Heading South

I was very fortunate that I was able to find a flight to take me to South Africa to attend the service for my late mother, and like all of these things there is a lot of preparation to be done before I actually get on a plane. Thanks to my explorations in Oxford  I now have an alternate city to travel to London from. My flight was due to leave at 22.30 which meant I was able to leave for London a bit later, although I still had to leave home early to get the bus for Evesham first.

540 to Evesham

My train arrived at Paddington at 13H30ish which left me roughly 3 hours to kill in London before I headed over to Heathrow. However I was somewhat stretched for ideas as there were a few things that were scuppering my possible plans. Fresh rain would have made a cemetery visit too muddy, and the ongoing protests by Extinction Rebellion (XR) ruled out any visit to Tower Hill or anything in that area. I was really left with the Kensington Museums again so I decided to head out to South Kensington Station to have a look. Unfortunately there was at least a 20 minute delay on the whole Circle Line so I had to change over to the District line from Paddington to Earl’s Court on the Wimbledon Branch then changing to the Upminster branch and bailing out at South Kensington. It was do-able but would take time to change trains.

Earl’s Court

Then it was a longish walk to the London Science Museum via the subway that serves it and the Natural History Museum. It had started drizzling outside so the subway was perfect for my purpose.  I had pretty much photographed all I wanted in the Science Museum though, but wanted to look at the Flight Gallery again as it had been very dark on my last trip. The museum was full (again) but after a few distractions I found my way to the correct place. Unfortunately the darkness issue was still present so my pics came out iffy.

The seaplane is a Supermarine S.6B from 1931. This aircraft won the Schneider Trophy on 12 September 1931. The famed trophy is also present at the museum and is quite impressive to see but awful to photograph. A lot of aviation milestones are represented by the trophy and the Supermarine S.6B became the fastest vehicle on Earth when it set an absolute speed record of 656 km/h (By comparison at times our jet aircraft was flying at 917 km/h). The other two aircraft in the table above are the Hawker Hurricane (v) and a Spitfire MK-1A  (P9444, c/n 6S.30613, in 72sqn markings as ‘RN-D)

The cockpit below is that of a DC3 “Dakota”

Having seen the Flight Gallery again I headed down the stairs towards the basement. The one item that was missing was the large circular energy ring that I had seen in 2017. I had thought that it was a permanent part of the museum, it was certainly impressive enough to have been, and the place looked kind of drab without it

Time was marching and the rain outside scuppered my plans to walk back to Paddington via Kensington Gardens and I returned to South Kensington Station and then Earl’s Court and finally onwards to Paddington.

Heathrow was packed as usual and I had to kill roughly 5 hours till my plane left, and a very slow five hours they were indeed.

We boarded at roughly 9.30 and the plane had about 250 on board. It was a very cramped flight though as the person in front of me tilted their seat all the way backwards, leaving me almost stuck in place. It was not a fun way to spend over 10 hours.

I watched 4 movies: GodzillaKing of the Monsters, Toy Story 4, The Secret Life of Pets 2, and finally Alita: Battle Angel.  The last movie was interesting as I had read the Manga and seen the anime before. It was quite enjoyable and the time passed without any major health issues on my side which was a good thing.

 

By 10H30 we had landed, and it was hot! In fact for most of the time I was in South Africa the midday temperature was seldom below 30 degrees.  The only exception being one morning when it felt as if I was back in Tewkesbury during Winter. In spite of 2 electrical storms we had almost no rain, although the opposite was not true of the United Kingdom.

South Africa was also undergoing “load shedding”, which is really caused by the end product of “state capture” and sheer incompetence and corruption. I only experienced it on the one evening though but many in the country are becoming more and more dependant on generators, candles, gas stoves and or even going off the grid completely. And talking of energy, the petrol price was R15.79 for a litre of 95 Octane and R16.21 for a litre of diesel.

Of course the real reason that I was in South Africa was to attend the memorial service for my mother who had passed away on the first of October. My brother and I had many discussions when we were together and I am glad that I made the trip down. I expect I will be processing a lot of my thoughts as time passes as it is quite a traumatic moment in your life. Possibly the one saving grace is that my brother and I are not spring chickens with young families. I will however cover aspects of the next few days as time passes.

On the 20th we both attended a Piston Ring Club meet held in Modderfontein and it was great, with lots of good junk for sale and heaps of vintage cars.

It was a scorcher of a day though and the Jacaranda’s were in full bloom. Obviously those who think Pretoria is the Jacaranda city have never seen Johannesburg in full bloom.

On our way back from the meet we made a slight detour to the SOE Memorial in what is left of Patterson Park in Orchards. Between when I saw it in 2007 and now the park has been destroyed by what looks like “development”. Unfortunately I have no idea what the heck is going on at that site and the memorial is missing the wooden Butte De Warlencourt Cross that was mounted on the memorial.

Returning Home

Alas, my trip was a short one and I was not as busy as I usually am. While waiting at ORTIA I quickly popped up to the viewing deck to see what I could see. I was last up there when I was a toddler (I hear) so have no memory of it. The view however is not as great as you would think, but its better than nothing.

I boarded the plane again on Thursday 24th and arrived back in London just before 07H00 on the next day.

It had been a cramped and bumpy flight and I had not really watched much although Missing Link and Dumbo does stand out as being quite enjoyable. The food on this return flight was also iffy but I may have been a tad too tired to notice. By 09H21 I was on my way to Evesham and by 11H48 on the bus back home.

Waiting for the train to be called at Paddington

Unfortunately it has been doing a lot of raining during my absence (the opposite being true in South Africa), and this morning the field outside is flooded and the temperature is very low. Tomorrow it is back to “normal” and soon this trip will only exist in the memories and images that I have collected in this week and a half.

It is doubtful whether I will return to South Africa in the next 2 years. I have to renew my passport next year and that can take 8 months in itself. 

And whether we like it or not, life does go on. Mum left many memories behind and it is up to my brother and I to continue in her memory. Sadly her last two years were not as we envisaged them, but then how does one predict the end of a lifetime? 

And now there are only two.

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Back home in England.

It is now 19.30 on the evening of the 7th and I am back home, surrounded by washing, empty suitcases, clothing, postcards and heaps of other odds and ends that I brought back with me. My flight left last night at 9 pm, and we landed just after 6 this morning. I have spent the time between then and 4 pm in queues, trains, buses and Paddington Station. 

A lot happened between my previous post of the 24th of February and now. I split my time between my brother’s house and my friends on the West Rand, although was not as active in the local cemeteries as I was previously. My mother is surprisingly strong, but I fear that she is trapped inside her body and is probably hating every minute of it. Unfortunately we had to make the decision that we made in 2017, there were no more options available to us.  Sadly she is surrounded by other elderly women of various ages, many never get visited and lead out their lonely lives in the home. I am afraid that in some cases they have outlived their children, or their children are no longer in the area or in the country. 

Menu from my return flight

There is a lot I can say about South Africa. Corruption has seriously damaged the economy, and the continued demand by Eskom for higher tariffs is met with disgust as the public recalls how easily Eskom and the corrupt in it seemingly burnt money with impunity. To this date no high profile crooks have been arrested for corruption and  they continue to lead the high life, safe in the knowledge that they got away with it.

The few malls that I visited were also showing the effects of the economic downturn, with empty shops and fewer buying customers visiting them. Generally though I had good service from 99% of the people I encountered in my travels in and around the West and East Rand. The petrol price continues to bite though, and of course the traffic jams in Johannesburg are even worse as a large portion of the one freeway has had to be closed to repair some of the supports and bridges that are part of it.  

Muffin the cat continues to amuse, at this moment he is thinking of entering politics and is trying to register his own political party called “The Fishycookie Party”. By his reckoning he could be the chief poohbah in the next election because at least he wont be corrupt, although is liable to sleep in parliament. 

Again I got to enjoy the pets of my brother and friends during this trip, and it is amazing how they enrich our lives; there is never a dull moment when you have a cat or a dog.

The weather back in South Africa was hot and very uncomfortable as I really prefer the relatively cooler summers of the UK. I do not do heat well! We did have a typical highveld thunder/rain storm in my last week, and I had forgotten how much water these could dump and how bad the thunderstorms can get in Johannesburg. Back in the UK it was overcast and drizzly where I live, but the march to Summer continues.  

Suburbia (1500×671)

Prices.

Food prices continue to rise and I did quite a few comparisons with the prices I gathered way back in 2017.  These are just a few examples that I spotted, and some items may have been on sale. The items are not indicative of my own personal preferences and are sourced through leaflets and shops I visited in the West and East Rand. Petrol was R14.08 pl 95 octane and R13.86 for 93 octane (02/03/2019)

6 Eskort Gold Medal Pork Sausages: R44.91

Kellogs Corn Flakes (750gr) R49.99

Beef Biltong R320/kg

Oreo 16’s R14.99

Sedgewick’s Old Brown Sherry 750 ml R44.95 (R39 in duty free at ORT airport)

Milo 500gr tin R51.99

2 Litres Coke R16.99

Cadbury’s Chocolate (80g slab) R19.95

Oral B electric toothbrush R499.95

Jungle Oats (1kg) R26.99

Weetbix (900 gr) R38.99

Wellingtons Tomato Sauce (700 ml) RR18.99

Baby Soft 2 ply toilet rolls (18’s) R124.99

Lipice (4.6 g) R22.99

Sunlight dishwashing Liquid (750 ml) R32.99

Joko Tea (60 bags) R32.99

Milo (500 gr) R54.99

Ricoffy (750 g) R79.99

Mrs Balls Chutney (470 g) R28.99

Douwe Egberts Pure Gold coffee (200 g) R119.99

Crystal Valley salted butter (500 gr) R47.99

Nature’s Garden mixed veg (2,5kg) R25.99

30 Large eggs R49.99

Stork Country Spread 1kg R29.99 

Dewfresh milk 6×1 Litre R69.99 (R11.99 ea)

Gordons Gin 750ml R99.99

Hunters Dry 12x440ml Cans R129.99  

30 Extra large eggs R44.99  

Ultra Mel Custard 1 Litre R22.99

Enterprise Back Bacon 200gr R23.99

Fresh chicken breast fillets (R59.99/kg

Huletts white sugar (2.5 kg) R39.99

Lipton ice tea (1,5 litre) R17.99

King Steer burger R64.90, Regular chips: R15.90  2019

95 Octane petrol R14.08, (/02/03/2019)

4 Finger Kitkat R8.99

48 Beacon Mallow Eggs R79.99

Tabasco Sauce (60ml) R38.99

Random Images

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Onwards to Africa

Continuing where we left off

The flight was not too bad, food was ok, and the movies helped pass the time. I watched: The Incredibles 2, Hotel Transylvania 3, The Christopher Robin movie, The Hurt Locker and Bohemian Rhapsody. The last I was still busy with when we started our descent to OR Tambo Aiport in Johannesburg. 

Breakfast was not too bad, at least there was no sign of that awful spinach…

 

It was overcast outside and we landed at roughly 8.15 in the morning (2 hours behind local time in the UK). 

Flightline (1500×560)

I was collected by my brother and I saw my mother about an hour later. It is hard to describe my feelings when I saw her. It has been almost 2 years since she left her former home to go into frail care, and there was a marked deterioration in her physical condition. However, she can still outglare  a rattlesnake. The decision we made in 2016 was not an easy one, and of course there is a lot of guilt associated with putting into frail care. We did not have any choice though, because neither of us was in the position to take care of her. She is very frail and imprisoned in her own body, and at some point the inevitable will happen, but I do feel better about seeing her again, and I am sure she was happy to see me, although she would never admit so much. 

The duty done, it was time to unpack and bath and clean up after the flight. I was tired, having been on the go for almost 30 hours. My plans for this trip were to rationalise more of my collection, visit friends and family, look for my missing will, and have some serious discussions with my brother. I wont be taking thousands of images though as I won’t be travelling much while I am in South Africa. 

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