So here we are in South Africa, enjoying our fourth consecutive summer. No doubt I will pay the price with my skin, but I can’t resist a little bit of self-congratulation for having skipped the cold darkness of a London winter once again.
We’ve been here for 3 weeks, although it does feel rather longer. I am enjoying sitting on my veranda, looking at my garden and swimming pool and the giant trampoline that despite the odds, my husband and I managed to build. However, this place does take a bit of getting used to. At the corner of my lovely vista, is the electrified fence that separates my garden from the neighbours -not something that fosters especially warm relations. Nevertheless I might have thought to introduce myself if it wasn’t for the giant killer dogs that clearly reside there too. And whilst having a big house is lovely, there are also a few teething problems. Which one of the 6000 keys unlocks the patio door? Is the workman at the door actually coming to fix the fence, or is he going to rob me and kidnap my children? Not to mention for the first week, the rising sound of panic in No.1 son’s voice as he desperately tried to locate me in the unfamiliar rooms (he now greets visitors with ‘hello, come in, this is the house where you can’t find your mummy’).
Nevertheless, we are slowly getting organised. You drive everywhere here, and whatever the reality, I am ashamedly too scared to try walking alone. And despite endlessly getting lost I haven’t yet ended up in any dodgy parts of town – something I put down to my determined use of U-turns. I am slowly reducing the number of calls I make to our 24 hour armed security team, and have reached the stage where I can let in a workman without first calling a man with a gun to check their identity. I imagine I still have a way to go before I let anyone in the house sleep with the window open.
The contrast between South Africa and Syria (our last posting) couldn’t be more stark. In Syria, the only violent criminal activity you need worry about is orchestrated by the Government. Here, the level of violent crime is truly shocking and the mistrust it creates just further reinforces the separateness between people of different race.
So what have I learnt about moving around the world, this time with two children in tow? If you value your sleep, it is perhaps best not to attempt it. People say babies disturb your sleep, but the hidden truth is relocated toddlers pose a much more serious threat to a night’s rest. It is however surprising how little sleep you need to continue functioning, albeit at a lesser capacity. So far my sleep deprivation has caused me to:
· Go into the wrong gym changing room, get changed, put my things away and leave again without realising it was the mens’;
· Part with far more money than I intended;
· Repeatedly drive to the exit of a car park having left my paid ticket in the machine.
I wonder what’s next.