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My journey from Sydney to Joburg

Red Bull in lipstick

I’m asking for your patience in advance, because I’m going to be spending much of this week reflecting on my journey over the past four years. The exhibition of my Joburg cityscapes opens at Velo in Braamfontein this week, so this is an obvious opportunity to reflect on my tale of two cities.

In many ways you, my Thought Leader readers, have been part of it. You’ve been following my story ever since I first started this blog just after I stepped off QF64 that day in May 2008. Gondwanaland, I called it then, a reference to the ancient continent that connected Africa and Australia via Antarctica. For most of that year, I blogged about bogans and hoons and the challenges of shopping at Ikea without a car.

You followed me as I was made redundant in the face of a looming recession and scorned my attempts to put a positive spin on the fact that I was coming back. I told you about my divorce and reflected wryly on the challenges of internet dating. There was a great deal that I didn’t write about, of course – though I share what many find to be an astonishing amount of personal detail here, you only see the narrative version of me – and there is much that will have to wait for the memoir, if I ever get around to writing it.

Joburg storm

I told you about my Reliable Korean Hatchback and mentioned my cancer scare while I described waiting next to a Harley rider who was involved in an accident around the corner from where I live (thus updating the story so far to: death/emigration/retrenchment/reverse emigration/divorce/cancer scare). I came out of the granny closet and admitted to the severe anxiety attacks that arrived on schedule every day at 3pm for most of 2010. I penned a great many light pieces intended to get your knickers in a knot, but I also wrote of my grief and guilt over the death of my mother-in-law.

I told you how astonishingly lucky I was to get involved in the Pulse of the City campaign. Much as many of you hate it when I talk about Land Rover, my life really does revolve around the sponsored Range Rover Evoque I drive, which has influenced my life beyond just being a really, really nice way to get from A to B. Land Rover was the reason I did last year’s campaign with the Loeries, which turned out to be the catalyst for my decision to walk away from salaried employment. It’s also thanks to them that this art exhibition is happening at all, because none of the paintings on exhibit would exist had I not painted that first cityscape as a thank you gift for Land Rover South Africa’s marketing director. This is my year to take risks and do some of the things I’ve always wanted to, which means sacrificing income (more about that another time) and in many ways it’s only because of the car that I can do that.

Whether you like me or hate me, you’ve been part of it. So this week I’ll be reflecting on all of this. I hope you understand.

White rhino

Standard disclaimer: I am sponsored by Land Rover. Any mention of them is not because they pay me (they don’t) but because I am profoundly grateful to them.


  • During the day Sarah Britten is a communication strategist; by night she writes books and blog entries. And sometimes paints. With lipstick. It helps to have insomnia.


  1. Dave Harris Dave Harris 3 July 2012

    I don’t give a tuppence for your politics Sarah, but your contributions are honest, quite provincial at times, but mostly entertaining. Your authenticity in my book, makes your blogs and art, valued contributions to our diverse society.
    btw. your bizarre love affair with that Land Rover, now owned by the Indian car manufacturer Tata, actually robs you of your authenticity, but I suppose it pays the bills hey.

  2. Gail Hayes Gail Hayes 3 July 2012

    Hi Sarah,

    I just love your last painting of the rhino and while I have to admit to not having read all of your columns I have enjoyed those which I have taken the trouble to read. Good luck in taking this leap from the salaried classes and may your fortunes only improve. Sometimes money is overrated as is marriage. I am happier alone than I would be in a marriage because I was married for 27 years to a wonderful man but it did severely compromise the person I am. Thankfully I am now enjoying solitude and appreciating the company of others as and when it suits me. No more compromises for me. I am able to do this because I raised three awesome sons who care for me from afar (Sydney being one of the places). I live in the moment and while some moments are better than others mostly I can say I am serene. I teach differently abled and underprivilged children when it fits my schedule and not according to any must or should. I will be visiting Sydney for the first time in November. Is there anything I should know.?

  3. impedimenta impedimenta 3 July 2012

    I’ve enjoyed the whole saga. So many parallels. Best wishes with the exhibition – your style has evolved considerably with the animals!

  4. Walter Pike Walter Pike 3 July 2012

    Congratulations – see you at Velo

  5. Peter Joffe Peter Joffe 5 July 2012

    I do hope that many of our readers take note of your comment about taking a risk? Nothing in the galaxy can happen without risk. Success comes from taking a risk that you will fail. Running a race is taking a risk that you will not come first. Colin Powell the previous US Secretary of State gave a lecture in which he said “Re-inventing the wheel is a recipe for failure because if you don’t re-invent it then someone else will and will make the product better, cheaper and available to more people”. But as far as politicians are concerned they re-invent things that are working and ‘transform’ them into something that does not work as all. Re-invent, make better and progress but destroying things simply because they were created by people you don’t like is just plain stupid. Our schools, hospitals, councils, government worked but they had to be transformed or ‘Africanised’ and now they are the mess that we all can see but the politicians are not accountable so there is no risk. If politicians accept the risk, of taking a risk South Africa would start to work! It’s so easy to win the race if you can blame someone else for losing or simply move to another office and lose the race there too – who cares?

  6. dogface dogface 5 July 2012

    Hi there, have enjoyed reading your blogs. Found them pretty honest and insightful…and you are pretty cute too…which always makes the read ,more enjoyable(smile). Cant say I followed all your blogs, but your return to SA ,interested me. All of us look for that perfect ‘El Dorado’ , dont we..,but I know our reasons for whatever we do and decisioins we take…is more complex and multifactorial than that. Me – I have worked ,pretty much all over the world ,including a period with the RFDS in Oz. Although the opportunities to stay existed (like I am sure do too,to many of us)…. Never considered myself anything other than a South African and South Africa as my home. In very ‘Broad Strokes” me was never going to be forever…so what better a “purpose in life” can one get…than to be part of something ,.where there is a “purpose ” and there is a “fight worth fighting for”. . Which is South Africa, isnt it !? When South Africa ,just happens to be your place of birth…well, that’s a bonus..and makes things extra worthwhile. Living and existing in more developed settled parts of the world…seemed to be ,”just existing”…and what is the purpose in that. So, good to have you back. Good luck with your paintings and keep the blogs coming.

  7. domsie domsie 6 July 2012

    Well done, Sarah !

    Having been in Londontown for more than 8 years & then returning to the ZAR has been a journey all by itself.

    For the record I feel as if I’m whole again. I’m where I belong. I’m home.

  8. Julie Surycz Julie Surycz 12 July 2012

    Well done Sarah, especially for taking the risk of leaving salaried employment and following your passion! You are extremely talented.

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