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i got cash…

25 Jan

After some long hard months of saving, we’ve finally had to start spending on stuff for the boat. And I, Sara Lynn Hillratt, have been BLEEDING cash all over Cape Town.

Perhaps some perspective (and a small story)? I’ve got a bit of a frock-weakness. Some women love shoes, handbags or underwear. I love a dress. LOVE. I can walk into almost any store anywhere and I will become infatuated with at least one frock (probably more) on the rails.

Two seasons ago, I had a particularly “liberal” approach to purchasing those frocks. Until I found a particularly spectacular floor-length, flowing silk, halter neck (great cleavage), dress which I knew I had to have. Except, it cost about six (ok, maybe eight) times more than the amount that I normally consider to be reasonable for frock spending. Of course I bought it. But I did promise myself that I would exercise self-discipline for the rest of the season and not buy another dress. And if I can’t spend my money on dresses, then I somehow find it rather easy to avoid spending money at all…

Next thing, Stof and I came up with this rather romantic notion of travelling around the Pacific. So operation Save-As-Much-As-We-Can was launched, thereby cauterising the flow of unnecessary money from our household.

We’ve done a fair bit of saving from a solid year-and-a-bit of being on low cash spend.

Suddenly, I have had to buy a whole bunch of the things we have been saving for! It’s as if some long-forgotten spending beast has awoken in me. Besides buying the necessary (ropes, radios, cameras, memory cards, underwear, dry bags, bags, nifty gadgets, LED lights, books, bikinis etc etc), I have been treating myself to the odd luxury with the self-explanation that “they won’t have this in the Pacific”!

There is a considerable reserve. We’ve been saving for some time because we hope to travel for some time. It is rather easy to feel like you’re rich when the bank account is looking, ahem, healthy.

But the realisation that I had been spurting cash unnecessarily hit me Saturday night when out on the town for a Hen’s Party. At the bar with my friend Jen who has recently returned from their circumnavigation, I was enticing her to share a bottle of bubbles, because:

SAARTJIE: …it’s the only drink I felt like drinking.*

JEN: Hmm. The bubbles here are a bit ridiculously expensive.**

S: But I think I might need to drink the bubble…

J (funny look): Gosh. You are going to have such a different experience to us crossing the Pacific drinking champagne!

S: Oh, but I’m only drinking it now because we probably won’t have champagne at sea.

I didn’t order the bubbles. Thanks Jen. I think I needed to articulate it to realise that “about to leave” should not equate to spendspendspend!

* Hmm. The power of self-deception.

** Yes they were: triple the retail cost.


never say no to water… and bubbles

14 Dec

[Before writing this it seemed like there would be a point, but it’s turned out to be a bit of a rambling collection of thoughts about nothing very substantial. Sorry.]

A little while ago Stoffel decided that it would be an excellent life-rule to set oneself the mantra: “Never say no to water.”

What a good rule it is!* Now, whenever either of us is offered a sip/glass/bottle of water we are ethically bound** to accept. We like to catch each other out:

Stoffel: Would you like a glass of water, my love?

Saartjie: [favourite glass water bottle in hand] Um, No I’m ok with my 750ml of H2O right here…

St: Did you just say NO to water?

Sa: Errrrrrmmmmmmmmm. No… I’d love a glass of water.

We’re very mature like that. And (clearly) well hydrated.

While we’re on the topic of refusing to refuse liquids, another beverage I am yet to turn down is a sip/glass/bottle of champagne.***As long as it’s not sweet and has bubbles, I love it the most!

Which reminds me of the most marvellous evening we enjoyed two nights before I went to Antarctica (i.e. when I still had absolutely no idea that I might actually be going to Antarctica). The Hillratts were invited to a Champagne Tasting! The tasting was held in a breath-taking manor along the Bishopscourt ridge overlooking Constantia and all of False Bay. For those not acquainted with the Fairest Cape (we’re quite modest about our city) this vista includes scenes of great beauty. After the “tasting” part of the Champagne Tasting there were bottles and bottles of Bolly to be drunk freely while we snacked on oysters! sushi! salmon! french cheeses! home-made vanilla pod ice cream! multiple other delicacies! Delicious. It was certainly a lifestyle I could become well acquainted with. Although I would most certainly morph into an enormous piece of solid lard.

Oh! On the subject of Sara’s lardiness: I have resumed some manner of exercise regime and self-discipline in the eating department due to the scary rate of increase of lard-to-muscle ratio in my body. I have even run**** three kilometres for two days in a row. And counting. Nice one, Saartjie!***** Just thinking about it makes me feel thirsty. I think I’ll have some more water, please.

Would you like some too?

* Have I mentioned that I love a good rule? Something to do with being a Type-A bossy-britches, perhaps… Or too many years working with rules.

** I am an ABSOLUTE rule-nerd…

*** Or cap classique. Which is what they call a bottle of bubbles made in SA because those frenchies insisted we call it something else and they are fussy like that.

**** I use the word “run” very loosely: sometimes I just walk along puffing heavily in between actual spurts of jogging.

***** I even felt inspired to add a category entitled “fitness” whch might just be wishful thinking…

scenes from the [first aid] front

10 Dec

In preparation for this little adventure of ours, I have done a whole bunch of interesting courses to prepare myself for the passage beyond. I am now a qualified:

The course took three days and was run by St Johns Ambulance. I’ve got the feeling* that St Johns exists in many countries across the world. [I’m too lazy to google this right now.] I completed level one, Stoffel will do level one next week (he was writing his yachtmaster’s exam this week so couldn’t join me. Are we getting savvy or WHAT?), and we will both do our “first aid at sea” modules in January sometime.**

My class had 12 people in it. Luckily, we ploughed through the various modules (emergency scene management! CPR! choking! bleeding and amputation! bone injuries! etcetera etcetera) at a fairly moderate speed, so I didn’t feel the need to separate the class into different categories according to ability.

It was a class of superheros! One man was Buzz Lightyear made flesh and blood. I couldn’t look at him without willing him to boldly shout: “To infinity and beyond!” We also had Elasto-Boy in our class: a seemingly inconspicuous gentleman who shocked and amazed us all when he yawned and stretched one morning after tea and his joints turned in just about every direction possible! The man isn’t just double-jointed: he’s more or less triple (or more!) jointed. Awesome.

There were the Three Witnesses: one actually named Witness, and another two whose names meant “witness” in Xhosa or Arabic respectively.

Add to the mix the Secretary who didn’t like me after, on the first day, we had to present on “medical shock” and I started sketching a spider-diagram (mind map?) to summarise the information we had to present. Secretary didn’t like that at all. I don’t know why… arachnophobe?

What WAS interesting, was that the class had a very pleasing racial and gender profile. (For the non-South Africans, yes, I do think it is dreadfully depressing that we still care about these things, but it will take a whole load of time in addition to our 2-3 Nobel Peace laureates to make us not notice.) 12 persons made up of: 6 black, 3 white and 3 mixed race. 6 men and 6 women. Now, I did say that the breakdown was interesting, and not just numerically pleasing***. The culturally interesting part came when traditional remedies for various ‘ailments’**** were discussed. “Old wives” tales are a treat!

The most distressing story was a remedy for burns. Old (township) wives solution: pour condensed milk on someone who has just been burnt. On the face of it, this might make sense: the condensed milk should cool the wounds. BUT (as our trusty trainer advised from personal experience) this is a BAD idea because the sugar crystallises and then the skin has to be rubbed with steel wool… without painkillers!!! Too ghastly.

The remedy that attracted the most disbelieving guffaws (especially from Buzz Lightyear who joked about it NON STOP for the rest of the course) was Elasto-Boy’s (first hand!!!) account of what to do with someone who has sustained an abdominal injury such that his or her intestines are spilling out (!!!! Please let me never have to deal with this…). Elasto-Boy said that when HIS neighbour had had his abdomen slashed open (as happens when you’re Elasto-Boy), the women had lit a match waved it around the intestines and scared the innards back in! Now I would be the first to admit that this is pretty gnarly in the coolest way possible way, but apparently it ‘works’ only because the heat from the match dries out the intestines and they shrivel up. Dry intestines = bad.

In the end we all learnt the error of our traditional ways (and will now be draping cool wet cloths over both burns and cascading intestines), passed the test and got our complimentary gloves, CPR mask and certificate.

* This feeling was compounded by the Canadian movie demonstrations we were shown in class. 

** It is December and even instructors of first aid at sea go on holiday.

*** I love the numbers 12 and 24. Even a numerically challenged person like me can divide them by SO many other numbers. So satisfying!

**** I use this term very loosely. A third degree burn, say, is not normally classified as an ailment.

futbol fever and my part in bringing bafana to cape town

17 Nov

Ayoba, folks!

Bafana* vs USA in our very own CT stadium this evening!!! Yay. Yay. Yay. Of course, we are going. There are two main reasons for this:

1. It’s all about re-living the World Cup

Without trying to sound schmaltzy, that World Cup was one of the best times of my life. The actual opening night, when Bafana drew with Mexico and then we** spilt into the streets and jived and wooped and tootled our vuvuzelas with enormous vigour was definitely the most goose-bump inducing day I have ever lived.

Stof and I have this theory: South Africa had been bubbling and boiling under the pressure of the challenges we face as a country (poverty, crime, lack of education, loud-mouthed politicians who seem less intent on solving problems than on making them). And then, like a giant Friday night after the worst work week EVER, we were all given permission to party. The entire country erupted! Ordinary people, not the criminals, not the extremists, not the burbling and bumbling politicians, owned the streets and stamped their place on society. WE stamped our sense of being South African on the world.

I think I grinned for a month.

(hoping to recreate this look tonight… I just have to figure out if the green wig went into storage.)

So tonight, I reckon the 51 000 people attending the bafana-usa match (and the inevitable hangers-on) are going to try to re-create that feeling.

2. I really shouldn’t miss it

Bafana-bafana have played in Cape Town precisely ONE time in the past five years. (Or it seems that way to my memory.) We were not scheduled any Bafana matches during the world cup and not one of the warm-up games took place on Cape Town soil.

In the run-up to the world cup, it didn’t always seem that way. There were a couple of occasions when the newspapers announced that Bafana would indeed play at our beautiful new stadium.

But then a couple of days later, the announcement would be retracted and the match rescheduled for Rustenberg (where? Exactly.) or Jhb (AGAIN)…

So I made a phone call to the customer relations officer of the South African Football Association in Pretoria. I must state up-front that I can be slightly melodramatic, but I do have a sense of my own irony. The following conversation ensued:

Saartjie: I just want to say, on behalf of the people of Cape Town, that we will be crying bitter tears of disappointment into our pillows this evening because we never get to see our own team in action.

Best Customer Relations Officer Ever: Madam, I feel your pain.

S: No, you do not feel my pain. This is because you are in Pretoria and work for SAFA and no doubt you have had at least one opportunity to watch Bafana-bafana. Us capetonians, we can only support the team from afar: never drawing near enough for Our Boys to hear the ring of our cheers and vuvuzelas in their ears.

BCROE: Cape Town has been wronged, there is no doubt! I assure you that we all feel and appreciate your support. You see, The Coach insists on them practising at altitude so they are ultra-fit for the tournament.

S: But does The Coach and the rest of SAFA think that Cape Town is not a part of South Africa? Just because we are in the south and have majestic mountains and beautiful beaches and delicious wines and… [focus saartjie!] anyway, that doesn’t mean we don’t love our team too!

BCROE: No! No! Even though you have different weather patterns to the rest of the country, we know you are still a part of South Africa. Even The Coach [who was not from South Africa] knows this.

And so it continued: me being melodramatic and the BCROE being melodramatically understanding in return. It ended with him asking for my telephone number so he could keep me abreast with events. I put down the phone impressed at how he played my game and expected to not hear anything more…

A couple of weeks ago, my phone rang! Guess what? It was the BCROE! With a special pre-press release just for me (he didn’t want such an outstanding representative of Cape Town to have to read about the good news in the ‘papers***): The Nelson Mandela Trophy was coming to Cape Town!

So at 9:30 (UTC+2), I’ll finally be cheering from the stands for my team.

*Bafana-bafana is the name we give to our SA national football side. It means: “The Boys”.

**And by “we”, I mean every.single.south.african (practically).

*** I kid you not. That guy cracked me up. He’s brilliant!

why stof needs a wife… or a p.a.

15 Nov

Last week, I received a phone call.

*ring-ring* *ring-ring*

[Except, it’s my cell phone and plays The Entertainer when it rings, but I couldn’t properly illustrate that above.]

Saartjie: Hi, it’s Sara speaking.

Rather Irate* Lady: Can I speak to [Stof].

S: Um, I can give you his number. What is it in connection with?

RIL: I’m calling from ICASA.** Why did he do his radio licence exam again?

S: Oh! Because he failed it the first time…

RIL: No. We issued him with a licence in 2000.

Yup. turns out that Stoffel did his radio licence in 2000.*** He has absolutely no recollection of this event. None. In fact, doing the exam twice in 2010 did not even jog his memory.

Sometimes, I wonder what his life would be like without me… He’d definitely lose a lot more stuff and end up repeating things a whole lot more.

* In retrospect, it made me laugh that the lady was so irate. Did she think Stof did the exam twice (three times, if you count the one he did earlier this year that he didn’t pass) on purpose??? It was almost as if she felt that he had gone through the effort just to give her more admin and make her day harder.

** ICASA is the independent communications authority of south africa. They’re the people who administer the  radio licences.

***We met in December of 2003.


10 Nov

What is it with men when they’re in the company of other men and only one woman that breeds the idea that calling a woman “sweetie” or (worse) “sweetie pie” is in ANY way acceptable?

Now, I’m not exactly the kind of gal who can easily be described as “sweet”. I possess certain attributes that may be associated with “sweet” (generally good person, charitable, hospitable, well-mannered, respectful, etc), but I’m really too prickly to be “sweet”. Sometimes I wish I were “sweeter”, but… I’m not.

THREE times in the past week I have been called “sweetie [pie]”. Three. Once in a work context, twice in my sailing course.*

Although, perhaps, it was least called for from my colleague, at least I could respond in severe tones: ‘How interesting that you still think I’m “sweet”. Be sure to tell your client that the opposing counsel is “sweet” and let’s hope for the best.’ (Us lawyers should be capable of taking as well as we give.)

It was a little trickier with the sailing instructors. Of course, the mere reaction to the use of “sweetie” to describe the only woman present in the “classroom”** by that woman would probably strip anyone of the idea that the afore-mentioned woman is any way “sweet”. But being known as the “ragingsnarkybitch” is also far from ideal. Especially when we’re stuck on a boat for an entire afternoon.

So I kind of made a small joke: “Just because I [made a bad call / am the cleverest in the class] doesn’t mean you can swear at me!” And sat there seething in disbelief for the rest of the afternoon with the result that I either made more bad calls (but no more “sweetie” – so I achieved one objective) or started making silly mistakes such that I was no longer the cleverest in the class (so no more reason to warmly refer to me as “sweetie pie”). Urgh.

In lighter news: I love Wednesday mornings the most! These are the mornings which we dedicate to walking up the mountain before work. This is superb because:

  1. It is excellent to get in a good hour + of exercise before the day begins.
  2. Cowboy’s excitement levels when he realises we are actually going for an early walk are priceless. 
  3. It fills the soul to be on the mountain in the first light.
  4. Nothing makes one feel more superior than watching our fellow Capetonians snaking along in the traffic while we are marching along in the fresh mountain air. There’s a definite air of smugness to the nod and smile that fellow early morning walkers give as they pass each other.


*By TWO different instructors.

** Once was on the boat, once in the classroom.

the lynching of alaskan bill

5 Nov

Our brother-in-law runs the seriously awesome business of taking rich people on holiday to Antarctica. Like, to hang out in personalised luxury tents on the ice with only a handful of the really elite. (Not just to cruise by the ice-shelf in a ship with hundreds of other rich people.) In order to run such a brilliant concern, he needs Good Staff. Good Staff are people who are (a) strong; (b) calm; and (c) interesting. Enter: Bill the Alaskan!

Bill the Alaskan has been staying in our little cottage on the Wine Farm* for the past week. I think it’s been full of surprises for him.

Firstly, the Wine Farm (let’s not kid around here) is seriouslyspectaular. It’s knock-your-socks-off kind of amazing.*

Secondly, within minutes (probably about 7 minutes) of meeting him, Stof and I had invited ourselves to come and visit him in Juneau in May 2012. And to stay in his house. And to take advantage of all the benefits usually only on offer to locals. The man took it well: perhaps he thinks we will forget and make other plans? Ha! They do not call me Sara-the-girl-with-the-elephant-memory for nothing.

There are two morals to this story:

  1. We’re shameless.
  2. If you live anywhere on the Pacific Rim: BEWARE!

* Stof’s parents live in the main house on the Wine Farm. We’re staying in their cottage until we leave. The amazingness of the Wine Farm has everything to do with my in-laws and nothing to do with free-loaders like us who just hang out there for a few months before embarking on adventures.