Sunday, April 13, 2014

Curved ball

I'm sitting here in bed on the Sunday before Easter, two weeks after I wrote my last blog. In that short space of time, a lot has happened.

I'd already noticed that I had a numbness in my feet and hands even before the boys went away, and it got progressively worse as time went by. I also noticed that I seemed to be walking peculiarly and every bone in my body ached, which frankly is no longer completely unusual. 

The only thing that seemed to help the pain was to lie in a very hot bath, and so I spent 7 nights sleeping in the bath as I struggled to keep going with the bakery. By Thursday I had to concede that something was very wrong and stayed in bed. I 'googled' all my symptoms and could immediately see that whatever I had was neuropathic in nature. By this stage the pain was phosphorescent and the numbness had become all encompassing.  I was struggling to walk or lift my arms. Poor old William the 8 year old, who was fortunately on holiday, was helping me up and down the stairs and doing all the cooking. Cessie the Wonder Woman was her usual caring self and kept me going. We watched more television in those 3 days whilst we waited for the boys to come back, then we've watched in the past 3 years. Thank goodness for Masterchef and our BBC iPlayer. I do think it kept me this side of sane, as my body burned up and turned to jelly. 

Long story short, after various trips to St Thomas, spinal taps and pints of blood removed - I've been diagnosed with Guillain - Barre Syndrome (GBS) which is a fairly rare neurological disorder in which the body's immune system attack's parts of the peripheral nervous system. It certainly ain't a picnic, but it's curable and I start IV immoglobulin treatment next week. I'm already through the worst of it and plateauing out now, but recovery is a long process (months) and I'm left pretty weak and unable to walk unassisted at the moment, although I'm getting quite good with a stick already. 

It's obviously a set-back but also life changing in a positive way, as I've been ordered to have 100% rest. "What's that?' I asked myself and nearly had to 'google' that too.

Thing is that now that the pain is being managed with some Schedule A opiates and we have some sense of where we are going with this, I intend to make the most of all this mandatory rest. There's a lot I can do from our beautiful home here in Carrot Bay and I will slowly start picking up on my bakery work as I begin to feel stronger and get a bit more movement back. 

What a thing, eh?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Home Alone

Michaelhouse School, KwaZulu Natal - Orientation Weekend

It's been a pretty hard core week with the boys off-island, but after watching this video this morning (made by Michaelhouse boys for the new boys ) which required a second cup of coffee and a box of tissues, I felt like I could work 20 hour days or whatever it takes. I'm going to get me a bakery 'war cry' I think, to get me through the days ahead. William can be cheerleader.

I traveled a lot during my working career, usually at least half the month was spent away. My old colleagues still update their Facebook pages with statuses like"JFK-CDG" or "Beijing. Nairobi. Dubai. Home" etc. So this is a first for me, the one that stays behind.

The good part is that the house is spotless, but that's about it.

Tyler is still away for another week visiting family and stocking up on Easter eggs.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Next Week

Boys en route. Ferry Dock, Monday morning. 

I'm writing this on a Saturday evening. I usually write on a Sunday morning, but tomorrow we are spending the day packing to send off Tyler, James & Georgie back to South Africa, where the boys are undergoing assessments and orientation for their new schools.

William and I get to stay behind on the island to run the bakery for two weeks.

When you live on an island, even a semi-suburban one such as ours,  lists from the 'real world' ("off-island" as we say) can strike terror into the hearts of over- scheduled mothers such as I. "Bring sports equipment" says the list "such as cricket bats, hockey sticks etc". We don't have things like this. "Bring sleeping bags, pyjamas and slippers" the list continues. We don't have these either. "Bring costumes, towels and sunscreen". Phew - we have those, thank goodness.

Despite being a Girly-Girl, for some reason I have a deep love of reading about adventures and heroes. I'm a Everest Anorak, for example. Everyone rolls their eyes every time there is any documentary about climbers as I have to get out my National Geographic map of the mountains and follow it all - crevasse by crevasse. I've read every book there is about the South Pole and North Pole and every other adventure there is to be had. Tonight, serendipitously we watched the Bridge over the River Kwai - Top Gear style. I do love it all quite vicariously.

So I have every understanding that I'm sending my boys off on a big adventure. The boys are very excited and looking forward to it it too. My brain is crystal clear that this is the best thing to do but my heart is splintering  into a million shards at the thought of it all.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Tale of Two Vans

Photo on the right is an iconic Tumblr/Pinterest favourite of Les Petit Francois Boulangerie. So cute. Photo on the left is a baker on a small island who has just had to stuff 1500 pounds of flour into a very small  Suzuki because his truck has broken down and it is still not fixed after 4 very long weeks.  So cute. Not.

I'm still working in the bakery shop. I still have not really got any better at it. William was home for the week with a viral flu. He literally does not stop chirriping away for one second, so when I was trying to catch up on the accounts in the 5 minutes of down time we had during the day, he was busy reading me sections out of his little book that he found hilarious and I did not. Poor little thing got shouted at quite a bit. It was a long week but we got through it. The flour arrived. We even got to dress up for a glam 50th Birthday party and I managed to find some sparkly high-heeled shoes. The bakery was also gratifyingly busy.

We did however have a few ominously hot days to remind us that 'Le Brutal Ete' is just around the corner.

I bet you Le Petit Boulanger-person on the right also had a grumpy wife with sick kids stuck up in a garret in the 6th Arrondisement also carping on to her ami's about the stupid van and her swollen feet at the end of the day and the price of packaging.

Any chance photo of the baker's van on the left going viral on Pinterest?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Whoosh. That was the week

Empty Bakery, Saturday 8 March at 2;30pm

It's been a very long, short week, mainly because I've been working in the shop and those of you who know me well, will agree that I'm much better behind a computer than behind the counter. My skills lie elsewhere, as they say.

On Saturday's we're busy from 6:30am onwards as desperado jetlagged visitors wander around looking for coffee. No amount of politely pointing out that we only open at 8am makes the slightest bit of difference -especially when the smell of freshly-baked bread and sizzling bacon is overwhelming. So it's a short,sharp start and a rollercoaster ride until Noon, with mayham peaking around 11am.

Yesterday had us hopping as we were crazy-slammed. Our little shop is tiny and gets  packed with more than about four people in it. The kitchen is also right there, as in swanky restaurants, but without the glass wall to prevent the customers from hearing the chef swear at the commis or seeing the choc chip cookies being burnt.

I have to tread carefully here, because as you know half the island reads this blog and some are our customers too, but sometimes it can feel a bit like 'Till TV' as we play out a fraught scene, quite normal for peak service anywhere, right in front of an audience of bemused customers. I suspect that I may provide the most amount of entertainment too.

The most frequent question asked in the One Pound shops apparently is "howmuch does this cost?" Our most frequent question in the bakery, with the bread constantly coming out of the oven in front of everyone, seems to be  "is your bread fresh?"  I  point out the oven and explain that everything is done everyday from scratch. For some reason many people don't seem to believe this, so they switch attack and ask "what is the hottest thing you have?" This can felicitate a slightly snappy answer from me as I windmill my arms around the bakery saying, through gritted teeth, that " It's all Fresh. Hot out of the Oven. Today".  Yesterday I had someone refuse to wait for the couple of minutes for the kettle to boil  for tea as she wanted it immediately ("you mean it's not like coffee?"No, it's tea". "Oh forget it then, just gimme a muffin") but my absolute favourite is the 'Protracted Phone Call" :

In the midst of a packed and fully stocked shop with a gazillion things going on, queues backed up to Locker 5, orders being shouted, fans whirring, AC blasting and Tony's iPod squaking out gangsta reggae the phone rings (as it does non-stop):

Customer: "Ur, do you have any, ur, like bread?"
Me: (a tad brittle) Yes, we're a bakery. We have lots of bread"
Customer: "Ur, like what kind of bread?"
Me: (whilst trying to wrangle a large foccacia into a small bag, ring up the till, check the order book, wave  hello to someone and frantically catch Tyler's attention) "All kinds - multigrain loaves, sourdoughs, foccacias etc. Why don't you pop into the bakery and have a look "
Customer: "Ur, like are they like ur, sliced?"
Me (notably irritated) "We can slice most of the breads for you, no problem"
Customer: "Can you tell me the list of breads again"
Me: (becoming sharp now) "We're very busy at the moment, so can I call you back or can you come into the bakery maybe?"
Customer (taking offense) "Ok, don't worry, I was just, like, trying to see what you like, got." Puts phone down. Score zero for customer relations. Sigh.

Even banking is preferable, to me I must be honest.  Don't get me wrong, I think front-of-house is an incredibly important job, which requires grace and oodles of patience, which I clearly don't have. Anyway luckily I'm just a Temp, so we'll soon be back to normal.

It's another long weekend but this time with a few sick children and quite a bit of bakery work to catch up on  (due to above). We've got in the essential supplies (wine, chocolate, DVD's) and I hope not to leave our beautiful compound until Tuesday morning or if sick children recover sufficiently, we may adventure out to go zip-lining on Monday.

Our first direct shipment of stuff should be arriving on Wednesday which is a  game changer for us. Now we just need to fix two cars and one truck, pay a few bills, get 3 boys to SA in 3 weeks time, buy a house and start sorting out Christmas. All do-able.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Midweek madness

 Mid week TV (note man down at the end of the sofa)

 "What's wrong with this picture?"  Tyler said as we were driving home up Joe's Hill on Wednesday evening.

"It's still light" I said incredulously. First time in about 20 months that we've got home before dark.

We then watched television after supper, unheard of in our household. That's something we normally only do on a Saturday night, so it felt positively wicked mid-week.

Of course everything went to s.h one T on Thursday, but who cares.

Now we have a long weekend, and the bakery is actually closed on Monday. It's Sunday afternoon and I'm still in my pyjamas at 3pm, having just finished a large bowl of chocolate ice cream. I've been on Pinterest since 6 am this morning "researching" ideas for Easter. And looking at houses in France. And houses in the Natal Midlands. And Expedia. And new salad ideas. And quirky cakes. And reading the Sunday NY Times online.

We should probably be out at the beach doing something healthy (we can do that tomorrow) but this is what really recharges my batteries, "so weh" as we used to say when we were 5 years old.

Tyler is upstairs, alternatively dozing and reading his book, so he's also happy. Boys are off doing something somewhere - but they're doing it quietly. Probably destroying something, no doubt.

The week was pretty busy. James was on half term break and spent the whole week filling in school application stuff. Georgie's business had a few hiccups, but he's still beavering feverishly and happily away.

The bakery is cooking on gas. We're doing 'deals'. Stuff is being shipped. All very exciting.

It's all good,then. Not often I say that, eh?

Eleven Entrepreneur Inc

Sunday, February 23, 2014


Sunday afternoon at Brewer's Bay

Georgie (the eleven year old) started his own business this week and made over $30 on his first day with these elastic bangle things - so we've been able to retire and enjoy life once again. See above photo.

Just kidding. Sadly.

Anyway Georgie's already expanding into new ranges, marketing material and a crash course in Profit & Loss accounts. Boy, are we becoming the archetypal immigrant family, or wot?

Made by George: "Brilliant Bands & Bracelets" Inc

The rest of the week was spent doing the usual although we did chuck in a few good decisions and we also had a couple of small but significant breaks.  The pinprick of light at the end of the tunnel is turning into a dull glow. I even slept through the night for 2 consecutive days, unheard of for the past 6 months.

We've also been thinking about plans for the Summer and all the impending changes with boys going off to school and the like. It feels a bit like the tow rope kicking in when waterskiing or getting towed in a car: A greater force out in front which starts pulling one upright and forward, if that makes sense? Exciting but also a bit scary.