Wind in the Willows

Nina Say Cheese

As a child you wait with bated breath for your next birthday, not only for the presents, but for that elusive thing called “being a grown-up”.

Around 25 something very odd happens, suddenly birthdays are approached with near dread and an awakening sense of mortality.

When I informed my child of my decision to remain 35 for the next 10 years, he accused me of being mathematically illiterate. He’s right, I am, but that was beside the point and below the maternal belt.

Around 50 another paradigm shift occurs, when each birthday represents a triumph, a success and a testament to survival.

My glorious mother celebrated her 70th birthday on St Patrick’s Day.

She remembers bombs falling on London, sailing to South Africa because transcontinental flight was unavailable, the first TV sets and the swinging sixties.


I still have her mini-skirts, which my father banned me from ever wearing outside of our home.

He told me a paternal truth that day, “What you want your girlfriend to wear and what you want your daughter to wear are two profoundly different things”.

All of which is beside the point, because to celebrate her birthday we discussed:

Madame Zingara (not kid-friendly)

A trip to the Cradle of Humankind

A picnic at Toadbury Hall.

The picnic won out.

Toadbury Hall is about 20 minutes from Fourways on the banks of the Crocodile River. It is in the middle of wedding country, so offers a chapel and (my favourite) a forest wedding option. At least I assume that was what the lectern in the middle of the trees was.

We took advantage of the late summer sunshine and arrived at our private picnic spot on an island to find a table and chairs all laid out with three gigantic picnic baskets and two bottle of exquisite red wine.

Blankets and pillows were arranged on the grass for a post lunch nap and the kids disappeared off to play Pooh Sticks on the bridge.

A troop of monkeys came past to offer felicitations and have a chat, before wandering off down the banks to visit the other picnickers.

Small boy aged 7 gibbered ecstatically at them explaining he was hoping they’d take him with and raise him as a monkey.

I explained I was already doing that and passed over a chocolate brownie.

Despite spending the better part of the afternoon eating delicious (vegetarian) wraps and other delicacies we have still come home with enough food to feed a small army. Luckily we have one.

Three adults and three children came to just over R1000 (probably about $700?). If you balk at the cost of the picnic, don’t panic, they also offer a lovely restaurant overlooking the river, which is just as good.

It is a wonderful way to escape from the city, the smog, Playstation, Nintendo and the TV.

The boys found crabs, fresh water clams and plenty of enormous spiders all of which had to admired.

The Small girl found dragonflies and skipping stones which captivated her for hours.

And when exhaustion set in they lay down for a power nap on a heap of cushions.

Toadbury Hall offers a lot more than magical weddings, great food and a secret forest to explore. They also have 5-star accommodation and for the more active, a cycling route among the trees and along the river. Speaking of the river, unlike the toxic Juksei, the water is absolutely pure.

Wind in the WillowsIt really is a wonderful place for a romantic tryst or a family lunch.

You could almost expect to see Ratty and Mole messing about on the river.