Trip of a lifetime - part four


The first day of filming in Cape Town for the JD Williams shoot took place here on location at The Castle of Good Hope. The fortress is a National Monument which dates back to 1666 and is the oldest existing Colonial building in South Africa.





Evon and I had been picked up at 4.30am and arrived when light had barely broken. She and I were the first to be called for shooting - she for TV, me for Content, which I had learnt was the name given for anything that wasn't TV ie. social media, magazines, etc.




The sun rose and quickly the courtyards within the fortification became like melting pots capturing and holding the early sunlight. I was photographed in shade initially, but the second shoot for me was in full sunlight. I had my own personal brolly holder who came to shade me between shots. 



This was my spot.


And this was my backdrop. At the time we were shooting there was no shadow for me to take refuge in. My biggest worry was that the heat was melting my lipstick almost as soon as it was applied!



After my shots, I got changed and Louise and I did a bit of personal photography for our Instagram stories. I definitely could do with some lessons from her with regards to posing as she is such a blooming natural. Maybe that's the answer though, just to be natural.



Louise Boyce has been modelling for 20 years and most of those for JD Williams as part of their stable of full time models. She is a consummate professional who is also blessed with the most amazing bone structure and perfect teeth - she's everything we have come to expect in a model. Best of all, she's very down to earth and approachable. I did quite a bit of hanging out with her on this trip, including a very long breakfast where she shared her (now revealed) secret that she was 12 weeks pregnant. No-one could have guessed as she was fit as a flea and able to work the long hours needed to get the shots. See her blog here - Mamastillgotit



I sometimes worry that my constant gushing negates the validity of my comments, but I shall forge on regardless. Elisabeth Hoff was the photographer who captured my likenesses on this shoot. I'm unashamedly suffering a girl-crush about this woman. I did, at one point, shout across a crowded dining table that she reminded me of my Sindy doll who was the most beautiful thing in the world to my childhood self. My grown up self loves this living Sindy doll with as much fondness. Elisabeth is a total perfectionist in her art, and as such isn't to be messed with. Her entourage ran, fetched and carried at her bidding, aware that magic was in the making. She made me feel at my ease, saying the right things at just the right moment, helping my anxieties to melt away. She even stepped in at one point to disagree about an outfit that had been chosen for me as she didn't feel it reflected who I am, refusing to photograph me. She then rifled through wardrobe, pulling together something that was indeed totally me. I can't wait to see the shots.



Inside, more magic was being spun around the next wave of models. Hair being styled and sprayed and make-up skillfully applied to enhance all that nature has bestowed.




And this is where the technical stuff happened. Orchestrating all of the different shots from the filming was the production team, overseen by the client. It's just as you've seen, "Quiet, please. Action!" ringing out, time after time until the take is in the bag. 



In between shots, we all found ways to while away the time. I had taken a book to read - "Bonkers: My Life in Laughs" by Jennifer Saunders which was brilliant and totally absorbing. I must admit that the whole, Dahling, Luvvie thing became quite infectious and something that I played up terribly on the final morning at breakfast when our large table of models was being visited by stylists as they came to say their goodbyes. We were being watched (blatantly so, in fact) by a couple nearby, and so just to give them full value for their money, I switched onto full Ab Fab mode, with lots of air kissing and cries of "oh we must work together again dahling, and soon!" - goodness knows if they saw right through it, but they just couldn't keep their eyes off us.



Once all of my shots were done, I made a foray around the castle, dodging into the shadows to get out of the now scorching midday sun. 








I found these plaques honouring the brave men who fell during battles for their countries, all tucked away in this tunnel. The castle is still protected by South African troops who can be seen exercising throughout the day within the castle walls. Filming and photography were interrupted a couple of times as the sound of marching approached and soldiers strode through the middle of the set. 



Being the oldest woman on the set often had me playing the mother hen role, but sometimes I was touched by the kindness of the team as they would keep an eye out for me too. Richie Lattin is Content Director for TBWA Manchester and as such seems to be around quite a lot, filming for social media, organising as well as giving hands-on help with the set, overseeing choreography and is very much evident at the happening side of things. He is kind and considerate to me as one might be to an ancient aunt. He understands me and my insecurities, my dance limitations and my readiness to put myself down and yet still believes in me. Unlikely as it is that he may actually read this, I'd still like to say "Thank-you Richie for making me feel comfortable and part of this other-worldly situation".




I do hope that I've not bored you to death with my glorified holiday snaps. I'll be back with part five, the finale, soon and in the meantime I wish you a lovely weekend.

                                                                    Anna x

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I make no apologies for being me



The past 12 months have been an amazing time for me. I've had so many new opportunities come along which I would previously never have imagined possible and then the latest adventure to South Africa really was the icing on the cake. New opportunities also meant meeting new people and that can be challenging too. Sometimes I wonder who might find it the most challenging - me or them? 


I come across as a real chatterbox, bubbly and a bit over the top, but scratch the surface and I can be quite shy really - it's all a big ruse. I used to be terribly awkward around strangers, but my job brings me into contact with strangers every day of the week and that forced me to step outside of my comfort zone many years ago. However, the role of Gallery Manager is like a coat I put on for work. I can talk forever about art, artists and the place I live, all within the workplace and I'm fine. But plonk me in the pub next door and I'm lost for something to say.


I think that dressing up as I do is a front, a ploy to take the focus off the real me and place it firmly on the outfit of the day. I can play the part of the flamboyant entrepreneur, ready to speak about what I've got on and where I found it. Wearing bright clothes is a great ice breaker too, saving people the effort of finding a safe subject to talk about. Some of us need a mask to hide behind and this is mine. That said, I wouldn't dress down in the hope of disappearing from sight, as these clothes do channel the peacock within. I love bright things, bold colours and unusual shoes. Today's bright things come mostly from Zara (the lounge suit and boots) and the sequinned jacket was from hubby for my birthday present and is from TK Maxx.


Being a peacock within a small community can make you appear to be a bit of a show-off, a court jester, you may look guilty of playing to the gallery all of the time. But as I've said before, I dress to please myself. My pleasure in my clothes is authentic, joyful and such a positive aspect of my life. When someone might raise their eyebrows at something I wear I always remember the talk my husband gave me many moons ago, the main point being, "Make no apology for being you". He too was the one to tell me I'm human Marmite and goodness, I just hate Marmite, so that caused us both to laugh like hell. 


Anyway, to get back to my point, I do know that some might find me challenging. I'm too in-your-face for some people. My first impression can leave many reeling, others could feel a little punch drunk and some, thank goodness, are pleased to have met a human whirlwind. My enthusiasm can be infectious and that's what I hope will make my readers come back for more. Or even come to seek me out on my little island home, which has happened too. Did I live up to their expectations? They never did say!


As you'll probably know, I'm a big self-help fan and am always on the look-out for a good read. My latest purchase Love For Imperfect Things has been a great help for me in assessing who I am in the grand scheme of things and if I'm good enough. The following recommendation was just the pointer I needed to make me want to buy the book and learn more - 

"The world could surely use a bit more love, a little more compassion and a little more wisdom. In Love for Imperfect Things, Haemin Sunim shows us how to cultivate all three, and to find beauty in the most imperfect of things - including your very own self" (Susan Cain, author of Quiet). 

My inner battle of not feeling good enough, comes from an unhappy childhood, of feeling unloved, which is a subject that Haemin broaches with great sensitivity. He treads lightly, offering wise words and simple suggestions as to how to move on and love oneself regardless of self doubt. It's a beautiful book reflecting his imperfect soul - no haughty preaching, just sympathetic guidance and kindness. The following quote of his has to be one of my favourites.

"If I like myself, it is easy for me to like people around me. But if I am unhappy with myself, it is easy to feel unhappy with those around me. May you become your own biggest fan!"


And so yes, I am my own biggest fan. I laugh loudly, sing loudly, dress loudly. But goodness, I'm big on love too. I hug big, I'm a loyal friend, I give genuine compliments to complete strangers, I love my family and I am a generous boss. I throw myself into both work and play with real gusto, with a complete passion for life, a genuine enthusiasm for the things that give me joy. I make no apologies for being me. I think being in my 60's has been very liberating, helping me to get over my insecurities and self doubts. I at last know who I am, am happy with who I am and am ready for whatever comes along next.

                                                                  Anna x

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Trip of a lifetime - part three



So, here we are on the morning of Friday 18th of January as the sun was rising over Edinburgh Airport. The journey today was a flight from Scotland to Gatwick, the underground and then train across to Heathrow and finally the flight at 6.15pm from there to Cape Town arriving at breakfast time on Saturday morning.


Another day, another flight, another bag full of supplies for my journey, although excitement not hunger was bubbling in my tummy. This was it! All the waiting was over, at last it was time to fly to South Africa!!!! The flight to Gatwick was merely a hop, skip and a jump away.


I'll be honest with you, my new hairstyle was a bit of a shock. I've never had a fringe this short before and did feel very exposed - how can I hide my frown lines and wrinkles now? Steve and I had chatted about this beforehand and it seemed the only thing to do was "Own it!" and so that was what I did.


When I was strolling around Duty Free shopping at Heathrow, I espied the MAC counter and it dawned on me that my new haircut might as well be a springboard to upgrading my make-up too. The assistant helped me try out lots of new colours of lipstick and much to my surprise I decided to go with this purple, called (fittingly enough) Model Behaviour. I managed not to blurt out my story to the girl which was quite restrained of me. From there I decided to have some new eyeshadow too and chose the complimentary shade called "Can't stop, Don't stop" Dazzle eyeshadow. I applied some there and then, adopting this new image before I was due to meet up with the other models. A new blusher, and I was feeling miles better with my new look. Photo shoot here I come! 


After an 11 hour flight we landed smoothly at Cape Town to a beautiful day. 


Cape Town airport was clean and cool - welcome to the land of wall to wall air conditioning. We were collected from the airport and taken into the harbour area of the city to our hotel.



We all were clicking away as the scenery flew past us. The light was dazzling and bright after the overnight flight.


Located bang on the waterfront is the Table Bay Hotel, our 5 star base for the duration.



Decorated in the old colonial style, this hotel is all you could wish for as far as luxury goes. It was opened in 1997 by Nelson Mandela and has a plaque proudly displayed at Reception to this effect. Situated on the Victoria and Albert Waterfront the hotel is placed in one of the most prestigious locations in the city and sits in the shadow of Table Mountain. 


Five travel weary models in the lift on the way up to our rooms. Some of us (me) looking more washed out than the others!


What can I say about my bedroom - not too shabby!



The view from my bedroom sealed the deal - yes, I must, absolutely must, visit Table Mountain! It was with a sense of almost disbelief that I took in the sights from my expanse of window. How on earth have I pulled this off? What have I done to deserve this? I really can't believe my luck - talk about #pinchme #Imustbedreaming



We arrived in time for breakfast which was a huge array of every type of food you could conjure up for the start of a day. The plan was to eat and at lunchtime we were to be taken off for our wardrobe fitting and to meet our new choreographer. All was going really well, but by mid-afternoon I suddenly had a downturn health-wise. I think over the 24 hour period I hadn't eaten or drunk enough and had to have some re-hydration salts to get me out of the slump. The team were great and also contacted the hotel to get me an appointment with the Head Chef to discuss my dietary requirements. Once my outfits were all checked and fitted, I was driven back to the hotel to get things underway. For the rest of the stay, I had my own chef at the end of the phone as well as the chefs on set being made aware of my needs. Food and drink sorted, I was soon back on form.


Sunday was a day off for the models and production crew. We all had different plans as to how best to spend the day, but had agreed to have breakfast together. After a very long breakfast (4 hours in fact) where I'd spent time with each of the models from the early-birds to the sleepy-heads I gathered my things together and caught my lift out to the base of Table Mountain to catch the cable car to the summit. 







The circular cable car was cleverly designed to have an outer shell that rotated as it ascended, and dotted around the shell were several unglazed windows which afforded everyone the perfect photo opportunity as it passed in front of you.


I fancy that this will be the only one of the seven I will ever see, and somehow that made it even more special for me. What is also remarkable is that while I was visiting one of the Seven Wonders of Nature, so was my daughter. Sasha was spending her 30th birthday in Halong Bay in Vietnam - what globe trotters we are!


It was from this vantage point that I first saw the idyllic beach of Camp's Bay glistening tantalisingly in the far distance below. Little did I know, that the tiny little pool in the corner of the photo would be where I would get my one and only sea swim in South Africa.


Camps Bay has a glorious stretch of beach, but the waters can be quite treacherous with mighty Atlantic rollers and riptides too. It's patrolled by lifeguards who display flags on the days it's safe to swim there.  




It's difficult to explain the significance of this view and what it meant to me to be here, like this, particularly on my own. I know for most visitors this breathtaking sight is photo-worthy, but I had to stop to gather my thoughts and yes, even congratulate myself on being here. I felt such a sense of achievement at being not just so far away from home, but at having come so far, health-wise. Six years ago I was trapped at home, literally crawling from sofa to toilet, held hostage by bowel disease. My journey from illness to full health (documented here) was a huge learning curve, one which found me removing myself from conventional medicine after several steroid induced psychotic episodes. Modern day medicine didn't agree with my sensitive system, leaving me for a while high and dry without any way to get well or treat my symptoms. Determination to turn my life around fuelled my motivation to find a way forward, which I did. I make no apologies for the graphic details of my illness as sharing my story may help others to get well through diet and exercise too - the method is simple and the results are life-changing. So life-changing in fact, that I was a bit choked to realise I had come away from the hotel without doing any research on Table Mountain and it's facilities. Who'd had thought that six years down the line I'd be an ordinary traveller who didn't even need to know where the nearest loo was before leaving her hotel? I do believe that my life is all the sweeter for having been through this journey. Poor health is not to be wished upon anyone, but the upside of illness is that it gives one a different perspective on life compared to someone who has always been well. I savour my everyday life much more because of having lived with bowel disease since I was 18. Over 40 years of yo-yoing back and forth from doctor's to hospitals has taught me to be grateful for the simple things such as eating good food without any repercussions or being able to go for a walk without worrying about loos on the way. My life is a joy, and I'm so grateful for my journey.







I spent a couple of hours following the path around the top of the mountain and taking snaps of the surrounding peaks of the Twelve Apostles range. The top of the mountain often sits shrouded in clouds, but I was lucky to have a clear view in scorching sunshine - hat and long sleeves were the order as I was told not to get sun burnt for the photo shoot next day.


Once I came back to the hotel I met up with Evon and we went for a mooch around the harbour area at the back of the hotel. The choice of eating venues was huge and there was lots of touristy things to do, such as shopping and listening to music.





We stopped and sat for a while to listen to these talented youngsters play and sing. Evon and I both bought a copy of their CD - they call themselves the IThemba Ensemble.



After an hour or so we wandered back to our hotel, stopping for some more shots along the way.

 


It had been a long day. I hadn't slept on the overnight flight so after dinner in my room I took one final look at the view and had an early night. My pick-up with Evon was 4.25am the next morning, so I needed all the beauty sleep I could get!

                                                                      Anna x

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