Thank you 2020 for everything that you have taught me, my Top 20 of 2020!



I was very excited about the year 2020, having the 20th as a birthdate, and it being my lucky number. Despite the tragedy of the Corona Virus pandemic and the inconvenience of the Lockdown regulations at times, 2020 turned out to be one of my best ever, learning from it and growing through it.

On Facebook I have posted daily Corona Gratitudes, for the small and big things that have come my way in the past 9 months. There are far too many to mention, so I have turned this post into a Top 20 of 2020, an unforgettable year for all of us.

The Corona Virus Lockdown (Level 5), announced by our President Cyril Ramaphosa commenced on 27 March and was to continue until 16 April, was subsequently extended to 30 April, lowered to Level 4 from 1 May, lowered to Level 3 from 1 June, lowered to Level 2 from 18 August, lowered to Level 1 from 21 September, and moved to Adjusted Level 3 Lockdown on 28 December, an unprecedented event in my lifetime.

1.  I learnt to deal with really being alone. I have been divorced for 30 years, and have lived on my own for almost all this time, with short stints of sharing my home with a French housemate, and friends. Since Lockdown I have been alone, but do have the company in our apartment block of our Building Manager Henry Phiri, not seeing him for two months of the Lockdown. My Portuguese Camino Walk, followed by travelling alone in Havana for a month, in Buenos Aires and Mendoza in Argentina for a month, for short stays in Lima in Peru, in Santiago in Chile, and in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, over a three month period last year, was the true test of living life Solo, and it became the theme of my third book: ‘SwitchBitch: My Journey of Transformation in travelling Solo, Step by Step’.  It was an excellent preparation of truly living alone, loving my home, and not having to hop into my car to drive somewhere to escape my four walls. I could not have wished for a more beautiful Lockdown location, with a view onto the Atlantic Ocean and Lion’s Head.

2.  I have increasingly valued my friends more than my family over the years, with the exception of my son Alex, due to family politics. I value my friends highly, and the real ones came to the fore. I have loved long one-hour telephone conversations with Stuart Bailey and Jenny Stephens in particular,  when none of us had to rush off anywhere, especially in the early days of Lockdown.  It felt like the good old days of phone calls, far more personal than text messages.

3.  Money Management has not been a strength of mine, and I spent a lot of money on my last overseas trip last year, spending three months in Portugal/Spain on the Camino, in Cuba, and in South America, costs adding up despite my choice of accommodation being comfortable but not extravagant.  Having time to face my money demon, and speak to a close friend, I realised exactly how much money I was drawing from a Money Market account every month, drawing on my capital as I was spending more than the interest I received, a situation which was exacerbated by the declining interest rates during Lockdown. I saw a price war developing for car insurance due to the lesser usage of my car, and managed to obtain a 50% better car insurance premium rate with Discovery Insure compared to my previous insurer Auto & General, and changed to Discovery for my Building Insurance on a house in Hermanus too, meaning that my debit orders were covered by my retirement annuity. That left my excessive levy and rates and taxes to be covered, preferably not paying for these from my Money Market account. I froze my spending on unnecessary items as quickly as possible, no more  (ok, hardly any) clothing bought, previously an obsession; paying in cash rather than by card, which made me spend less; recording every expenditure in my diary, to track my monthly expenditure; looking out for discounts offered by Woolworths and Pick n Pay in Camps Bay, as well as for price differences between the two stores, the price increases at the latter making it the more expensive store in many instances for branded items. I plan my trips into town, Sea Point, and Gardens, and have a Do List I drive according to, meaning that I use less petrol, and drive less, for which I am rewarded by Discovery Insure, in getting Cash Back as well as a second Discovery Gameboard play every week.

4.  I have learnt to ask for what I want, even if just verbalizing it to myself, and to close friends. Given that I was on a mission of managing my money better, I realised that I had a gap between income (retirement annuity and interest income) and expenditure, and that I needed to go back to work and earn a proper income to cover the other large expenses of rates and taxes as well as my excessive EbbTide apartment levy. As Tourism has come to a halt during the world Lockdown, I could not bank on any German-speaking Tourist Guiding jobs.  I was found on Linked In by a recruiter, and invited to apply for an Amazon German-speaking Customer Services Representative job, as well as a German-speaking travel consultant job. Both fell through, as I could not get into a section of the Amazon application form, a technical challenge which even my techie friends could not help me with, and I did not have experience in using the Amadeus reservation system. That put an end to my job hunting based on my German language. In speaking to recruiters, it was clear to me that I wanted to work from home, something the fixed jobs could not offer me. I also would have had very early or very late working hours, and it would have cost me in petrol to drive to Claremont or Gardens every day. So I let it go. In late October I was invited to try out a restaurant which I had not been to in its eighteen months.  I was told that it was looking for a Social Media Consultant, and then and there I asked if I could present a proposal, and I was indulged. In the meantime the prospective client had asked their suppliers for recommendations too, and my name was mentioned, they told me later, even though I had never done any client Social Media work before. Many years ago I owned a PR consultancy called Relationship Marketing, and I applied the principles of PR, presented a proposal, and was appointed. I absolutely love it, in having learnt a lot, being experienced in restaurants (at least from the customer side), and because my client’s restaurant is top notch, not only in it being the highest operating restaurant in Cape Town, but also because if its striking decor, and excellent food. In contrast to PR, I now see the direct effect of my work on the number of bookings day by day, motivating me to work even harder on the days on which bookings are lower. Two staff members approached me last week, thanking me for what I do, as they can see it in the restaurant being busy, and hence their tips being better, a lovely compliment. Even more satisfying is that I have just been asked to do the marketing of a second restaurant owned by one of the partners. I asked the Universe for what I wanted, and I got more than I bargained for!

5.  I have met lovely persons, especially in Camps Bay, who previously were not walking in our suburb. When we were allowed outside our homes from 6h00 – 9h00 during Level 4, I met so many locals taking to our pavements with their dogs and families. A special couple are Lisa and Craig Youngleson, always a pleasure to bump into each other and chatting. Many others I do not know the names of but recognise their faces. Some pick up litter when they walk their dogs, and tell me so proudly. I met Brian van Hansen, a hiker, a pianist, and a brilliant photographer, who ran past me in the Level 4 exercise time, running between Camps Bay and Sea Point, always with a friendly wave and greeting. I got to know Michele Antelme, who lived in Camps Bay at the time, more detail about her below. I got to know Johan Prins, who was a fellow student in my Tourist Guiding course classes at the end of January. We chatted one day, and I told him my sad tale of being unable to sell my house in Hermanus, a saga of over 5 years. Although I knew them before, I regularly bumped into German swallows Thomas and Haakon, who have lived in Camps Bay for a large part of our Lockdown.

6.   If I didn’t know this before, the pandemic taught me that material possessions are unimportant, and that true friendships, and my own inner happiness, are all that counts. I have truly been able to say that I am loving the Lockdown, and probably experienced only one or two down days in the past nine months. Financial worries were something I woke up with on many a morning in the early stages of Lockdown, until I had chats with my friend Stuart, who kept placating me about my financial future, and even more so when I started my Communications Consultancy.

7.  As a Blog owner and writer over the past twelve years, and restaurants being my major focus, I was naturally concerned about where my stories would be coming from, if we could no longer visit restaurants. Perhaps it was the numerous speeches by our President, and constant changed Restaurant regulations that I never ran out of stories to write in the past nine months. An exciting growth for me was the idea of creating a Lockdown Restaurant Delivery, Collection, and Sit-Down Facebook Group, reaching more than 5000 members very quickly. I was incredibly impressed with the start-up home-cooking restaurants I learnt about, The House of K impressing me greatly, a husband and wife team of Naushan and Roxanne Khan starting by making Bunny Chows from their home, and expanding their range of dishes, delivering to a large area of Cape Town, utilizing their sons. I was impressed to find that there were at least 20 women restaurant owners in the greater Cape Town area, and I had great joy in acknowledging them during Women’s Month, and in presenting  them with a bottle of ADHARA Extra Virgin Olive Oil kindly sponsored by Venishree Mayer from Fraaigelegen Farm in Tulbagh. I got the Take-Away bug too, and ordered foods, and had dishes dropped off to me by generous restaurant owners, as a thank you for starting the Facebook Group. Very surprisingly very brave restaurateurs starting opening new restaurants, many restaurants closed down permanently, and some previously-closed restaurants reopened their doors. This meant that there was always something to write about on my Blog.  I admire Chef Judi Fourie for opening her Fideli’s Deli alongside her Pilcrow & Cleaver, at which I ate the most last year; and for my friend Stuart Bailey opening two restaurants, Fat Harry’s in Kenilworth , and De Vleispaleis in Stellenbosch. My eating highlight this year was Tintswalo Atlantic, sharing this experience with Gary Peterson, fortunately just before the restaurant was taken over by Chefs Warehouse’s Liam Tomlin. Its setting is superb, at the water’s edge, and our food and the service was fabulous. A fine dining experience I rated as the best in our country was at Homespun by Matt’s Secret Supper Club, pure magic! Quentin’s at Oakhurst Barn in Hout Bay was an experience, lovely hours spent with new friends and enjoying Quentin’s Hospitality. My heart bleeds for the restaurant industry, having been worst affected by the Lockdown. Jenny and I did some fun on-line cooking with Live-Cook, Jenny being a good cook, and we gave ourselves the title of MasterChicks.

8.  My son and I had a disagreement about what he was sharing on Facebook at the beginning of Lockdown, a bad time to not be close as mother and son. As he was job-hunting at the time that the Lockdown was instituted in the UK, I was concerned about his finances, and how he would survive, as he was not eligible for the 80% salary support offered by the British Government to employees who could not go to work during certain stages of their Lockdown. Being a very enterprising Capricorn, my son pulled himself up by his bootstraps, and found a grocery shopping app for which he could do the shopping and deliver it into homes of persons that did not want to visit supermarkets. He started doing deliveries for Amazon,  and added Uber Eats in the early morning and evenings too. Just for good measure, he started working for Waitrose too, first in a warehouse and now at a store as one of its managers. A blessing is that he bought himself an electric car in his previous job, absolutely ideal for his delivery jobs, costing him no more than the odd charging fee. Needless to say, working 24/7, I need not have any concerns about my son’s financial future, earning far more than at his previous place of employment. And now that he can talk hands-free and drive, we have kissed and made up, and can chat far more regularly.

9.  I realised that there is so much to enjoy that is free. I have been able to walk every day, even if it meant shopping for one item per day at Woolworths or Pick n Pay in Camps Bay during our very strict Level 5. I never know what I will see or experience, and who I will chat to. Picking up litter daily on my walks is a tremendous gift to myself, giving back to nature and to Camps Bay, my home suburb, and being excellent exercise, being out in the fresh air and enhancing my immune system. There was always a friendly word from the managers and staff at Woolworths, from the managers at Pick n Pay, and the staff at okja, the former Maison J, so sad that the croissants are no longer sold. I became friends with Emma Farquharson, managing The 41 in Camps Bay, and have been invited to numerous teas. The restaurant supports a monthly community beach clean in Camps Bay, and offers each participant a free tea or coffee, and the winner of the most litter collected two burgers and two soft drinks. Sometimes I met my friend Jenny Stephens in the Waterfront, in Camps Bay, or in Mouille Point, and we would combine a walk with a tea, having long catch-up chats. I’m grateful for the cups of cold water which I have received on my walks from Maison J (before it became okja), and from Woolworths.

10.  I am so grateful that we have both a Pick n Pay and Woolworths in Camps Bay, which has saved me driving time and petrol costs, in having almost everything I need, and when it is not in stock, to be able to order it. While the Pick n Pay has not been very popular in the past, its service improved dramatically during the stricter Lockdown Levels, from its staff too, but once we reached Level 1 in September this started slipping back to its old bad Level. Manager Odwa is extremely kind to me, sometimes helping me to jump a queue if it is just a single item purchase. I have looked after the store in returning its trolleys ‘borrowed’ by umbrella and chair cushion vendors, which I find on my walks. Woolworths Manager Gary Arendse offers fantastic service, ordering or keeping items for me via What’s App requests, and many of his cashiers know me by name, and are very friendly and efficient. The highlight of our relationship in the past year was saying some words and dancing some steps in a video when the store participated in a national Woolworths store Jerusalema challenge, coming second. I also participated in a Camps Bay Beach Jerusalema Challenge at the Tidal Pool, filmed by Brian van Hansen.

11. One of my bucket list experiences was to get on to Carte Blanche. I learnt that Karma works slowly at times, and was therefore delighted that I was invited to be interviewed by presenter Derek Watts on Carte Blanche, a program insert which was broadcast on 27 December. The program was about the misleading marketing by the SA Butler Academy, a story which I first wrote in 2013, leading to a court case instituted by the Butler Academy, with a damages claim, in 2017, which the Academy lost. The Academy wanted me to remove my 2013 Blogpost, which I refused to do. It remains on Page 1 of Google after seven years!

Carte Blanche exposes SA Butler Academy Marketing deception, first exposed on WhaleTales Blog in 2013!

12.  Since the beginning of my Transformation in 2016, exercise has become more than a habit,  an obsession in fact. Before walking my first Camino, in 2018, I bought a FitBit, and am motivated by it to walk a minimum of 10000 steps a day. I bought a skipping rope just before Lockdown first started, but found it to be an uncomfortable way to exercise. I was grateful to go shopping in all levels of Lockdown, gaining 3000 steps per shopping trip in Level 5, the only reason we were allowed to leave home. In Level 5 I tried to add extra distance to my walks in getting to Pick n Pay and Woolworths. As I was home-bound in Level 5, I had to make up the remaining steps by dancing around my couch, calling it Couchrobics, loving the music of Kfm, especially in the afternoons. Discovery came to the party, pardon the pun, by reducing the number of steps to earn its Miles/points, requiring 7500 per day, and I rarely reached this level, almost always pushing myself to make 10000 steps, and even more.  In Level 4 the 6h00 – 9h00 exercise time was a fabulous gift, and I loved walking up to Clifton and back, in the fresh winter air. From then onwards reaching my Step goal has never been an issue again. What I cannot achieve in steps for my goal via walking, I make up in dancing at night. I used to love dancing at La Parada Constantia Nek, and only returned there twice during Lockdown to date. The first time was when the restaurant reopened for Sit-down service, and DJ Rene Tanguy played, being unfriendly, not greeting me, and had his back to diners. I returned when The Kiffness performed, and DJ Rene performed just before them, the last half an hour of his music being like the good old times. It was terribly crowded for The Kiffness set, as the restaurant had added more tables to what was previously our dancing floor. No one wore masks, and there was no Social Distancing. I left half an hour into their set.  In short, exercising daily and being out in the sun and fresh air have been an important part of boosting my Immunity.

13. One of my greatest joys during Lockdown was gardening, and the fantastic winter rains were a boost to my garden. I had an idea to use an area alongside my apartment, covered with stones, moving the stones under the trees, and bought numerous vegetables and herbs, which Henry helped me to plant in his lunch breaks.  We harvested cauliflower, beetroot, radish, strawberries, parsley, coriander, dill, carrots, lettuce, spinach, and lots of tomatoes.

14.  A huge highlight was becoming a cat mom. On Easter Sunday a cat arrived on my doorstep, crying for food, I assumed, and KitKat never left, adopting me.  I posted a photograph of him, and his owner saw it on Facebook, identifying it as his cat. We met, to discuss a possible co-parenting of the cat, as he was a wanderer, he told me. KitKat settled in, and his wandering was contained to the erf next door to our apartment. After three months the owner came to fetch the cat, cruelly locking him into the house in Bakoven for four weeks, to try to get him accustomed to staying at his original home. My friend Michele Antelme suggested that I get another cat, and saw an ad for Minsky on the DARG Facebook page. Minsky had a rough time in her tender two years, and I was her third mother in the four months of Lockdown at the time. I adopted her. Twenty-four hours after KitKat was allowed out of the Bakoven house, he returned to my home. He and Minsky became brother and sister, and love each other’s company.  Both settled in nicely, spending time in the field next door, and coming back to eat and sleep. On 1 December I received a message from Barry Aaron, the owner of KitKat, to say that he had fetched him from the neighbouring field, and that he had moved house. Today it is five weeks ago that I lost KitKat, the love of my life.

15.  In the last two years I have made it my mission to care for the cleanliness of the Camps Bay Beachfront. While walking I pick up litter, preferring to walk in a clean environment. During Level 5 and initially during Level 4 beach walks and swimming were not allowed, which helped me greatly in reduced litter. But littering never stopped, as homeless persons continued their bad habits, and tore open garbage bags to remove cans and bottles, to earn money from recycling, a messy negative effect of recycling. As the Lockdown Levels and regulations loosened, more and more persons returned to Camps Bay to picnic here, especially on 26 December. By contrast the litter volume was much lighter on 16 December, and on 1 January, traditionally a notorious bad day when Camps Bay is overrun by beachgoers, there was almost no litter, given the new beach ban. I have been fortunate to obtain the services of the Camps Bay CSI Community Stewards program, with two designated cleaners Imtiaz and Carmen helping me five days a week to clean the area between Bakoven to Clifton. I organise a monthly Camps Bay Community Beach Clean too, and we have been fortunate to have our Councillor Nicola Jowell assist too.

16.  A financial nightmare for me was not getting my house sold in Hermanus, or should I say not receiving my money for the sale of the house by auction almost six years ago. The purchaser Mike Pierce turned out to be most dishonest and devious, moving into my house without permission, not paying occupational interest, and removing my safes, air conditioners, and geysers. He vandalized my place, and walked around with a shotgun, intimidating the caretaker I had appointed to look after the property. The only solution we had was to place the property company into liquidation, as it would legally make the property transaction with Pierce null and void. I never thought that I would be able to sell the house during such poor economic times, and during Lockdown, but I was extremely fortunate  to have met Johan Prins, whose friend Johan Botha is a Developer, buying the house from me, and even taking the headache of electrical and plumbing Compliance certificates from me.

17.  Music is one of my loves, classical and pop, and therefore being able to have dance music in my home all day via Kfm kept me going fitness and happiness wise. I was delighted that musicians were so generous in sharing their talent with us, in streaming live concerts. I danced to Chef Scott Armstrong, streaming from Nice. I tried dancing to DJ Rene’s new World Music Music, but could not stand it, and neither could most of his followers, as he only ever had a handful of viewers. But the absolute highlight was the Hope @ Home concerts organised in the lounge of violinist Daniel Hope in Berlin.  At first they were home-based, influenced by the German Lockdown regulations, but then he could travel and perform with musicians in different parts of Germany, and even travelled to San Francisco.

18.  As a traveller, having travelled internationally every year, I was happy to accept that I would not be doing so in 2020. As a small compensation, my long-standing school friend Jenny Stephens and I visited Jeanette and John Duckitt on their farm Waylands in Darling, to see the Spring flowers. It became a mini class reunion, with Elaine Wegelin and  Bev Bestbier joining us too. In November Jenny and I walked the Wellington Wine Walk, organised by our classmate Elaine Wegelin, going out of her way to accommodate our concerns about the heavy rain forecast during the three day period. As we had grown up in Wellington, this was a nostalgic trip too. I spent a few days at the boutique guest house at Dieu Donné in Franschhoek, enjoying rediscovering the village and seeing new restaurants opening.  It showed me that I did not need to travel far to have a break, and to learn and experience something new.

19.  While I had completed the academic part of my Tourist Guiding course at the end of January, and written the exams before Lockdown, there were assignments to complete during Lockdown. I was proud of the Historic Camps Bay Tour which I devised, researching the history of my suburb, dating back more than 200 years, The Roundhouse being the oldest existing building in our suburb. I was delighted to be able to go back to ‘school’ after so many years since I last studied, and for doing so well. A huge frustration was to receive my Tourist Guiding Card and badge, taking four months to obtain these from the Western Cape Department of Economic Affairs and Tourism! Whilst I have not guided since just before Lockdown, I participated in Zoom and Skype meetings with the Canadian Tour Operator from whom I received Guiding jobs during 2019. I have just been  invited to join its Tourist Guiding Committee, one of only two from our country and continent.

20.  I am grateful that I have not contracted the Virus, am healthy, and am able to enjoy my life, even though it has changed so much in the past nine months of Lockdown.


Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein, My Cape Town Guide/Mein Kapstadt Guide Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein @MyCapeTownGuide

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