time two days ago.

Some tracks are like this lower down. The higher you go, the trails are single track.

One of my close-to-home trails. This was our first time on this route and the flowers here were so pretty. They are past their prime now.

Rusty loves a view. We love the scent of pine in the forests around George Dam.

Walking with friends visiting the Garden Route for their year-end holiday.

Wilderness beach, before lockdown.

Groenvlei, in Sedgefield, is about a 30-minute drive. Nice trails around here - still a lot to be explored. My old running friend from Jo'burg, Rob, lives in Knysna now. This is a great meet-up location between our towns. 

Paddling with my doggy girl on George Dam, one of our favourite places.

Another pretty route.

Thursday, 24 December 2020

Move more often to clear stuff out

 Yeah, I devoured Marie Kondo's 'Tidying Up' series on Netflix. I haven't really got a lot of stuff, but I do have stuff. I'd like to have less stuff. And the stuff that I have should spark joy.

When I moved last year into a small cottage, I got rid of a lot of stuff, especially event-organising stuff. I gave waterpoint decorations to the Parys SPCA shop to sell and passed on usable items to eventing friends. I cleared out kitchen items that I didn't need anymore and passed on clothing that I no longer wore. 

In October, I packed up my cottage for the move to George. Again, I passed on more items that I had not used during the year.

I have lived out of a bag for the past six weeks (with a week-long move for the 6th week), where I lived out of a bag - and I didn't even wear everything in the bag. Work attire here is the same as casual attire - shorts and tees for the most part.

I've had a double-dose of moving with both home and factory. I am stuff fatigued.

I have just moved into the house that I'm renting and after so much moving of boxes, I just want to get rid of everything to live in a clear, open space. Moving is good for clearing. Each time you aim for less boxes. One should move more often - haha.

But, a person needs stuff. I've got minimal crockery and cutlery but I do have enough items and appliances (I love kitchen stuff) to bake and cook and create kitchen magic. I have sports gear. I also have office stuff, which will move to my new office at the factory in Feb/March. I've also got product stock for my Camp and Kayak online store, which will also move to the factory shop in the new year (these things are currently in boxes in my garage).

I have old, boring clothing. 

I need to work on this area. I'm a bit shopping-phobic and I also think spending money on lots of clothing is a waste of money. My wardrobe doesn't have much structure or plan. I need to toss out old and replacing with fun and new. I am keen to jump into the Project 333 (33 items, including shoes, for three months - seasonally) challenge as part of developing a capsule wardrobe that sparks joy. Sports clothing, undies and sleepwear are excluded from this tally. Based on what I usually wear and what I have, I'm going to come in at under 33 items (I don't think I own more than 33 items of regular clothing!).

As I've been going through personal clothing and bits-and-bobs ('komono' - miscellaneous items), I've been assessing items based on whether, as Marie Kondo asks, they spark joy (this is a great, nicely presented YouTube video of a extreme tidying in a day). Over time, some things become just things. Other things are items that are needed and are used regularly because they fulfil a function. I have allowed myself one small box for random sentimental items that I may be happy to throw out in a year or two. 

"We all have problems tidying our homes, but it is not just that. We all have clutter in our hearts, and that is what needs tidying." Marie Kondo.

When my mom and I went to Spain to walk the second half of the classic Camino route, we had only our backpacks. While one can't live in a home with only a backpack, it does show us that all you really need daily - in terms of clothing and toiletries - should be able to fit into a backpack.

I'm not too fussed about wearing the same things - I do it anyway. It would be nice to do it more cleverly and more stylishly (thank you internet for images and guidance).

This house I've just moved into, it doesn't have a single hook for pictures at all. While the rental contract says that nails can be put in with permission but must be removed and the wall fixed when you leave, I really couldn't be bothered. I've walked through the house with the agent and owner as they have pointed out things that must "come off" the previous tenant's deposit. I don't need that in my life.

What I do need is less. I need simple. I need efficient. I need effective. I have no extra time for stuff.

I have hobbies. I have sports and activities. I have work. I have my dog. I have people in my life.

That's enough to keep me busy and to fill my days and soul.