After a few years of writing this blog, I've come to instinctively know when I shouldn't post and so I knew the last time I wrote that I'd only be able to pick up again if we survived until Christmas and we were still standing on 'the other side' so to speak. The fact that I'm writing again is testament to something. We're not entirely out of the woods yet, but we can now see rolling plains in front of us.
We've had a 'big' year in more ways than one and it has, for the most part, been pretty gruelling. The next time we have a good idea like "let's go and live on a tropical island and open a bakery' I can honestly say we'd both laugh our heads off (ROTGAFLOHO - or something like that) and then say an emphatic "no thank you" and carry on with our humdrum suburban lives.
The bakery has now been open just over two years, although it feels more like two centuries. In that time we've built a solidly good business which we're proud of. In the past 3 months we have expanded exponentially with larger premises, imported French bakers and triple the staff, including drivers who didn't drive and Christmas bakers who disappeared over....Christmas. Battle-wearied, we've had a hard look at what we believe we can and can't do and we'll be going into 2015 much wiser and more tough-minded than before. I think I reached my lowest point a few weeks ago when a customer (a doctors wife, no less) refused to pay $1 for bottled water, as we had run out of our complimentary water and she didn't see why she should have to pay. My rather sarcastic "maybe because we're a business?" didn't go down very well and Tyler had to send me off to Riteway to calm me down before I mauled any other customers.
My Martha Stewart tendencies have also finally been completely assuaged and I'm looking forward to living a future life less perfectly. We will ceremoniously burn my collection of 'Living' magazines when we move and I never want to see another iced biscuit again for as long as I live. It is not for nothing that Martha's empire is crumbling and not MacDonald's or Walmart. It is also complete crap when someone says that 'passion' and 'integrity' makes up for either a living wage or family life. The whole 'artisan' thing needs a reality check: Journalists with safe, well paid jobs who extort 'artisans' to sacrifice themselves for some moral food crusade, need a kick up the a** or 24 hours in a bakery to see what bollocks they are peddling and just how hard 'hard' is.
Most challenging of all this year however, has been my ghastly health. It was with extraordinarily bad luck that one of the few known (and exceptionally rare) triggers for Guillain Barre Syndrome was Chikungunya, which I managed to get. Just as we thought the nightmare of GBS was receding I got it all over again, and ended up in bed for weeks on & off, battling excruciating nerve and joint pain, paralysis and fevers. I must admit to some very dark days. My hair started falling out in chunks, my body ballooned due to all the dreadful drugs and I became scarily frail. This all coincided with our major push to renovate the Fireproof Building. There seemed no respite from all the endless negotiations with banks and contractors and shipping agents and bureaucrats and we just rolled with all the punches and blearily pushed on. What a beautiful place we created too.
In amongst all of this mayham, the boys thrived and grew. They have been nothing short of angels this year - endlessly patient and understanding, supportive, mature and amazingly calm with a mother who had clearly lost the plot most days and an absent and exhausted father who immediately fell asleep if he sat down for longer than 5 minutes.
Has it all been worth it, I hear you say. Was it a foolish thing to chuck up the security of our middle class life in the leafy northern suburbs of Johannesburg and come and live on this fickle little island in the Caribbean and start our own business, nearly totaling ourselves in the process?
Of course we ask ourselves this question nearly everyday and of course we don't know the answer. I'm definitely not going to say that the view or the sunsets make it all worthwhile, nor do I have any other snappy answers either. We had to come and see for ourselves and we really did want to do this. So we did. Now it's all part of the story of our family and who we are and who the boys are. Don't ask me if we would do it all over again however - I may just hit you.
Having survived, we are now ready for the next chapter, which is all about the boys going back to South Africa, starting school and being reunited with old friends and family. Tyler gets to stay behind to run the bakery and I get to knock-up some air miles again, something I used to be rather proficient at. We are spending a very content and quiet Christmas hanging out in our Carrot Bay eyrie, as we count down the days until we leave. We have a new house in Rosetta to sort out, school uniforms to sew name tags into, bakkies and dogs to choose, grandparents to fuss over us, cousins to play with and boarding school life with trunks, 'free bounds' and housemasters to look forward to. We'll be swopping rashies and snorkels for wellies and snaffles and we'll be struggling with our isiZulu, just as we were really beginning to understand West Indian accents.
Once the new order is settled, I'm starting my book. I should have plenty of time on the 16 hour SAA Joburg-New York City flight.