Colourful History and Exquisite Beauty Beneath Table Mountain

Our image of South Africa is all too often skewed by the desperate actions of a few.  The portrait is overshadowed by darkness, her grand beauty all but forgotten. A wavering economy and outpouring of skilled migrants, South Africa has struggled to find its feet.  But if you know the right places to go, the rainbow nation can be a traveller's paradise as you make the most of the low rand*, friendly locals, and generous sights to behold, as Michelle Robinson discovered. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION A rhino crosses the road at Schotia Private Game Reserve. To me, South Africa has always been about the Cape.  The colourful history and exquisite beauty under the watchful eye of Table Mountain. My father's family reluctantly fled its shores to escape Apartheid, 45 years ago.  This year I took my Kiwi mother, husband, and 18-month-old to explore the places we had only heard about. Situated on the western side of the southern coast, Cape Town is hom

Ode to Coffee

 I was nearly 30 before I developed a full appreciation for coffee. But my liking for it flows back all the way to my childhood. Dad would retreat to the laundry, just off the kitchen, to have his morning instant and a ciggie, opening the window to let out the fumes. I’d discover his coffee mug after he had gone to work, and would drain the dregs of his sugary, milky brew. I guess that’s where my appreciation of a cuppa joe - the smell, the hit, the ritual, the taste – stemmed from. We have been drinking it for generations. Arabs drink theirs black and fragrant in shot-glass proportions with a side of medjool dates. Parisiennes drink it with or sans milk, paired with a croissant for breakfast. In Singapore they like to add condensed milk to make Kopi-C, which is handy if you have run out of milk and don’t mind sweeter stuff. In Africa, sweetened and spiced with maybe a little brandy or white rum. American pop culture tells us police like to dunk donuts in theirs.  Coffee is the daytime

Journals She Wrote

You are the little spoon, my hand cradled around your tummy.  Moments earlier you had mimicked my every move. Sipping at my sleepy tea, spilling it all down your pyjamas. Rubbing hand cream onto your face. Lying on me as I do my bedtime stretches. I try to breathe normally, deeply, to relax. I tentatively stretch out my legs, roll back my shoulders, nestle my head down into the pillow.  A puppy dog nesting down for the night, walking around and around until the bed feels just right. That’s you. That’s me. You shuffle a little and then your soft breathing tells that you are asleep. We have done this countless times. And I know you will grow. But right now, this feels like forever. The late-night snacks, the reluctance to sleep alone, the reliance on the breast. Dad’s grumpy startle as your little legs kick him in a tender place. We all three, tug at the duvet on the queen bed which we seem to have outgrown.  You wake briefly and crawl around singing, stroking my face, your cheek next to

Back on the barre

OPINION: Having quit ballet just days from opening night, I long dreamed of returning to the studio. It's been almost a year since my move to New Plymouth and I've been waiting to bump into the dance teachers of my youth as a sign it's time to return. Who am I kidding. I was making detours past the Val Deakin Dance School in an attempt to speed up the process. Ballet is one of those childhood hobbies almost every girl starts but few of us finish as prima ballerinas. Those of you who have ever had the gall to back-chat a ballet teacher will know exactly what I'm talking about. My first days of dancing were as a shy six year old with pigtails. It was adorable, we wore frilly dresses and played toy soldiers, spinning tops and teddy bears to music. My ballet teacher at the time was friendly enough to us, though she earned the nickname 'the dragon lady' among the mothers for her air of formidability. Ballet is a discipline but also an exquisite form

Losing a parent can make you resilient, but resilience can morph into hardness

OPINION: I have to dig deep to show emotion when a friend's upset. Adult tears are mesmerising. It's not that I don't feel their sadness, oh I do. It's just that I had to cope with intense grief as a child. I was 11 and Dad was supposed to live forever. Losing a parent when you are young can make you resilient in many ways. Over time though, resilience can morph into hardness. It's taken years of watching the close bond between my husband and his dad to realise a father's role doesn't diminish at the end of childhood. That bond was what pulled my husband, and our young family with it, back from Auckland to New Plymouth last year. There were a number of reasons for this move, but most pressingly has been my husband's need to spend quality time with his father before age and ailing health rob them. Through seeing my husband snuggle up to his dad like a boy and ask him for advice, I've learned that the role of a father is one intended to guide

Time to Say Goodbye

In my anxiety-filled, rule-breaking, soul-searching teenage years, I discovered the value in MOMS – ‘My Other Mothers’. One of the MOMs whose words of encouragement and love remain strongest in my memory would be a particular high school teacher from my Taranaki hometown. I have memories of her that date back to primary school, when my little sister and I would finish school and wander off to the next door college. There , Dad would be trying to quell a restless classroom while we drew smiley faces on the whiteboard. Later in the staffroom we stuffed our mouths with chips while Dad stuffed his satchel with paperwork and teachers smiled at us over their Arcoroc glass coffee cups. Memories from those days are precious. Dad died when I was 11 years old. My parents had separated when I was nine and old social connections were lost. So at college I was thrilled to be back in Dad’s domain. Looking back now, I can see this friend of his had , and very much still has, a heart of go

How New Sexual Violence Courts Could Change Rape Trials for Women

"Lawyers, judges, prosecutors and police have all said, 'This is not a process I would want a member of my family to go through." In an effort to resolve sexual assault cases more quickly, reduce the trauma for complainants and encourage more victims to come forward, two new specialist sexual violence courts are to be opened in New Zealand. The courts will deal exclusively with serious sexual offences such as "rape, sexual violation, incest, sexual grooming, indecent assault, possession of child pornography and intimate visual recordings made without consent", according to a government statement. Starting December this year, the two-year pilot will also see 20 judges up-skilled on how to best deal with the complexities of sexual abuse cases. Research tells us that lengthy proceedings may delay recovery. "Timeliness is clearly an issue," Chief District Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue said. "Research tells us that lengthy proceedings may

Made Up Careers

Among the surfer chicks and the beach babes, the cow cockies and the horsey heads, a new breed of women is putting a fresh face on what it means to be Taranaki raised. They have researched, refined, colour-matched and Instagrammed their skills as far afield as New York. Now these young business women hailing from New Plymouth tell Michelle Robinson how they literally ‘made up’ their careers. SALLY JO HICKEY ~ Makeup and Lifestyle Vlogger, of New Plymouth (22) She may have been the quiet kid at school, but YouTube star Sally Jo Hickey is sure making up for that now. With more than 189,000 subscribers to her online beauty and lifestyle tips channel, she has one of New Zealand’s top rated YouTube channels. The communications graduate has proudly created a full-time job for herself – predominantly creating makeup tutorials. For the uninitiated, Sally Jo uploads two or more makeup or lifestyle videos a week, each with a differing theme. Her most popular clips are ‘how to’s’ on