6 January 2015

Across the great divide

2014 was another exhilarating year, rounded off by two fantastic trips to Ireland and South Africa.

Northern Ireland
In October, I headed across the Irish Sea firstly to Northern Ireland to see my Stockists (over 20 now!). While there, I was able to visit lots of my Stockists' shops and spend time meeting customers. I was very honoured to cut the red ribbon opening of the second Doris and Jeannie shop (below) on Belfast’s Ann Street.

While stopping by to visit Little French Barn in Lisburn (below), I couldn't believe my eyes when the mayor turned up to meet me in his full regalia!

Then it was a train to Dublin and a packed reader event with the Irish Times who recently published a fantastic feature about me. Among the many Irish Stockists we visited, it was great to see visit two great shops in Dublin (Rua Dublin, below left and Find, below right).

I adore Ireland: it’s wonderful and it tugs at my roots – I’m part Scots Irish – my great great grandfather John Sloan came from County Down so it was lovely to go back there.

South Africa

What can I say about this absolutely extraordinary, wonderful and inspiring country? It is very different to the country that I knew when I grew up in Southern Africa as a teenager. There’s a very positive vibe which I readily embraced. 
What I enjoyed the most on this particular visit was the vibrant culture of the country – I found it so exciting with the Dutch Africaans, French, German, African tribal, and Cape Coloured influences all around.

I’d been to South Africa on a flying visit in 2013 to set up our paint factory there, but this was my first ‘official tour’. The SA media and magazine interest was phenomenal and I did loads of interviews all around the country.

In Cape Town, I stayed in a most amazing hotel called the Cellars-Hohenort (below) located in the Constantia vineyard Valley on the slopes of Table Mountain. It has to be one of the most beautiful hotels I’ve ever stayed in. I loved the Cape Dutch architecture and the landscaping was spectacular – it was like the Garden of Eden!
Among the very, very many highlights from this extended visit, I really enjoyed meeting so many wonderful people at the book signings we did. In Cape Town, we had a fabulous time at Stockists Froggatt and Frost (below).

I also visited JustDarling in Walkerville, Gauteng, which is very French, very pretty and light.

Here I am meeting with all the stockists in the Johannesburg area.

I was interviewed by South African legend Jenny Cryws Williams (below) on Radio 702 (Thanks, Jenny!)

Another Jo’burg stockist, I visited was Eau-la-la in Pretoria run by Ingrid and Lili (below). I loved their bohemian-warehouse style with reclaimed African-made stuff – it was really funky and eye-catching.

Here I am in Durban, again visiting stockists (gathered below).

Thank you to everyone who came to all the SA gatherings – it’s such a vast country, some travelled over a thousand miles to see me! I came away with a powerful feeling that my heart is in South Africa. It’s like a home from home. It is so stimulating and the colours and designs really touched me.
I even managed to bring back some more red earth too!

So as we enter a new year – and not only that but also the 25th Birthday of Chalk Paint® – I’d love to wish you all a bright and colourful 2015!

Yours, Annie

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