Monday, 30 April 2012

Do houses have souls?

There's a property in Waverley that caught my eye the other day. Properties in this area don't come onto the market often, and when they do they're pricey - but I've noticed that this one has been standing empty for a while, so thought it might be up for a bargain. I won't go into detail about how shocking the estate agent involved is, but I went around there today to have a look, because the asking price is essentially the price of the land - a 3100 square metre property. I have a couple of plots and schemes in mind, and wanted to see if they would actually work. 

Well, the plots and schemes wouldn't work in our world right now, for a number of reasons. However, the reason that struck home the most was the soul of this house. It's a bank repossession to start with - so I guess there's already a bit of bad karma there. Whoever owned it last left in a hurry - it was obviously used as offices, because there were desks in the living area, but they were covered with files and paperwork. One of the bedrooms had the frame of a bed in it, but no mattress. The bathrooms were grim, the ceilings have obviously been leaking for a while, and there were odd personal items left lying around - a racket on the tennis court, exercise balls outside the main bathroom, and cartoon characters on the walls in two of the bedrooms. Combination of things: it just felt yuck being in there, and for any of my plots and schemes to come to fruition, the place would need to be demolished - it's bad karma was way too heavy for me to contemplate a renovation. 

We have noticed a property's soul before, though, when we were looking for a house to buy in 2004. We looked at a property in Linden. When Brett and I walked in, we both felt something heavy falling on our shoulders. As we wandered through the house, I literally couldn't bring myself to speak. One room in the house had very clean carpets - the rest of the house was filthy. It made me think that a vicious murder had taken place there, or serial abuse - there was just something evil in that house's soul, and we couldn't get out of there fast enough. Both of us picked up the same energy, and experienced the same reaction. 

I guess picking up good energy in a house is what makes you buy it. We both picked up good energy when we walked into our current home, and that energy is what made us buy it. Lord knows, if we'd looked a little closer, we probably would have run for the hills - old houses, no matter how warm their souls, come with a much more than they appear to, and not necessarily in a good way. 

But even though we didn't look closely enough to pick up the cracked pool or the destroyed floors, we felt that it was home. And most people who visit our home comment on how welcome they feel here. 

A psychic friend who housesat for us once said that she'd seen an old lady wandering around the house. Quite a plump dame, with grey hair twisted into a loose bun. A friendly soul apparently. 

Perhaps she is the soul of our home - a warm and welcoming grandmother. The soul of the house I went to today is more like a mid-40s polygamist cad who leaves his dirty alaundry lying around for everyone else to pick up. The soul of the Linden house was an angry, hardened, bitter spinster aunt with a penchant for corporal punishment. 

What did you feel when you first walked into the home you live in? If you could describe the soul of your home, what would it look like? 

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Things I've learned on our beach holiday

The most important ingredients for a great beach holiday are the love of your life, and the two most beautiful boys that ever there were. 

1 For a successful beach holiday, you need to be able to walk off your deck, take no more than 20 steps, and be on the beach. 

2 You have to be able to see the waves from your deck, while you're sipping your gin and tonic. 

3 You have to have a swimming pool at hand, so that you can swim there to wash the ocean off. And to swim in when the ocean just gets too rough. 

4 You don't need a big house with a big kitchen for a successful beach holiday. In fact, the small kitchen at your beach house teaches you how to use space efficiently, and makes you think about how your kitchen at home is designed and equipped.

5 There's nothing like swimming in the ocean to give your big boy a confidence boost. 

6 There's nothing like a tidal pool to give him that confidence boost while keeping him safe from the pounding waves and sharp rocks. 

7 It's always good to have a safety net when you're on a beach holiday. Like two tablet computers loaded with movies for boys to watch when the weather is miserable. Because even Lego has it's limits... 

8 There's no such thing as too many Easter eggs. 

9 Hipster restaurants are everywhere. Can they still be hipster then, if they're so ubiquitous? 

10 Pinterest looks like a great idea. But where do you find the time to participate, if you're not stuck in a beach cottage on a stormy afternoon with nothing else to do?

11 There is such a thing as too many scatter cushions. 

12 There is no such thing as too many towel hooks in a beach cottage. 

13 A beach holiday never requires as much clothing as you think it will. Always pack half the clothes, and double the undies. 

14 Children make friends wherever they go. Adults could learn much from the simplicity of this. 

15 There's nothing like a beach holiday to create the space for a family to reconnect. 

16 The Internet yields many wonderful finds. Our beach cottage is just one such find, and we will be returning here again and again. 

17 To a little boy, having the single bed with the tiny window with the peek of the ocean is much more important than having the double bed with no view. 

18 Building sand castles is as much fun for grownups as it is for little boys. Probably more so. 

There are probably many more lessons to be learned. But I'm off to make the most of another important holiday lesson: When one's husband tells one that one should watch Game of Thrones, one should trust his judgement and watch it. ;-) 

Monday, 9 April 2012

Review: A visit to SciBono

I visited SciBono for the second time on 4 April  – my four year old son asked that we go there on his birthday because he had such fun when we visited in December.

If you’ve not heard about it, SciBono is a playful science learning centre, located in Newtown opposite the Turbine Hall and the SAB World of Beer. I would not be exaggerating when I say that there are hundreds of interactive exhibits – there’s everything from a MIG replica and a replica of the Wright brothers’  plane tobinteractive science experiments that make understanding physics and electricity as easy as pie.

There are quite a few soccer-related games, so the kids can be active as well, and then there’s the Murray & Roberts construction  site, where larger than life foam ‘bricks’ and ‘mortar’ are used by the children to build with – with the help of pulleys, bucket lifts and conveyor belts that they power themselves.

And that’s just the beginning – there’s really too much to describe in one blog post.

The several floors of exhibits are staffed by friendly people all dressed in bright orange jackets who will explain each exhibit to you, should you wish. They are also really good at keeping the place spotless, by asking politely that you refrain from eating or drinking on the exhibition floor.

There’s a lovely coffee shop with possibly the cheapest prices in Johannesburg – where else could you enjoy a 250ml cappuccino for R10, each served with its own decoration by a smiling gentleman who is pretty inspirational in his own right..

SciBono has a separate room for hosting parties – the children can have the run of the warehouse for the duration of the event, but you can keep your drinks and snacks and the all-important cake time away from the rest of the visitors.

This is really one of the gems of Jozi – it feels secure enough that mom could take her laptop or book and sit in the coffee shop and let the littlies have the run of the place – and they’re learning all the time, even though they’re not aware of it. My boys are 4 and 6, and love it, but we had guests in the early teens in December who had a blast too.

If you’re in Jozi over the holidays or over the weekend, and are stuck for ideas for things to do, this spot should be top of your list. And with adult tickets costing just R20, and kids over 6 costing R10 (under 6 are free), it’s affordable enough to visit several times over. 

Monday, 2 April 2012

Old friends, ftw

I've just returned from a week in the UK - an opportunity to reunite with two of my favourite university friends, cannily crafted around a wedding in a castle in Scotland. Awesome, yes?

It's difficult to put a finger on what the best part was - but it all started with picking up exactly where we had left off even though there's been so much time and space since we last saw one another. The last time we were together was 14 years ago, although I saw Euan (now from Edmonton in Canada) seven years ago, and Tom (now resident in Henley-on-Thames) two years ago, when I was best person at his wedding.

A road trip up the length of Britain, coloured with at least 20 million blooming daffodils (no exaggeration at all there), lots of gin-and-tonics in beautiful spots, fine food, flavours of ancient history, and probably the warmest March week in recorded weather history all combined to make an unforgettable week.

It was a great trip - and I am so grateful for the friendship of these two special men - and that we've kept it going through the years.

It was bittersweet remembering the other people who were part of our circle way back when - one is deceased, others have scattered to the four winds. But it was really lovely catching up.

And really really great to be home too. I missed Brett, so much - and have to just point out the awesomeness of my husband who was completely ok with me roadtripping with two married men. I missed my boys - who I swear grew up in the week I was away.

The things I didn't miss? That's a whole other blog post. For another day.