Hi everyone

As many of you already know June has been an extremely exciting month for both Richard and I where we have been kept really busy with all sorts of challenges, deadlines, visits and of course the ‘never ending building’ experience.

Our first deadline was Sunday 3rd June where we had a visit from Caroline from the Grading Council of SA . . . and not only did she come and visit to do our grading inspection, but stayed the night . . . this was very nerve wracking for me . . . as I felt that I was sitting an exam and as some of you know, I do not function well under these conditions. Our deadline was very tight as the builders had been running behind by at least a month, and this date had been set back in February, so needless to say the nerves were finished. I only managed to get into the 2nd cottage on the Friday, as Richard had been putting up curtain rails, grab rails, headboards and the list goes on and on (what an amazing job he had done) . . . and as we didn’t have a maid / char and most of this furniture had been in storage for over 2 years . . . I had my work cut out for me . . . with polishing, woodocking, scrubbing, washing furniture all before I could start putting the décor together . . . which in itself was another whole story as I had the ideas in my head whilst doing all the shopping, but had not had the opportunity of ‘putting it all together’ until the last minute . . . and with no shop ‘ just down the road’ for any last minute things . . . had to hope and pray that it all worked.

The first heart attack happened late on Friday afternoon, when I was cleaning the 1 bathroom and noticed that we had hot water – yes boiling water – feeding into the cistern – unfortunately our plumber had switched the main pipes in the wall – and so he had to work in a hole on the outside of the building to try and rectify this, but by around 18h00, the problem had got worse – now we lost all the water to the entire cottage . . . I then started looking for Caroline’s cell number as I had visions of having to tell her that she couldn’t come and that all our hard work was for naught . . . as we would probably have had to wait another year for the inspection. . . . it was bitterly cold – just before the snowfalls – the wind was howling – and they were working in a tiny hole outside which kept filling with water - but Richard and Edward were amazing and worked through the night as they had to bypass the main cold water supply and put in a new supply feed – as we couldn’t get to the pipes inside behind the tiles and Richard would not give up . . . finally at 03h45am we all breathed huge sighs of relief – as it all came right! ! ! Sunday dawned and I was still not finished with my side – also still trying to get plants sorted in the gardens at the same time, but finally by 13h45 . . . it all came together, giving us just enough time to have a shower,look respectful and take a deep breath.

We had a lovely visit with Caroline – who incidentally is one of the strictest graders – which is what we opted for, as we wanted to make sure that what we were offering was of an excellent standard. She offered us lots of advice and was very complementary on all accounts . . . . and so in the end it had all been worthwhile.

Following are some of the pics

Even though we had applied for 4 Star grading, and Caroline advising that she would be putting us forward for this level, it is not a foregone conclusion, as the reports, together with all the pictures that we had to supply have to be scrutinised by a panel of judges, and so after a couple of nail biting weeks – we received our official notification on the 21st June that we had achieved this level – hooray – it really was a relief for both Richard and I – as it was only 1 year ago – July 2009 that the first ‘indent’ was made on our land, and have to say that we have really worked ourselves to the bone to get to this point – never mind the fact that unfortunately we are hugely over budget and at least 2 months behind – WE MADE IT . . .

We would like to take this opportunity of THANKING EVERYONE OF YOU for your support and encouragement as we really appreciated it and there were days when we had really ‘felt like giving up’, but then we would get a message of encouragement from one of you - which would keep us going . . . so THANK YOU.

After receiving our confirmation that we had officially obtained our 4 STAR GRADING – sharing a glass of bubbly with Michael and Gunda.

Then THESE LITTLE GIFTS ARRIVED "as if from Heaven" within 2 days of each other . . . . just to complete our little family in P.A.

Henriette, who does a wonderful job of taking care of all the stray doggies and kitties in the town, presented us with 2 beautiful kittins – Mistoffles and Cleopatra, who had been rescued from the Hotel, and then at the Saturday market Zelia arrived with a box with 3 Jack Russell puppies & Richard could just not contain himself – the little tan and white one – jumped out of the box into his arms – and hasn’t left. . . . what an absolute transformation to Richard . . . he tucked him under his jacket and paraded around the town just like a proud "Daddy". This has most definitely been a ‘baptism of fire’ for both of us, as we were most certainly not ready for this ‘instant’ family and have had to make all sorts of adjustments to our lives, as well as living arrangements. I had just started turning our "Pondokkie" into an official reception area and as we didn’t want the kitties to make any of the cottages their new home, we had to make this their new home, which came with its own logistical problems, as our 2 staff members were also using this area as their rest room in the interim, and because of all the building of the house and all the traffic we cannot afford to let them out . . . . so of course our reception area is ‘on hold’ for a short time.

In the meantime Jock . . . . ‘of the Karoo’ . . . say no more as I didn’t have any input regarding his name, has turned our lives upside down and around . . . as he is still so tiny and we think was a little too young to be removed from his mommy, is constantly with us – as he is very very busy, and we also can not let him out on the land with all that is going on . . . but we have become very organised when we go out, as his bed is put into a basket and we take along another basket filled with all his ‘goodies / toys / food / water and I don’t know what else’. (I never dreamt in a million years that I would become a ‘mommy’ at my age, ha ha) Even the most ‘posh’ restaurant here allows us to take him with us, which is quite special. Another amazing thing that has happened as a result of us getting Jock, is that my mom is now an ‘instant’ granny – which she loves, and so does he – as sometimes she baby sits him during the day when we are busy and has even built him a ‘playpen’ in her garden. He also goes to her every 2 weeks now for his ‘manicure’ – actually to have his nails clipped as they grow so fast and are very sharp – never mind his teeth – as he is teething and just loves chewing your fingers, arm, leg pants, my skirt bottoms and of course just loves our sheep skin slippers . . . oh how spoilt he is!

Emma these pics are especially for you . . .


In between all of this . . . the house continues to grow and grow . . . Peter our builder has just advised that he is hoping to complete the floors by the 23rd July then his work will be complete . . . and even though there will still be lots to do from our side, we have decided that we are going to try and move in around then . . . and complete the rest as we go . . . as we really need to free up the cottages, as so far we have already turned down 2 block bookings of 8 people each and we can’t afford to keep doing this, especially as we start moving into the busy tourist season. . . .

Even though we have already experienced some time here in the winter, last July whilst staying in the caravan, this did not prepare us for what we next had to experience . . . . this is the picture that we were greeted with after opening the curtains a few weeks ago . . . absolutely stunning and virtually on our doorstep. I know Lizzie and Cath that this is nothing to what you are used to, but for us – was breathtaking ! ! ! The Kredouw Pass, about 25km away at the end of the Prince Albert valley had to be closed due to the thick ice & even our local courier had to un-hitch his trailer and leave it behind as it was too slippy for them to drive. This was apparently the heaviest snowfall that Prince Albert has had in the last 50 years and was still visible for quite a few weeks after. A pity that we didn’t get the chance to go and have some fun making snowmen and having a snowball fight or two – as there just wasn’t enough time for us poor hardworking souls.

Even though PA is away from the limelight of the 2010 World Cup Soccer . . . the village participated in ‘getting all decked out’ . . . many buildings were adorned with huge soccer balls, banners and flags, and every second car was sporting their favourite team’s flags . . . which all added to the wonderful atmosphere . . . even the Saturday Market wasn’t left out . . . . which you can see below . . . with all the wonderful colourful flags and banners and people wearing the wonderful scarves. . . . we also participated in the first Moonlit market which was a huge success for both the locals and visitors alike . . . . the Markie had been decked out with Fairy Lights, Lanterns – courtesy of us from our Wedding, bon fires as well as music. We were treated to some lovely songs – lots from ABBA and the good ole days, by Tertious’ daughter who has a magnificent voice and was chocca block full with the food stalls doing a roaring trade – where Zelia ran out of Prego rolls within the first hour (sold more in that short time than she did over the Olive Festival 2 years ago – and even though Richard collected the rolls from George I didn’t even get to taste one – so hopefully next time). Due to its huge success it has been decided to hold one every quarter – another lovely event to add to the PA calendar for all our visitors.

Besides all the local happenings . . . which I say many of which we just don’t have the time to attend as yet . . . we had 3 lots of visitors and family visiting in June, which has been fantastic . . . . . Jenny, Stu and Emma came to stay . . . we were taking a drive up the Swartberg Pass and had to make a "twinkle stop" for Jock . . . no need to guess how cold it was in this little kloof next to the river. On one of our scenic travels we also saw 2 owls perched on a farm fence, only a short distance from Karoo View Cottages – which was really special, but unfortunately none of us had our camera’s to capture this sight.

Jock was also spoiled by Emma, who bought him a lovely warm coat and rain coat when they went to Cape Town, as of course these things are just unheard of here, but he is already growing out of them and I have put in a new order for the next size as the little chap really feels the cold. His best spot is that in the morning he is allowed up on the bed, where he enjoys the electric blanket and is content to chew on one of the many chews he has . . . . yes bad spoiling . . . . by me I am afraid, but who can resist the pleading eyes, and of course the little noises . . . as he is very vocal at times.

Lewis also visited for a night en-route to Cape Town, which was great . . . a pity that you didn’t have time to go walking as there are some really lovely walks and right here, from our gate, with direct access onto the Robert Gordon Koppie with its fantastic views . . . but maybe next time. We introduced Lewis to the hospitality of THE KAROO KOMBUIS . . . which is an experience all on its own . . . unfortunately Denise was still away, as she just adds the ‘cherry on the top’ with her pink hair and brightly coloured turbans. What is absolutely amazing to us is that this little restaurant situated in a tiny Karoo house, with the lei-water running by and the fields full of sheep, goats and Shetland ponies across the way, has not changed anything in over 10 years;

  • same décor – which to some is rather kitsch, but seems to work – Bev check out the masks . . . pic taken especially for you – these have apparently been collected from all over the world when the 3 owners used to be SAA Cabin attendants
  • same menu – either roast lamb & veggies, chicken pie or Babotie or a Karoo Platter which is made up of all 3
  • with a soup of the day and a dessert.
  • They do not encourage children, do not take CC, do not serve alcohol, do not allow smoking, do not have a fire place and the toilet is off the kitchen – the mind boggles – and more often than not, are fully booked – which is incredible, but at the same time a really quaint restaurant with a lovely ambiance and excellent service and is a ‘must to experience’ when you visit.

Our next visitors, were Kev, Nik and Kyle (Richard’s son, daughter-in-law and grandson) which was really special for us . . . we spent a lovely 5 days with them showing them around the village and experiencing some of the local ‘things to do’; like visiting the dairy to get our daily farm milk and yoghurt, lunches at Lazy Lizzard and La-di-dah where Kyle played in the lei water canal as the sluice gates opened whilst we were there. Kyle and Nik also had sheep skin slippers made whilst visiting the Tannery down the road . . . quite a novel experience as you place your foot on a piece of paper and they draw around it . . . and then a few days later . . . vola . . . you have your own custom made slippers. Also going for an ‘epic walk’ on the koppie and down into the village. We also arranged for the local story teller – who normally takes you on Ghost walks around the village – when the weather is warmer – to come and tell us some of the local stories of Prince Albert and surrounding areas – around our lovely log fire . . . and yes she did tell us a couple of ghost stories . . . after which Kyle went to the museum to see if he could see the lady ghost in white . . . but unfortunately she did not show herself . . . but maybe next time Kyle.

Below is a pic of Kev and Kyle at Tee berg – in the Swartberg Pass area . . . Kev had cycled from our cottages to the top of the pass and was already on his way down . . . in 2.5 hrs which was amazing, when Richard and Kyle – who were meant to be his ‘support team’ met him halfway down. The other oops was that they were meant to brew hot chocolate, but the gas cylinder decided to play up and wouldn’t work, which was a great disappointment for Kyle . . . yes, grandpa needs to check these things in the future.

We also had a couple of braais in our boma – the first time that we had used it ourselves – 2 sets of our guests had already christened it for us. We were also blessed with some lovely weather, where the wind ‘behaved’ itself as well as being lucky in that the skies were clear and had amazing views and Kev saw a shooting star . . .

Grandpa and Kyle spending some quality time together on their last evening – braaing marshmallows over the fire . . . you should have seen what their faces looked like afterwards . . . full of marshmallows and black charcoal . . . but they had a great time.

Then it was ‘off to bed time’ for Kyle – Kyle showing Grandpa his own portable DVD player and his favourite movie . . . and the next sight I am sorry that I didn’t capture on film . . . after reading stories and sitting with Kyle while he fell asleep, I wondered where Richard was, and when I looked in the room, Richard had also fallen asleep on the bed . . . what a really special picture that would have made.

We were really sad to see them go . . . as we had spent some really special time together . . . and hope that more of the family and friends could come and visit in the not too distant future.

And so for now its cheers from Richard and me in the Karoo . . . . with still lots and lots of hard work ahead of us . . . but knowing that we are creating something very special as well as having a fantastic quality of life . . . until the next edition.

Sending love to you all
Julie, Dad/Richard, Jock, Cleo and Mistoffles

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