Opening Boxes!

“Pretend it’s Christmas” they say…

“It’ll be so wonderful seeing your stuff again after five months!” they say….

“Blah blah blah…” they say…

Where do I start? I’ve really and truly tried to be a good girl and to see these boxes through a Christmas filter… but it’s just not working for me.

Yup, all I can see are boxes 📦 boxes 📦 and more boxes 📦… and each one is a complete surprise as to what’s in it (I guess that’s where the Christmas part is supposed to come in! But that’s where the similarities end).

Let me pull out some of my favourites:

1: The dirty bowls and glasses in which I made the packers lunch (five months ago) … crumbs and all… They simply finished eating and wrapped them!

2: The boxes marked “linen” contained cane baskets and silk flowers… without a single piece of linen. The linen was found in the end, not a single sheet marked on the box, and no more than two items together. It has appeared in dribs and drabs over the last ten days. We’ve had to borrow bedding from Molly to sleep at night.

3: The silk flowers were removed from their safe vase. The vase was packed in one box, the flowers in another, and the oasis in a third … crushed of course, into sticky green crumbs which now appear everywhere. Did they breed in there?

The dread of each box, however, has produced some pleasant surprises:

  • Five boxes of lamp shades? I was sure I don’t own that many lamp shades. The first box contained six… the rest each held a single shade. Whew! One becomes so thankful for such pathetically small blessings! I think I’d be thrilled to find a box empty.

  • We are now almost at sea level, and we’ve come from Joburg which is five thousand feet above sea level. Things in bags that were sealed are now vacuum packed! 🤣

We have a kitchen, we’ve been sleeping in our own bed for two nights now, and it’s starting to feel just a little bit like home 😊

Oh, and we live on a busy street without much of a view. There isn’t usually a lot of green in Malta which is basically one huge rock. The front balcony is too small to swing a cat, and we need to keep the glass doors shut most of the time. But it turns out that what we can see from the living room, while very cropped, is of one of my favourite trees!

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Five Pillow Day!

Two of his pet hates are cushions and pillows.

Two of my favourite things are cushions and pillows.

I always thought of them as somewhat decorative but mostly functional. He thinks they’re just stupid.

Along with the first vague understandings of my health issues came the realisation that pillows and cushions do more than provide comfort for me. They prop me up and support me.

Then over the next couple of years I worked out that I only need one or two (in each place I sit) but on really bad days, I need up to five.

Today is one such day. One on the left, another on my right, two behind me, and one between my knees. Nothing is able to hold itself in position and even my left hand rests in a pillow as I alternately type and drink tea with my right. The tea cup is placed in exactly the right position so there’s no twisting. For refills I need to ask for help.

Yesterday we had a huge chat as we discussed the ins and outs of the unpacking processes and how much better it’s been made by having a slow, staggered help and this little flat to crash at through the process. The old me would’ve sent him off to ride or paddle or work… it’s “easier” to do it on my own. But I’m physically in worse shape than I’ve ever been, and we have no choice. We feel like a pair of naughty children sent to our room, not able to come out without the cooperation of the other.

Three hours a day (and three hours only), we drive the two minutes down the road to the apartment, park Molly in her garage underground, and together we attack a handful of boxes.

I can’t do it without him. I can unpack boxes he brings to my chair, and I can direct what goes where and which box to unpack. But he can’t do it without me either. He’s never done it before, it’s completely overwhelming for him and his anxiety skyrockets. And when his anxiety levels are high he doesn’t listen too well. So I have to be patient and kind and gentle and ask (not tell).

We’re both super happy with the progress and with ourselves and each other. We’re nailing this in more ways than one.

But as each day moves into the next, I’m becoming more and more exhausted. There was a time that I could unpack a hundred boxes on my own, move the piano into place, and get rid of all the rubbish by the time he got home from work… five days in a row.

But not any more. Now the three hours are all I can do, and it’s three painfully slow and frustrating hours at that. I can ride a recumbent bicycle for three hours straight, but sitting in a camping chair giving orders and bending over open boxes and opening packages within those boxes is a whole different ball game and the pain sets in quickly, …. followed right behind by the brain fog. Then I can’t string more than a few words together.

It’s difficult explain. I say door instead of window, left instead of right, clothes instead chair… and more often than not I can’t find the word at all…

It’s frustrating for both of us. We might need a day off tomorrow? Or maybe even two days?

Today is day five of the unpack. The kitchen arrived just as we were leaving…

I’m assuming it’ll be installed over the next few days. If I can’t string more than a few words together and my pain levels are through the roof, then it’s a five pillow day… and time for a rest.

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The Good News or the Bad News?

I’ll start with the bad news as it’s simpler.

We rented an apartment in Malta that wasn’t quite finished (literally just needs kitchen and curtains and insect screens installed) everything else is stunning and brand new and finished). But at least we could store our stuff while went for our six week Molly adventure, and if it wasn’t finished on our return we could cook in Molly but sleep in the apartment.

The bad news is it’s not ready, which is fine, but the adorable landlords have rented us another gorgeous, furnished apartment, and set us up with food, towels, beds …everything just a few blocks away.

Which is very kind. But we need to unpack and start getting things sorted ASAP as we have visitors and things we need, and things to unpack, and and and …. so it’s annoying.

But the good news list grows longer by the day:

  • They won’t let us pay rent on either place.. for the furnished apartment or the one without a kitchen. So we’re saving a few bucks which is a bonus as we still haven’t sold the house back in Joburg.
  • That in turn gives them incentive to get finished, we feel really bad for them, but it’s good knowing that we’re taken care of and it’s in their interest to get things finished soon. So it will happen, and we don’t need to nag them.
  • We are in the ground floor apartment right on the edge of town, so unlike our apartment where Molly will sleep in the basement garage, here we can park her right at our front door. And with a washing machine and dishwasher etc, we have been able to bring everything in, in just a few steps (including my Molly mattress and put it on top of the bed here… not quite the same but pretty good), clean her out, unpack the Sphinx… it’s turned out be such a blessing … sorting out Molly without feeling like we should be unpacking the boxes.

  • I’m not very good at sitting still so if we were surrounded by boxes I’d constantly chip away at them and totally overwork myself very quickly. Instead, each morning we head over, work for three hours, he does all the lifting, I do the sorting and directing (which doesn’t always go well), then we head home for lunch and don’t think about the unpacking again till the next day. An impossible feat if we were right there.
  • Sometimes it’s easier to plan things when you’re one step removed. The serenity of a tidy, well appointed apartment with a fabulous view is a much better place to plan, regroup, restore and refresh, than an overwhelming apartment with boxes to the ceilings! A couple of Netflix binges are helping to do that somewhat, hence the radio silence of the last few days. It’s been great!
  • Part of the move included unpackers. After nearly a dozen international moves I know the drill and I hate it. A swarm of men descend at the crack of dawn and by nightfall, everything you own, including the dust bunnies under your bed in the old house, and the junk drawer (usually now upturned), and all the half bottles of shampoo from five people (now a quarter filled with the rest smeared over the rest of the bathroom contents), are now unpacked. If you don’t know what that looks like, imagine upturning every drawer, box, wardrobe, cupboard, in your entire home and garage and garden shed, onto your floor, beds, stairs, kitchen counter, and even the bath. Believe it or not, there are not enough flat surfaces to hold everything you own. You can’t eat for the laden kitchen and you can’t reach the cupboards to start loading them. You can’t get to your bed under all the linen you didn’t know you owned and the washing machine doesn’t work because the power plug is still from the wrong country so you can’t wash all the shampoo out the towels. You’re hungry, so exhausted you can’t breathe…. and everyone expects you to fix it… right now. But because we don’t have a kitchen, yet we need our stuff, the removal company agreed to spread the load over a few days. I asked for the weekend in between two of them, and the last third only once we have a kitchen. It’s still a zoo, it’s still a third of our belongings spread over half the house (not a bad ratio considering!!), but with the weekend to sort out much of what was unpacked on Friday, we’re getting to do this a little slower. I can’t begin to tell you how much better that is.

So the non-kitchen is proving to be a bonus. He still thinks that if we’d rented a different apartment, moved to a different country, owned different things, … or we’d simply put a match under it all before we’d left, it wouldn’t be nearly this stressful. In reality, it’s not a patch on all the other moves I’ve done while he’s in the office making all his new friends… Five people’s stuff instead of two, all on my own instead of with his help, no spotless apartment to retire to in the evening, unpacked in one day instead of three, and no one to nag us to find things for school or work the very next morning… this is bliss!

But it still sucks. Moving sucks. And tomorrow morning (Monday) will be round two of the proper unpackers. Hopefully they’ll find the linen … but that’s a story for tomorrow or the next day!

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2weeks in Malta!

Exactly 2 weeks after leaving Malta, we’re leaving again! Why? Because we found a place to stay from the end of October, and they’re loving allowing us to store our belongings in the empty shell while they finish it for us (it has no kitchen yet). The camper van in the UK is ready early woohoo!! So we may as well go get it right! So tomorrow morning we fly to the UK to collect, finish setting up, and prepare for the journey ahead!

Yesterday I watched them unpack (and still did too much), then we celebrated, and tomorrow we fly woohoo!!

PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve offered to support and keep asking where and how! I’ll keep these links at the bottom of my posts for the next month 🙂 They’re the easy, no-spam emails I’ll send out no more than weekly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those) till the book launches and you can get your free copy!

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First Week in Malta

I’m really not sure what I expected for our first week in Malta. I’m pretty sure, however, that it didn’t include being quite this hot, such a truly crappy AirBnB (we’re here for the month so we’re sucking it up and having a bit of a laugh), or an ear and chest infection (caught from the grandkids before we left I’d say, helped along by 27 hours of flying then a swim in the ocean).

But those and grumpy husbands aside, it’s really been quite amazing. Our estate agent took us to look at potential places to rent, we fell in love with one and decided to sign on immediately, …till she confessed it was 33% above the top side of our budget, and twice what we were hoping to pay. A total waste of everyone’s time and since then, everything else we saw sucks in comparison!

The upside, however, is now we know what to expect as “normal” and as we really do want to live in a small town far from the hustle and bustle of busy cities, we managed to find a really sweet agent who lives in the town we love the most. Yesterday she introduced us to the sweetest couple you could imagine, who are in the process of building some stunning little apartments right in the middle of town. Apartments that we now know are special because we know what to compare them to.

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The property belonged to his grandfather who was born right in the original home, his father was born only a block to the south, and himself three doors up. Such heritage, such “local” and what better authenticity than the actual people … without having to live in a 300-year-old house with 100-year-old plumbing and 50-year-old electricity! We really do love the old, and the stone, but the amenities, especially in this heat… no thanks!

The apartment is perfect in every way, new, fresh, spotless … except it has no views (but oh well, that’s what the camper van is for right?) … oh, and it doesn’t have a kitchen yet! But amazingly, the rest of the rooms, including bathrooms, are perfect, so they’re happy for us to unload our container of belongings in … and to store them there while they finish the kitchen. We will spend much of September collecting the camper van in the UK, and all of October driving across Europe, …and it should all be done by the time we return. So it works out perfectly for all of us.

So there are no real photos yet really, it’s just a shell. But it’s exactly what we need: a perfect blank canvas in a gorgeous little town, where we can settle in and make a nest for the next few years, and I got to choose the curtains, the place for the fridge, and they’ll plum the freezer in for us. We’re over the moon.

THIS is what we hoped for … beautiful people, beautiful countryside, small village, a garage to house the camper van when we need to, and just the right place to get those memoirs out from! What a blessing!!!

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First 24 hours in Malta

Actually, it’s only been 16 hours so far, and I decided this morning I’m in not great shape and don’t have the energy to write anything, but I don’t want to lose sight of these precious moments in the fog of deep jet lag, exhaustion and the onslaught to the senses of all things new… that if I capture a bit of it now, however badly, I’ll be glad of it later. So here goes…

Three international flights, two different airlines, one oversized piece of fragile baggage (his huge bicycle bag needs it’s own check-in as well us using up the bulk of his weight allowance), two suitcases to live out of for the foreseeable future, two Smart Crutches, special assistance in four cities, a 30 odd hour journey from door to door, all our valuables in way too much hand luggage (because everything else we own is in a shipping container somewhere), a six-hour time zone difference and swapping from the southern to northern hemispheres, and I’m exhausted thinking about it never mind enduring it.

“How was the flight?” they all ask kindly.

“Um…. considering all the above, it went really well, and by really well I mean we survived it!”

There were hiccups and nightmares and all the usual stuff, but by 8pm last night we had all our luggage, which was intact (I think, we haven’t unpacked the bicycle yet), and we were both in one piece 🙂 We spent the next 2 hours unpacking the essentials, getting a local SIM card, taking all the big pills (for pain and for sleeping) and crashed in a rather crappy bed in a rather crappy Air BnB which we’d chosen because it had enormously positive reviews online. But the “easy parking” is nonexistent, the host was grumpy (when we told him he’d given us the wrong phone number his response was I know … and the welcome pack consisted of a bottle of water).

(our apartment window/balcony and looking down, left, then right…

But a bed was better than any plane seat, we flew with Qatar for the first time and they were AMAZING on every level, the last leg was with Alitalia and we literally laughed the whole way they’re so bad (didn’t they go out of business recently??) and we’re thankful it was only a 90 minute flight from Rome. The airport here was lovely, quaint, and so helpful, till the mob of Gap Year students turned up and literally used their bulk (of both numbers and backpacks bigger than them) to push through queues, (yes, even pushing in front of the disabled people!!!) and when I spoke up they snarled, told us where to go, and pushed harder… I’ve never experienced them before, but now I fully understand and I fear I might shoot one before the week is up!

Malta is HOT … way more than I’d expected, and I’m pretty sure I’m coming down with a sore throat and unhappy chest cough. The tourists are horrendous, the parking is unbelievable, the dust and mould and … for the record, HE booked the month’s accommodation in a busy place not me! Tomorrow we have appointments to look at some properties to rent to store our stuff and build a nest (out in the countryside!), but in the meantime, I’m calling a few days off, have made myself a tiny bed nest on the couch, and I’ll see you in a few days when I resurface…

His photos this morning while out hunting and gathering for food a block or two away:

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No, I haven’t lost my love for this place … for there is so much to love! … and look forward to a wonderful 4 weeks!

No brain space to check emails or Facebook, but I’ll return to the land of the living soon so watch this space 🙂

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Mild Malta Mayhem!

We’ve fallen in love with Malta. Up until a few short months ago, it had been a theoretical place for us, somewhere we’d heard of, near Italy maybe?

Then out of nowhere, it became a very real possibility to spend a couple of years being just the two of us. No longer being or doing all the things others needed us to be. No longer trying to squash our faith, family or future into the dregs of life left behind from a busy (yet exciting and fulfilling) corporate life. There is much we are giving up for this life stage, much we will lose. But more than anything, we believe we will gain much much more.

More time to write, time to find ourselves and heal our souls, time to put into practice all that we believe and have learned. Time with our children and grandchildren. Time to breath!

It is by no means an easy way out, and there is much that is really hard about what we are doing. So don’t expect this to a fairy tale journey.

For starters, why Malta?

Europe is somewhere that #MrS has some great work connections and offers of interest in the portfolio that he has built up so passionately over the past couple of decades. He has grown an amazing amount of wisdom, experience and know-how, and neither of us wants to see that wasted. It would be a devastating loss of so much if that was to suddenly switch off. work to keep his mind ticking Neither of us has any heritage in Europe close enough to allow us to live here.

He simply can’t keep working the extent that he was and have the time and headspace left over to do all the things we believe we are called to do, for family, for God, for each other. There is no possibility of a middle road. So to keep working with a select group of companies and individuals makes a whole lot of sense on a number of levels. The least of which to keep his mind ticking.

But neither of us has any heritage in Europe close enough to allow us to live here. Malta stepped in to fill that gap (for a fee of course!), and suddenly we find ourselves with an opportunity to make it our base for the next few years. So we’ve come here for 10 days to check out the lie of the land, to sign papers and get a feel for what our lives will look like, and to get as many balls rolling as possible. (We call these balls Maltesers of course 🙂 🙂 🙂 )

And we’ve fallen in love! Sort of… There is soooo much of this tiny country in the middle of the Mediterranean that is absolutely incredible. The history, the culture, the people. It’s all amazing. And yet also very strange to us as well. There is either a dead calm to the place, where it feels, unlike other countries we’ve been to who have siestas, like a ghost town, or there is an endless, almost hysterical buzz. Mostly good and happy laughing and conversation sounds; but also children screeching, horns blowing, background music coming from a number of different sources, car tyres screeching, motors revving and roaring, shouting, arguing, laughing, radios, TVs, …. basically what we’ve come to describe as Mild Malta Mayhem!

We have much to get used to and it’s going to be quite the journey, but as a place to call home for a while, somewhere to build a small nest as we live truly globally for a while, this is a great place to hang our hats for a season…

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