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And I’m Spent

I have been back in the UK since Thursday morning and life officially sucks – I now have to cook for myself and I am stuck in the same place with no future of moving on anytime soon! The rain has been vial, the house is flea-d up to the nines, I am overdrawn at the bank (oops!) and had nothing but bills to open when I got home. Back to reality with rather a large bump I say!!!

My 5 days with Juliet and Uncle Ant were pure bliss. It was so lovely to spend quality time with them both. We did nothing exciting but it was just what I wanted. Juliet took me to an amazing Bird of Prey Sanctuary on the edge of Pietermaritzburg on one day, a place that she is very fond of – and I can so see why. The birds are all unable to live in the wild for one reason or another and they are in beautiful, huge cages that are meticulously cleaned. I was most impressed. It was lovely to see some of these amazing birds so close up and really appreciate their beauty. We watched a fabulous display as well and we were SO close to the birds it was unreal. The only place that is similar that I can think of is the Hawk Conservancy place near Andover that we used to go to as children – I don’t remember them being kept in such good condition though. I also went out with Juliet to lunch at her friend Rosalie’s where we had a delicious lunch with some delicious cake that I have the recipe for and am going to try and make – it sounds easy – knowing me I will cock it up however!!! They played bridge and (as old and decrepid as it sounds) I did some cross stitch.

It saddens me that the only family that actually give any appearance of giving a hoot about me live so far away. It just reminded me again that if I ever get married one day (in the VERY distant future)- the guest list is going to be piss easy as I won’t have to bother with family. They didn’t even have the common curtosy to reply to my 30th party would you believe? (I hasten to add that they are all WELL into their 40’s bar one who is 38) so why would I bother inviting them to a wedding??!!! At this rate – I think that the price of not having the others would actually pay for Juliet and Uncle Ant’s tickets!!! (Hmmnn now there IS a thought!!). I felt so comfortable in their company – as one should with family. SO alien a feeling compared to those back in the UK who don’t really bother to take the time to get to know me as a person, something I have found so very hard to deal with over the years and a major factor of why I utterly DETEST Christmas and why I am a year or two off buggering off on my own for the whole period to a country that does not ‘do’ it. It’s why time with them is SO precious, to remind me of what relatives are actually like (apart from M,D & H of course) and get my ‘fill’ of it before heading back to the dry desert of family back in the UK.

From Juliet and Uncle Ant I moved on to see Lauren which was just wonderful. Juliet sweetly dropped me off at Knowles Spa in Pinetown where La picked me up and we headed up to the Northern Drakensburg 15 km from Clarens in the Free State not far from the boarder with Lesotho. I swear we both had a case of the verbals the entire journey up which was great. Made me realise even more just how much I ruddy miss her. Why is it that 2 of my closest friends (Ile in Romania) live so god damned far away and another is buggering off in August? I am not really helping myself am I?! We had shed loads of brandy and Coke when we got there in the most beautiful of places with stunning scenery all around, bright blue sky and sunshine. We knew however that it was going to get pretty bloody cold at night. It took us bloody ages to get the fire going – I say us but really I mean Lauren! And we sat like old fricking ladies outside in front of the fire with hotties shoved up our fronts and about 3 jumpers on wrapped in a blanket each!!

Carlos and Bob joined us that evening – Lauren’s ‘friend’ (for want of a better word!!) and a friend of his. I had heard quite a lot about him and how they are very similar and so suited and blah blah blah. To be fair, yes – yes they are. I felt really quite honoured that La wanted me to meet him. I was shattered for most of the weekend and FREEZING. The reality of having to head back to the mundane shite that I have back in the UK was really starting to make me feel incredibly apprehensive about returning home. Would things be better permanently this time or would it all be just like getting back from Egypt all over again? I had to head back to the diet, the SAD light, the fricking herbal teas at night, the daily bursts of exercise, the no beer, the therapy sessions starting, the thought of no rugby with Rach, the general pants feeling and not knowing why and the fact that the excitement of a holiday ALWAYS has the flat point after when you wish you were still there – but mine is 10 times worse. I was quite glad to be left all alone on the Sunday late morning for a while to have an opportunity to gather my thoughts as I also typed up bits of the blog from the last couple of days from the trip. I convinced myself to ignore those feelings and not to let them get in the way of enjoying the valuable time with La. Looking back I feel really bad as I know that I was not the usual chirpy Em for the time we had left in Durban once back from the Berg. I think at one point I would have done ANYTHING to have stayed away from the UK for another week or so.

Saying goodbye to La was hard. I was bloody good in body but in mind I was falling to pieces. About saying goodbye, about the fact that the next time I see her will be on Skype (I officially love you whoever invented that) about the fact that this was it. The holiday EVERYONE is now officially sick of hearing about is at an end and I have not got another booked (yet!) to starting looking forward to. I had tear or two in my eye as I walked through security and was fine on the first flight as I headed up to Jo’berg. It was as we started to taxi down the runway in Jo’burg that I friggin lost it. I was trying to cry quietly – you’ve probably tried it at one point yourself, but my head was having none of it this was no few tears this was full on bawling. I couldn’t bloody stop. The oriental dude sat one away from me passed a tissue, bless, and I think I managed to make out – saying good bye to friends for him to understand whilst hiding behind Bunny and the sobs. What a pathetic mess I must have looked.

It got worse though. I was doing fine until I watched Bride Wars – please, really don’t bother it is utter crap. One of the brides no longer has any family left and so no father to walk her down the aisle and this was something that La and I were talking about over a 5l box of wine – this is us we are talking about we met over the garden fence and shared a bottle of wine each on our first meeting!!! We had made pinkie promises about a number of things and this set me off once more. Never something I have talked about before – must have been the sodding wine damn it. And I was supposedly off my face on 4 glasses at a wedding earlier this year – hmmnn I think not people – something else a foot there! I will remember that evening in front of the fire in minus degrees red faced from the red wine, sides splitting from La’s Hyperthermia in a bra moment – a true classic.

It was a brave choice to go on my own – Gulliver’s I mean. But I always knew it was absolutely the right thing for me to do. I saw it as a making of (with hopefully less of the breaking moment) in my recent bout of black cloud and whilst it has not even been a week since my return I am optimistic. I received an evaluation form from Gulliver’s in the post this morning with a reminder that the 2013 Lions in Australia Trip is now open for advanced registration. . . . now there is a thought!!!!

Final Test Day

The breakfast looked amazing and I tried so hard to eat some but my stomach was still having a party to which the rest of my body was not invited and the mouthful of croissant that I tried was quite enough so it told me.  I was of course donned in the Bath face tattoo, Lions colours and the wig, the flag and for the first part of the morning I was also wearing the Bath Tubs Shirt as I had promised Robbinhio (is that how you spell it?) from ERE that I would wear it on the last match day.  Ok I never worse it into the stadium but even if I had he would not have seen it was it was cold and so I was wrapped up.

We were taken to Soweto by bus for our big bar which today was Gulliver’s only as we had sorted out various things with Soweto Rugby Club and so everything for the pre-match entertainment was going to be there.  It was a long way from the hotel to put it mildly.  Driving into Soweto was heart warming as the streets were all full of people waving ferociously at the passing buses, namely small children. We arrived at a large gated area which turned out to be the rugby club.  The grass was all brown and there was the pitch and then the massive marquee which was brilliantly equipped inside for us all with food and drink outlets and a stage on which there was entertainment at times.  Its weird hey, in the 2,500 I saw not one of the Bath lot but then in the masses the previous week I saw each and every one!  The portaloos here were way better than the Rec – I nearly took photos of them they were that impressive, you also have ladies that were going in after each person to clean them down to ensure that they stayed in a good condition.  The thing is you wouldn’t be able to find people willing to do that.

I wandered over to the Gulliver’s Barbarians match with some of the others.  There were loads of us that were going but somehow no one seemed to follow on behind us.  Ah well, I still wanted to watch and, frankly, if anyone wanted to find me all that they had to do was to look for the wig!  See there were benefits to wearing it separate to looking like an arse! The others went of to get more drink but I stayed put after being asked to do a small report for Super Sport – their Sky Sports I guess. Well I as going to be picked on at some point really – I was asking for it rather! I milled around as I kind of lost the others and really could not be bothered spending most of my time looking for them and so I went up to quite near the stage where a bumped into FatBoySlim (the guys from Dubai – not Boyzone though) who were also taking photos of the dancers on stage.  The men all seemed to do a couple of random moves and it was like a competition to see who could land on the floor with the loudest bump. Really quite odd.

There was a movement back towards the buses and so I joined in the snake.  The open way was so small that it was a bit of a bottle neck to get out and taking quite some time I was with none of the Pink Leopards but I could hear them all right – ‘BEASTIALITYS BEST BOYS’ I didn’t half giggle – particularly as I was standing next to Cooch as they started! Finding the coach took me a little while as all of the Gulliver’s coaches were all parked in the same place.  Once back on the coach we all started moving off and I put face paints on John and Amanda at least some of them were getting into the spirit with me!

Getting into the ground was no problem compared to last week to put it mildly. I had my cans of soft drink take off me which I was quite annoyed about as I later found out that others had managed to get beer in. We stood soaking up the atmosphere for a little while.  Some Bok had a sign up that said F%£k the Queen, Our blood is green.  It was very interesting watching the majority of the other South African supporters’ reactions to the sign.  They were getting way more incensed than we Brits were.  I could not see a programme seller anywhere which was really annoying as I was not happy with the idea of going home without one.

I made a move to the seats with Val and Alan who I was sat next to.  There was NO BLOODY WAY that I was going to miss the pre-match entertainment on the pitch this time for anything or anyone. It was chilly in our seats to put it mildly.  I was glad that I had a windbreaker in the bottom of my bag as that did help keep me warmish.  Our seats were up the top-level this time and the sight of the mass of red shirts around the ground was far more impressive than in Pretoria I have to say.  I have a feeling that there was only a small selection of us over where we were as looking down to the left there looked to be a sea of green rather than broken up with the red tops of the Lions. Just to our right was the Sky box, you could clearly see Simon, Dewi, Will and the others.  I took some photos of them and we chanted Dewi, Dewi give us a wave – which he dually did!  I couldn’t stop giggling to myself as I have the picture of Jimmer shining his head on the TV with the duster and the Pledge from earlier in the year!!  I was sat near to Simon again and big Keith and then the rest of the guys were all down in front.  We had some obnoxious Bokka shite standing in the aisle for the first part of the match and Peter (of Fatboy Slim fame!) asked him if he could move or something to that effect.  The Bokka guy pulled out his VIP pass and abruptly told him that he had it which means that he can go anywhere and sit anywhere that he wants in the stadium.  How absurd was that? If there was a fire we would have all been screwed!

I was glad that we had made the effort to get there in time for the pre-match stuff.  Apparently it was exactly the same as the week before which Alan oh so sweetly pointed out to me several times, knowing full well I had not made it for the start of the last match – the shit! The anthems were awesome and I made sure that I recorded both of them on the camera.

The match was totally different to last week.  We were not so amongst the Lions supporters and I guess being more out in the open the atmosphere I don’t think was as electric.  I guess also the series had been won and we were looking to win for honours sake.  We needed a 2-1 loss and not a 3-0.  The Bokka supporter who stayed on the stairs for most of the match was an aggressive shite and nearly every time that we got the ball or were making progress up would go his middle finger-pointing to us whilst he continued to watch the play.  He was the only sort of hostile supporter that we really ran into.  The match itself was pretty violent and the fights on the pitch were frequent and namely started by them I have to say. We ended up in winning though which I have to say was a huge relief.  The trip out (rugby wise) was not all in vain – thank god!

We were all quite quiet I have to say on the trip home.  The reality that it was now all over really and the others were all heading home tomorrow and I was moving on without any of them was all sinking in.  I still had two parts of my holiday to look forward to though, firstly Juliet and Uncle Ant and then staying with Lauren.  I thought the whole thing would go really quickly – being only 12 days on tour but, to be fair it really did not speed by at a rate of knots

I packed and got ready to meet the others that I was going for supper with in the bar.  It was bloody lovely to be asked if I wanted to join people for a change than falling into gate crashing or organising it myself!  We went to a sort of burger place in the square and had a delicious steak supper.  We concocted the Pink Leopard cocktail – vodka, cherry liquor and lemonade.  It tastes rather like a refresher bar but do-able!!

I am not really all that good at final goodbyes and so come the end of the evening after we had gone on for one more drink and I had had a Milo to try and keep warm I decided that I would give more than my contribution to the drinks bill and walk away.  I could feel my eyes welling up already at the thought of saying goodbye. The only way to have done it and not look like a mahooisve tit.  I got back to my room in one piece and decided to write a little note to everyone that I had not seen that evening for Simon to read out on the bus the following day and slipped it under Sue and Clinton’s door the following morning on my way out.  I don’t know if it ever got read out but I felt more at ease for not seeing everyone the night before to say goodbye personally.

I went to sleep a little bundle of excitement.  Despite one part coming to an end I was spending the next few days relaxing with my Aunt and Uncle – I could not wait.  I had not seen Uncle Ant since 2002 I don’t reckon.  I have officially toured out!

The Last Supper

I felt like crap this morning. Lack of sleep and the anticipation of yet another bloody flight with my poor glands that were now swelling every flight day. I should have stayed on the double G & Ts the night before, I swear a hangover would have been easier to deal with! Certainly less painful!

The airport at Neilspruit was all thatched and like one of the safari lodges. The weirdest thing about it was that you could go and sit outside and enjoy the sunshine while you waited for your flight – which most of us did. I however sat in the shade and shivered as the heat of the sun and the brightness were clearly going to give me a headache. I found some random version of Red Bull that was vial in a hope that it would kick start me into gear. I just wanted to curl up in a ball and have a cuddle from Mummy. Anyone would think I was 13 not 30!! I HATE being ill. Word had spread that I was one of the last to go to bed and that I was joining Boyzone in a ‘new song’. Doesn’t take long for word to get round hey! I love the fact that people sounded surprised that I was the last to bed the previous night. Mum would have been so proud/relieved – if only I had actually slept the week before the trip and I’d have been a fricking night owl. I’m getting old!!

The hotel in Jo’burg was miles away from the airport and so it was nice to get to see a bit of the city from driving through in the security of a bus! I remember Dad once telling me that it was a tiny city when he first flew in there and that it has grown as a city at such a rapid rate. I felt that I saw evidence of that in the fact that there did not seem to be any similar sorts of areas of architecture. Everything seemed mismatched and random.

The area that we were staying in was Melrose and it is a richer area of the city and thus in some ways ‘safer’. The hotel was unreal. SO smart, so not us! The lifts were awesome, one had only tiny wee lights on the ceiling and black walls – like what I imagine the inside of the tardis to be on first entering. The other was multicoloured lights but it too felt like a spaceship! I’m not sure you area meant to rate hotels on their lifts, but if you did – this was tops!! It was very boutique style and there were flowers everywhere made out of tin cans – very African. Every little last detail had been thought of. In the room my bed was HUGE – I would have to swap pillows every hour if I was going to sleep on them all! There was a DVD player in the room with surround sound and a choice of 6 movies. The safe was behind a painting and the bath – OMG! For starters it had two rubber ducks on it! But it was massive and surrounded by a curtain so privacy could be given – clearly not needed for me. There was a separate walk in shower which was massive and a separate loo with the all important phone in. The tea and coffee selection was dead posh and they even had hot chocolate and yummie biscuits. Everywhere you looked there was something else to look at. There was a card on the bed welcoming me personally as a guest – I guess everyone’s had one of these, but still – I was very impressed.

I got out the laptop ready to update the blog. Bugger. It turned on but then the screen just went black as if it had been turned off. Was not going to worry about it – can do nothing. So I ran the biggest bath ever instead and then realised that you can actually watch tv whilst in the bath!!! I did several laps of the tub and freshened up ready for the evening – our last night all together and Gullivers had a restaurant booked across the square for us all and it was all paid for apart fromt he drinks – bonus!!. But first a celebration event of the tour held in the auditorium.

This was the opportunity to cheer each individual and point out memorable parts of the tour for them, falling down a flight of stairs pissed, Robben Mountain, are we nearly there yet?, spotting Kangaroos, temporarily loosing passport, loosing the band for the Big Bar in ½ hour of being given it and basically spending most of the time drunk. I must remember to try and get the list off of John at some point as that would be quite good for the scrap book. We all had an Amarula as our name was called out and then last but by no means least, was Simon’s turn. We had got him a Lions ball that we had all signed a Bokka Shirt as a present from us all. I think he was quite touched. He wore the shirt out the following night.

We then all headed across to Moyo which literally faced the hotel. We had no choice in the menu and so I was bit miffed when the joyous waft of ruddy peppers greeted me when the food was placed on the table. None the less it was a good evening with much entertainment provided by the staff (and guests) and of course we gave many a rendition of some of our repertoire of songs, clearly though the tamer ones. There was a band on too, the voices sounded very familiar and on reading back at the hotel in the guide book I read that they often have well known bands on at night playing for the guests. Janette and Sarah tried to get me to go and dance – not on your nelly. I don’t think that the two left feet funky chicken really goes down all that well when dancing to African Music. Most of us had our faces painted which, of course, I started as was first to be asked. I look like a rabbit in head lights in the photo that was taken so I will need to Dr that a little!

I departed early before I started falling asleep and I could already feel my stomach churning from the food that I had tasted before declining a full portion. At least it was the last night hey. I really had done rather well not to be ill with it in the Kruger. I took a moment on my balcony soaking up the noise from Moyo before I shut out the night and headed to bed. I instantly recognised the song that they were singing as one off of my Mundo Afrika Album but can’t remember the singer’s name. Happy memories!

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