Quick Pre-Post Note:

So – I think… and hope… that I have finally managed to iron out all the issues with my website – and I think I have finally managed to incorporate the followers from my “Living Differently” blog in to the blog here, on my “Hat” website (all my old  content is still here, by the way – it’s just moved to a new address).

For new subscribers and friends – just a reminder that “Living Differently”, “Beautiful Life Project”, “The Mad Hat” and “Heather Costaras” – are all the same thing.  🙂

Hopefully nobody is feeling too confused.


We’re in Durban!

IMG_6211

So… we are happily ensconced in a beautiful Morningside home – chock-full of curiosities and collections – while Nick works on another film.

We’ll be in Durbs for a month… maybe a bit longer.

For my international blog-readers who are unfamiliar with South African cities… Durban has always been a popular “holiday” city – mostly due to it’s warm, nice-to-swim-in (Indian) Ocean and it’s subtropical climate.  Durban’s summers are way too hot for my liking.  I find the humidity unbearable… but Durban in mid-July winter is divine.  It’s my kind of weather.  Mild, fresh and breezy.

The Durbanites we’ve spoken to call this “cold” weather.  Today, in town, we spotted locals bundled up in jackets and scarves… trudging the city streets with their heads down and arms wrapped around their bodies as though they were traversing the Antarctic.

We, on the other hand, were on our way back from the beach.  With half-naked, sandy children giggling in the back of the car.

Clearly the locals and ourselves have a very different understanding of what constitutes “cold”…

Another great thing about Durban is the diversity of people and cultures. 

It’s a wonderful mish-mash with a large Indian population (I think the largest in Africa, if I’m not mistaken?)… and lots of fabulous Indian restaurants… (I could munch on curries and kormas indefinitely)… and lots of Muslim mosques and Hindu temples… and lots of Christian churches (both traditional and evangelical)… and – it seems – quite a lot of Jehovah’s Witnesses too!(?)  We have already been visited at the house by a group of hopeful young JW’s and approached on Durban pier by a man in a tie offering us a copy of the Watchtower.

Obviously – because Durban is a city in the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal – it is also home to many generations of Zulus (whose tastes, flavours and cultures mix in with everything else).  It’s like a big pot of people-culture… everyone just going ahead and doing-their-thing.

And I love it!   Places like this help me believe (perhaps naively) in a better world where we can all peacefully co-exist… and do-what-we-do… and folk can worship, pray, believe – and just BE… without all sorts of other people getting their knickers in a knot about it.

So – here we are.

And – as it happens… we are living in a very lovely (and very unique) home.  Here are some photos:

The lounge...

The lounge…

Just a couple of Neville & Sharon's fabulous collection of curiosities...

Just a couple of Neville & Sharon’s fabulous collection of curiosities…

The dining room...

The dining room…

Morgan has named this stuffed antelope "Neenjumbo". None of us are entirely sure how to feel about him - but that's what I like about this home (and some of the pieces on display)... they make you ponder and think...

Morgan has named this stuffed antelope “Neenjumbo”. None of us are entirely sure how to feel about him – but that’s what I like about this home (and some of the pieces on display)… they make you ponder and think…

The main bedroom's en-suite bathroom (oh, happy me!)...

The main bedroom’s en-suite bathroom (oh, happy me!)…

IMG_6107

The spare bedroom (where Nick is currently editing the film)…

How we ended up in this home is an interesting story.

I can be pretty resourceful when I need to be… and especially when it comes to hunting down quality temporary accommodation (like this… and this)…

I don’t consider myself to be too fussy when it comes to accommodation-while-travelling.  If we’re only going to be in a place for a few days – I am more than happy with a comfy hotel room, a hot shower and decent wifi.

But – if we’re going to be staying somewhere for a month or more (and especially since we have the kids with us)…  I have the following list of requirements:

  • Space!  The place doesn’t need to be as big as our Joburg home… the kids are happy to share a bedroom… but we need space.  We need a house – preferably with a garden.  Or we need a large apartment with a large balcony.  Since all 4 our us live and work together – space is at the top of the list.
  • Wifi!  Preferably uncapped.  If the house in question has gorgeous views but no wifi, then we’ll take the views… (and we’ll load our dongles up with the overpriced bandwidth that the dongle-people sell).
  • Ideally – a dishwasher (because I so desperately loathe doing the dishes and so does Nick).
  • And (this is the part where I always push my luck)…  I  ideally like to stay in homes that are inspiring and beautiful.  It doesn’t need to be flashy.  I don’t care about flat screen TV’s, fancy sound systems or the latest kitchen appliances.  But – I DO love to wake up to a beautiful view… or sitting on an outdoor patio overlooking a lovely garden… or working from a space that’s full of light, art and inspiration!

And – of course – all of the above are not easy to find – and especially when we don’t exactly have infinite financial resources to blow on accommodation.

What made it even harder is all these big Durban winter events – right on top of each-other:

  • The July school holidays (where families from cold Joburg descend upon Durban for their mid-year mini-break)…
  • The Durban July (famous horse racing event involving celebrities in hats)…
  • The Durban Film Festival (we were here for that last year)…
  • The International AIDS Conference

Suffice to say:  hotels and Air BnB spots have been fully booked – (and many of them are pretty shite and overpriced, anyway).

So… I took a chance – and I decided to contact Perfect Hideaways.

They have the most utterly divine collection of homes around South Africa (now also extending to Europe) which they promote and rent out on behalf of the owners.  I have wasted many hours drooling over the photos on their site.

I told them that what we were looking for and asked if they knew of a homeowner in Durban who could help us out with what we needed (at an affordable monthly rate – rather than an exorbitant daily rate).

To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect.

In a way, I guess it’s like approaching the shoe selection at a designer boutique… taking a liking to the Jimmy Choos… and asking the salesperson:  “Do you have Jimmy’s number?  I’d like to phone him personally and ask if he’s prepared to give me a discount on these shoes in exchange for… ummm… my gratitude and a book??”

I was wondering how politely the Perfect Hideaways peeps would turn me down.

Would they say:  “Umm, unfortunately all of our Durban homes are fully booked”…

Or would they say:  “No!  You can NOT approach our owners and ask for discounted monthly rates!  If you can’t afford the bloody fee – then clearly you’re not the calibre of guest that our homeowners prefer.  Go book yourselves in to Motel Riff-Raff.  They have a special rate which includes a Happy Meal and a free shower cap”.

As it turns out, of course, the people who own and manage Perfect Hideaways are lovely people (and nothing like my ruminating inner skeptic had imagined).  And although they actually don’t represent many homes in Kwa-Zulu Natal – they very kindly connected me with Neville and Sharon (whom they said might be interested)…

…we negotiated the rates directly with Neville… and here we are! 🙂

The patio overlooking the pool and the garden (my favourite space)... :-)

The patio overlooking the pool and the garden (my favourite space)… 🙂

The patio table where I draw, journal, ponder and consume coffee while enjoying the view (and the sounds of the call-to-prayer drifting up from the nearby mosques)...

The patio table where I draw, journal, ponder and consume coffee while enjoying the view (and the sounds of the call-to-prayer drifting up from the nearby mosques)…

IMG_6151

Neville and Sharon (the homeowners) met us in person.  They live on a farm in Dargle – a couple of hours outside of the city where they make lots of art, and grow lots of things!

Neville is an un-box’able-creative-creature like me.  On his website, he calls himself a “freelance creative director”… but he’s also an artist, a stylist, a collector, curator, inventor – and if you check out his marvellous Instagram feed – clearly a person with a very clever eye for unique and quirky men’s fashion.

His wife, Sharon – is also wildly creative (pun intended)… she grows things!  Lots and lots of wonderful, interesting… THINGS.  The Durban home is surrounded by cacti, succulents and plants so wonderfully strange that I find myself lusting after them… and wanting to load the whole lot up in a truck and take them back to our Jozi home.  (Actually… if I were the thieving type… there’s LOTS of things I’d lift from this home)…

Here’s some photos of the gardens and the growing-things:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So – suffice to say… I am enormously grateful to Perfect Hideaways… and – of course – to Neville and Sharon who agreed to rent us their Durban home.

We’re looking forward to exploring and experiencing more of Durbs over the next couple of weeks… and I’m also looking forward to sharing my recent move into a New Season with you guys.  There have been all sorts of changes and shifts going on – and I have been preparing some (fairly) intense – but meaty – stories to share with you guys.  Watch this space…

PS:  If you want to see more Durban photos and what-not… I post fairly regularly on Instagram. 🙂

Chat soon, peeps!  X