The last fortnight on our 5-month sojourn and we suddenly felt as if we were running out of time. Technically we were still illegal aliens with a bit more aggro to come. This blog is predominantly a happy picture story with captions, so I might as well get the aggro out of the way at the start.
SA Home Affairs VFS Global
In summary, we first found out that our Irish passports were only good for a three month stay after we'd booked our flights for a five-month stay. Initially this seemed a fairly trivial obstacle. Ha ha ha. There was allegedly a new online app that would expedite everything. After initial attempts to follow this route it proved purely ephemeral. Some email communication between Oxfordshire and Cape Town later, I resorted to calling the Embassy in London. The operative there was rude and unhelpful. And so it went.
The received wisdom was that we should leave for SA as planned at the beginning of October 2021 and apply for an extension once we got to the other end. A month before our allowed 90-days was up, we were told. No worries, we were staying fairly close to Caledon Home Affairs, so not a major hassle.
There is no point repeating chapter and verse what happened after that except that the process had moved to Long Street in Cape Town and in mid-February 2022 we were R15,000 poorer and remained sans visas.
What could they do when the time came to fly home on February 28 and we remained technically aliens. You may well ask! We had heard stories, at least one of them verifiable, of travellers stuck in South Africa for an indeterminate period. It took our friend something like three weeks to sort things out before returning home.
Come mid-February we enquired (yet again) about progress and were told to be at VFS in Cape Town at 2PM on Friday, February 18. Given that we could be there all afternoon we booked accommodation on the Cape Peninsula for that night. Confirmation of the VFS booking would be emailed to us that we would need to print off and present upon our arrival at Home Affairs.
"Did you think your appointment was on Friday the 18th?" Kerry blurted when Shan answered our phone. We'd emailed her to ask if her husband, Tim, would mind printing the confirmation. We had no printer at our current place of abode.
"Yes," Shan replied, "we've booked and paid for accommodation for that night!"
"Well Tim's just noticed that the appointment has been confirmed for Monday the 21st."
I shan't repeat my normally polite wife's stream of invective. She was very cross when she managed to get hold of the agent on the phone. Apart from anything else, it wasn't even clear whether we'd been granted the visa or not and with just 7 days to go ...
To be fair, they did pull the stops out and came back with an answer: "Be there when VFS opens on Friday morning and they'll see you then ... ."
They did see us and after a fair old nail biting wait we went through another interview and some signings and finally our visas were stuck into our passports. Idly flicking through my passport to look at the paperwork this morning I noticed that the visa had been granted four weeks previously. They could at least have put us out of our misery. Listen here: no more depressing stuff [Ed]
A tale of two quite different eateries
These were two fab places to eat that we'd somehow managed to miss out on until our return to the UK was looming.
First there was De Vette Mossel, a kind of weekend pop-up with panoramic views while having, to quote my wife, "Great fun eating 7 courses with our feet and chairs teetering on the sand."
The plan was to entertain our generous benefactors as a final thank you and maybe distribute a few bottles we'd rashly overbought in our rediscovered love for Western Province wine.
So here's to Kerry, Emma, Sheila, Tim and Tony.
Above: (top) The view of the Klein River lagoon so cunningly framed by the proprietors that, no matter where you stand, it is always right in front of you; (row 2, l-r) Shan and Kerry, a.k.a. Kinkles, having a laugh; joined by Emma on the pier; all the okes, presumably taken by my vrou seeing as she's not in the picture; (Row 3 l-r) Tony; Tim; Sheila; me having a laugh with Emma; (Bottom) Sea Gals ... see what they did there.
OK this is starting to sound a bit like a corny Cornish postcard (which is a delightful juxtaposition with the lekker food and continuity announcer/maitre'd).
On the opposite end of the spectrum was Le Chalet, an old-fashioned fine-dining restaurant to which Emma had been dying to take us. It was fabulous. Leo the chef/proprietor has clearly downsized from a much more substantial Swiss establishment to Fisherhaven, where he continues to serve up one delight after another in this entirely family run restaurant. If one sits outside there are views of the Bot River lagoon where an eclectic list of fine wines will round off ones visit (this is all beginning to sound like a blurb but these are all my own words). Le Chalet seriously delivers. Why did we only discover it within days of heading back to the UK?
Above l-r: An unassuming, but very typically Swiss, chalet; the dining areas follow suit; each course is prepared and delivered with style.
We were getting a tad antsy while going through an entire morning of visa minutiae, partly because they still hadn't confirmed that we had actually been granted the visa but mostly because we had a date with Angela Lloyd before some prearranged family engagements. Angela had not yet had the privilege of a particular cheese and of a winemakers produce we'd been lucky enough to get hold of up the Hemel-en-Aarde valley. Her car was on sick leave and we had promised to get some of these examples of deliciousness and drop them off in Kenilworth.
Intuiting that we would refuse any payment for a couple of bottles of Die Kat se Snor and a chunk of cheese, she lay in wait with a bottle of 2018 Skerpioen as a thank-you to us. For those of you in the know, I don't need to describe what a fine present this was. For the others, suffice to say that "thoughtful" and "generous" don't come close to our appreciation of the gift of one of the Sadie Family's signature wines. The question now is when, and with whom, do we drink it?
Our final destination that evening was the Grosvenor Guest House in Simon's Town, which was most comfortable in its own right but also remarkable for its sweeping views across False Bay. Before settling in for the night, we set about exploring the town itself.
Shan had never stopped there before and considerable nostalgia ensued wandering around the streets of the town where her Dad, Arthur Deale, had spent his time in the naval base during WWII. Much of the architecture of Simon's Town and many of the buildings date from long before that time.
Above: (top row) Naval ships are juxtaposed with civilian vessels these days but the majestic mountains encroaching on False Bay and those enshrouded by cloud beyond the Cape Flats are constants from Arthur's time in Simon's Town; (middle row l-r) the beautiful boy on the right is Arthur; one would like to imagine that he, a Durban boy, might have enjoyed a curry in this establishment [although it is sadly unlikely that the Natal and Cape cultures had merged to that extent in the 1940s]; a little more likely might have been that Arthur could have stood outside this fine convenience when out on a passeggiata with a date during shore leave; back at the Grosvenor Guest House sipping wine on the patio and the moon made a dramatic appearance with two babies; (bottom row) across False Bay at night.
And here's an aside to the Deale family who grew up with Maxi, the Great Dane. In Simon's Town, at the main viewing spot, there is a statue to Just Nuisance a raffish but much loved Great Dane who inhabited the town and its surrounding areas during WWII, eventually becoming enlisted in the navy. One does wonder if Arthur chose Maxi as Judy's 30th birthday gift partially in memory of nights spent under Nuisance's protection.
The other side of Shan's family
After WWII, and some time before 1951, Eric Arthur Percy Deale met Judith Elaine Eriksen. This was a lucky coincidence for me because that was how my dear wife came into being in 1960. Before that my outlaws, Patrick, Martin and Kerry came into this world. Judy (Judith) still lives in Hermanus and was the main focus of our 144 days outlined in this blog. Her niece Vickie Tyrrell and nephews, Leif Eriksen and Charles Phillips live in Cape Town and we were headed to Miller's Point, South of Simonstown, to join them for a pukka braai. The venue was a splendid wooden shack, owned by Leif's wife, Angie's family since time immemorial (we believe built by her grandfather in 1929). We'd heard about it for years and now we were going to visit it. Before launching into the pics, I must apologise to Angie and Shan for the camera distortion my iPhone brought to the wide angle extremities. They really aren't that wide.
Above: (top) the view from Angie's shack at Miller's Point; (below l-r) Angie, Leif, Joe Tyrrell, Vickie, Charles and Shan; don't ask [any of the participants may elaborate in the comments to this blog if they have a coherent explanation - as with all these blogs, they are living things ... Charles knows].
Before we left we simply had to have lunch at the Tesselaarsdal Post Office (which we shared with a very polite family and an extraordinarily well-behaved stag party [maybe there was more to follow later]). We also had to pay our respects to Carolyn Martin at Creation Wines and have a cocktail on the beach at Dutchies (miraculously we'd not got around to this for 5 months!).
Above: hopefully these pics [predominantly of the Tesselaarsdal PO and its clientele and fare] speak for themselves; Delicious cocktails at Dutchie's on the beach in Hermanus round off our holiday.
It was fitting that we spent the last evening of our sojourn in the Western Cape drinking wine with Emma. Probably not quite so sensible that we started at 5PM and stopped at midnight.
What a roller coaster we'd had.
Above: The overall framework of this series of blogs, now ending, was a 5-month expedition for us to spend time with Shan's 92-year-old Mum, Judy, after we'd all been drained by Covid. More than half a century had elapsed between the two photos above and Shan and I got our own daughter, Kate, in the bargain.
Postscript ... a doff of my hat to Creation Wines
For 5 months from October 2021 to February 2022 I'd dithered over a trip to Creation. There was a website but it wasn't clear to me what was on offer or how to go about making reservations et al and time swept by.
This came out in a chance remark to a newfound wine Twitter friend, Lisa Harlow. I think she was a bit irritated with me but didn't show it. Suffice to say (a brusque "leave it to me" to be exact) Lisa contacted Carolyn Martin, Creation's co-owner, who contacted me. At this stage we had no time left for a proper visit but Carolyn agreed to meet me at the winery for a chat on our last Saturday morning. We were en route to Tesselaarsdal.
When I saw what I'd been missing I knew I'd deprived myself and, more importantly, Shan, of a unique experience. We vowed to go back there when we were next in Hermanus.
Actually, the opportunity came up for one of us to visit Creation again sooner than expected. Shan's Mum, Judy, had reached a crossroad and she really needed to be moved to a care home. If Shan didn't pop back to Hermanus, Kerry and her family were going to be left with an intolerable burden. The two sisters worked like Trojans and I scratched my head for a way to release some of the tension. It didn't take long to to come up with the obvious answer. I contacted Carolyn and set the Creation ball rolling. Happily Tim, Kerry's husband, was complicit and offered to fetch the two tired and emotional sisters after a 7-pairing fine-dining experience.
The deal was sealed and I reckoned I earned a few brownie points to mitigate my unrequited FOMO.
Above: les girls raved and a great many OMGs punctuated that evening's WhatsApp intercontinental dialogue. There was special mention of the wonderful attention they'd had from the staff and the extraordinary taste sensations they'd experienced. They were so carried away they even agreed to drink some red wine and conceded that it had been the perfect match for courses it had accompanied (including the chocolate pud in the last frame above).
An old bloke ventures into France for the first time post Brexit. His wife and her sister tag along. We're about to experience our first long-range EV journey before leaping into a camper van for 10 days. What could possibly go wrong?