Tuesday 30 November 2021

One year (and one month) in George

 I missed the train in celebrating on 'One Year in George' anniversary at the beginning of November on my blog. 

Yes, I've been living in George for one year and one month. On Sunday, 1 November 2020, we arrived at night, after more than 10 hours on the road, in George. The next morning, we met the moving truck to load contents from three homes into one house and one big storage garage, collected 10 workers from the bus station and met three superlinker trucks at the factory building that had no roof and no walls - the first of four sections of the building (we moved into the fourth part only in mid-June - instead of late January as expected).

This year has been a ride.

While work is work, I do love living in this area.

I am thankful for the outdoor opportunities that George and the surrounds have to offer. Paddling is scenic with an abundance of options. The trails for trail running, mountain biking and hiking are extensive. There are beaches to visit, peaks to climb and the hot and dry Karoo on the other side of the mountains. The urban situation has a ton to offer - anything we need really.

Cape Town and PE are a hop, skip and jump away. In between are big towns like Knysna, Mossel Bay and Hermanus.

Shortly after arriving, I joined the local paddling club. I'm not very active in the club but they're a good bunch of people. I also joined the George Trail Running group. I've only done two Monday social runs with them. I sometimes do the route earlier with the dogs and unfortunately miss the Thursday session as I'm at dog school. Our George parkrun recently restarted and I spent two pre-event Saturday mornings and two event Saturday mornings as a volunteer and part of the team. Another good bunch of people.

I go to dog school with Rusty and Rosy, doing a double class on Thursdays. We don't socialise much with the other participants but we've gotten to know each other and they're a good bunch too. Two of them are trail runners (I knew their names from ages ago and it was just coincidence that we do dog school). Rusty and Rosy absolutely love dog school. I've learned a lot and it has also deepened my communication and relationship with these two girls. We have a third doggy in our household, Bella. She's my mom's old neighbour's dog whose next adoptive mom, after the neighbour, died from covid. 

I know a number of other people in and near George and have made some new friends, but for the most part I don't socialise much. Work and covid really being the two factors for my lack of social interaction.

Physically, I haven't done a fraction of what I would like to do, especially in hiking and running. I started going to the biokineticist in February. I was completely out of balance after last year's not-knee-injury. I'm hugely improved in terms of muscle strength, left and right balance and also muscle group balances. But I'm not 100% right yet and I have swelling flare-ups (fortunately no pain) occasionally for no apparent reason (I don't have gout, uric acid test in the clear). So I don't know why this all started in the first place and why it continues. I'm hiking well, jogging a little but after 18 months of this I'm pretty blue. I'm seeing a lady this week for another assessment to try to get to the bottom of this long-term situation for something that is in balance, has good strength, no pain but still swells and causes discomfort. This has greatly limited my activities.

I've done a lot of digging, earth moving, vegetation clearing and making nice at the house we're renting. We may be moving out come end Jan as the owners need to do some serious damp and water-issue maintenance. I don't really have capacity right now to move, but we'll have to do it if needed.

I am delighted by my discovery and keenly developed interest in fungi and the many fungi that I have observed and recorded on iNaturalit.org. There is never a dull moment out here on the fungi front. The plants too are extraordinary. My citizen scientist contribution. On this, I've done two or three RePhotoSA submissions and I know the location of another that I really should go to get it now that we're into summer (sun position).

For the rest, this year has sped past. I've read a number of books and have listened to a bunch more. It took me three months of every night to complete a special crochet gift project, and I've seen too many 2am (or 3am) mornings, especially the last six weeks) to just try to get on top of work. Being on the go, go, go and made this year go, go, go.

Here's to one year and one month. Cheers!

Monday 29 November 2021

George parkrun stats: where are the 18 to 24s?


Our George parkrun kicked off three weeks ago with the first events here since lockdown last year curtailed parkrun activities. In its first two weeks, George parkrun ranked as the highest participation parkrun event in South Africa - but note that many of the really big SA parkruns have not yet restarted. I've been volunteering at these events, enjoying the barcode scanning volunteer role.

This past Saturday's George parkrun was cancelled following last week's flood-condition rainfall that has washed away some trail sections and annihilated necessary bridges.

One of the parkrun guys shared these stats from the George parkrun event held on 20 November. It is a treat to see the high number of women, especially into the more mature ages. What did puzzle me was the lack in participation of men and women in the 18-24 age group with a significantly less-than-fantastic showing from 25-29 year old men. I want to shout to them all - "You are in the physical prime of your life!". Well, they should be.

So, what is the reason for the female dominance? In a chitter-chatter with the guy who shared the stats, he commented, "And  the  volume  of  women  keeps  growing.  Escape  from  housework  and  kids?". 

To which I added, "Women may also be more health conscious, and they have greater societal pressure to look good".

Our parkrun is now closed for the next few weeks with both bridge rebuilding needed and the new covid variant putting a damper on things. When we restart, I'll definitely keep an eye on the stats especially on the 18-24 age group numbers to see what is happening here. I hope this was a once-off, but I suspect it isn't.

Monday 1 November 2021

Understanding the un-understandable

Two weeks ago, a guy from our trail-multisport community died by his own hand. 

I didn't know him. 

I did discover that he'd sent me a Friend Request on Facebook (I don't know when) and that we had 200 Facebook friends in common. I probably popped up as a 'People you may know' link. 

I have learned that he was a good guy who was well liked. He was respected for his professionalism as an event MC and commentator as well as his radio work. He exuded energy, fun, and laughter and really made an impact on those around him - from the first across the line to the last-place participant. He showed people kindness. He seems to have had the gift of being able to shine his light on others and making them glow as a result. 

The many, many photos of him at events show a strong, healthy, fit, laughing, smiling, fun, radiant, people-loving man. 

He had a loving partner, a daughter and a dog that he dearly loved - plus a menagerie of other animals like ducks, geese, chickens, rabbits and two tortoises that he seems to have been very fond of.

He worked at an event on the Saturday and some time between wrapping up at the event and maybe midnight, a switch flipped and that was that. He could no longer face another day.

His passing has had quite an impact on me.

In messages, friends write about how he gave so much to them and they chastise themselves for not seeing, and for not being there for him. The problem is that when there is a party on the outside, it is impossible to know that there is a deep desperation on the inside. 

I've pondered the reasons and one that stands out would be financial stresses that he was certainly under. Some of my theory was confirmed recently by a post by his friend on Facebook.

It said that he "went hungry and struggled the whole pandemic. How many of us took him some food, paid his bills, showed some love?". 

Another answered, "People did. Maybe not enough, but there were a lot of people who helped him. But, I hear you - we didn't do enough for him".

My thoughts keep turning to what anyone could have really done to help him. We look on the outside and say, "I wish I'd known / paid more attention. I could have helped". It is easy to lend an ear and offer practical help that costs nothing more than time. To help someone survive financially through a tough patch in their life is something else.

His work at events and MCing depended on events being held. His income would have been completely shut off when covid lockdowns hit and then very, very slow to restart. Even though it appeared that things were coming right for him, the depth of the hole may have been too deep to see even a glimmer of light - or that pinhole just seemed too far away. 

Something as 'small' as a late payment for services, yet another event that offered below-rate fees or asked for his services at no charge... these may have been triggers. Being in media and freelancing is a tough and rocky environment at the best of times. And these have not been the best. He'd said that evening in a whatsapp to a friend that his kindness was seen as a weakness. He probably did too many favours for too many people for too long. 

The environment in which he worked and the people with whom he interacted were part of the world of entry fees that costs thousands and bicycles that cost tens of thousands. He seems to have been a decent athlete himself but wouldn't have had the funds to enter any of the events at which he worked.

His friends would have been planning travels, location moves, new homes, outings, experiences and even the simplicity of going to a restaurant, yet he would have been stuck - trapped by lack of funds. When you don't have any money, it is hard to make decisions or to see any future.

He had a daughter (or two) and a partner, that he would have wanted to support better than how he was able to do so. Perhaps his situation caused tension with his daughter's mother, which would not be uncommon.

No work and no finances play havoc with self worth and confidence. That he was well-liked, appreciated for his work and respected for his professionalism would have made little difference to this.

He loved his dog very much. This in itself can be a reason to stick around. But, I can see how even this reason to be can be drowned out by bushels of darkness.

Friends and family knew what he was going through. What they probably didn't realise - and he never told them - was the degree of his despair, inability to see a way forward and his knowing that they actually couldn't help him with what he really needed - work or money or a new situation. He would have needed to be dependent on them for a period of time until his work picked up or he figured out a new direction for his career and life. And who wants to do this to friends and family? Could they have really helped?

And where finances may have been one aspect, there were probably a dozen 'small' elements that created a situation that, to him, was insurmountable. And all of these together would have contributed to a depression so deep that he could not see that pinprick of light. 

His death struck me because I understand this un-understandable. 

I speculate. I didn't know him. He looks to be a person who I would have liked. 

Erica Terblanche's love of life and running (book)

There are running-themed books that are good. Some very good. And then there are running-themed books that awaken, revitalise, ignite, and go on to be legendary. Erica Terblanche's book 'Run - For the Love of Life' is one of these.

"This book is going to stand as one of the greats in running-themed literature."


I first met Erica almost 20 years when she jumped in to the sport of adventure racing full of grit and passion, and always with a smile so big her eyes squeeze almost shut - even in the coldest and darkest hours before dawn.

During Erica's years in London, news would come through via a common friend and snippets on social media told of Erica's adventures and successes. What I didn't realise, until I read her book, was just how many. 

Drakensberg overnight hike, Feb 2016. At the back is Faye, then Tracey and then Erica and me in the front.

'Run - For the Love of Life' is a story of life and love, and running. Erica opens her heart to bravely share her life in this honest memoir. She elegantly weaves a colourful cloth of her experiences, travels, races, relationships, career changes, successes, and sorrows, which are related simply, but yet so beautifully, and without fanfare. 

Erica's writing is as exceptional as her athletic accomplishments. Every word used counts. Like each step that makes up a kilometre, and each kilometre covered makes an ultramarathon completed, Erica's words, paragraphs and chapters take you on a journey through the dozen years and major events that are the focus of this book.

It is significant that Erica did not just win the women's category at almost all of the gruelling ultramarathons in which she competed; she blew away most of the field to stand or knock on the podium. Overall. Again and again, and again. Her hard-won achievements will uplift and inspire, motivate and encourage - especially women - whether or not you are a runner. 

Erica's courage stands out in the telling of her life story. She exposes her soft underbelly and leaves you in awe of her resilience, determination, focus, and bravery as well as her kindness, compassion and wisdom.

You do not need to be interested in running or to be a runner to be enthralled by this book. The ultramarathon events in which Erica competed are portals to her experiences. This book is about so much more than running. Erica's narration of her extraordinary journey of her life - through racing and traveling, and the people she loves - will enrich yours. 


'Run -For the Love of Life' can be ordered from Publisher.co.za and also from Amazon.com (Kindle and paperback). In South Africa, RUN will also be available from Exclusive Books.

Listen to this 35-minute podcast of an interview with Erica - HERE.

This is an interview with Erica by Pippa Hudson on CapeTalk.