FLEMMER, Colleen
6 Jan 1967

FLEMMER, Colleen Mary: 





Recently became engaged to David John Stretch on my birthday (06 Jan) this year 2003 in Mozambique. 

A bit about my past: 

I was born in East London on 06 January 1967 at the Mater Dei Hospital. We lived in the wondefully huge family home that had been in the family for many lifetimes - St Anthony, 205 Old Transkei Rd, Nahoon Valley, East London, South Africa. The house was situated a little higher up than most other houses on the Nahoon River and we had a tennis court and a swimming pool, maid's quarters and a huge garden which we spent a lot of time playing in. I fondly remember a huge Jakaranda tree on the roadside of the house and a gorgeously scented Frangipanni tree. I grew up with my 2 sisters, Shirley and Helen and my brother David who came a few years later!!! My dad worked as a lawyer at the family practice called Drake, Flemmer, Orsmond and Vermaak while my mom had her own clothing boutique which she worked in and was pretty passionate about. That was probably when we were a bit older, I don't think she worked while we were young - I can't remember much from the early days! (Sorry mom!) But I do remember having a wonderful live-in African maid called Felicia who looked after us. She brought her children to the house a lot and I remember playing with them (especially Noomsa the daughter). This was in the days of apartheid with racial segregation so it was unusual to have a black friend but Felicia's kids were like brothers and sisters to us.


As a child I played a lot of tennis and took it seriously enough to play in tournaments and was number 1 at my school. I was a skinny child with awfully long skinny legs but I had a strong forehand. I used to practice every day with a boy friend from up the road (Craig Cullingworth) and I loved my tennis. I also played hockey and did a lot of swimming. We were a busy household, always having a lot of visitors and of course our cousins the de Villiers' (Dan, Robert and Jacqui - children of Sally Flemmer and Mike de Villiers) and the Flemmer boys (Justin, Keith and Peter - sons of Dan and Pat Flemmer) spent a lot of time playing with us. We were close in ages and loved each other like one HUGE family. We were also extremely close to our parents best friends (Gay and Tallis Snr Hurley) whose kids we loved like cousins (Katherine, Mari, Penny and Tallis). Our parents used to travel overseas for a few weeks and we would be left behind with either the Divs or the Hurleys. We loved those times.


Those were fun days playing in the pool, on the tennis court and swimming in the Nahoon River. Before the days of computers so no sitting around inside but I was a big reader and I do recall closing my bedroom door and spending a lot of time alone reading.


I was born with very bad eye sight and at the age of 3, I had my first eye-op to correct my stigmatism and another shortly after to help with my short-sightedness. I wore glasses (the thick black bottletop type) for most of my childhood which I hated and was very conscious of them, coupled with my frizzy Flemmer hair - yip I was not a pretty child. As soon as I turned 16 I was allowed contact lenses and life changed for me. I was always the quiet nerdy bookworm child but not anymore.  It gave me huge confidence and opened up a whole new world of dating, boys, and partying. I remember loving my teenage years (my parents may remember it differently!!!!). 


As for the rest of the family, I remember my grandmother (Granny Dot) fondly but I never got to meet my grandfather who had died before I was born. I remember granny coming for lunch every Sunday which cramped our fun a bit as we could never go out on a Sunday and always had to eat the same thing - roast chicken with veggies. I also remember Aunty Patsy (who must have been granny Dot's sister I think). She had never married and as far as we knew she had never had a partner. She had polio as a child and so walked a bit funny but she was a happy sort and we enjoyed her visits. 


The Divs (de Villiers'), Flemmers and Hurleys always used to come around for tea on a Sunday afternoon. We also hosted a few orphans from the orphanage (dad was on the board or Directors of the orphanage at the time) which was always hard work to be nice to these strange kids who we didn't know. But always ended up fun by the end of the day - and it's so nice to think back now to how special those days must have been for those kids who had so little and came to this house with so much fun and entertainment!!!! There was not much we lacked for growing up - although not like it is today with all the possessions kids need - life was simpler then and we didn't need for much. I guess having the river as a playground was also a bonus - we would spend hours swimming across to the island in front of the house and then throw mud at one another or slide along on the mud, we camped many a night on the island amongst snakes and legavarns (small breed of crocodiles) and were never sacred off by water snakes or huge fish. You'd never see me in that water nowadays!!!


High School days I attended Clarendon High School for Girls and really enjoyed it.

I matriculated in 1984 and chose to study hairdressing in Port Elizabeth at the PE Techical College (1 year fulltime). I then moved to Cape Town and worked as an apprentice hairdresser in an up-market salon in Sea Point. Qualified after a year. Worked as a qualified for another year and gave it all up to travel to Europe for a year. Spent 3 months working on a kibbutz in Israel, backpacking around Greece, Turkey, Italy, France and ended up in England where I worked for a couple of months. Returned to SA and changed careers.

Enrolled in art school at the AAA School of Design and Advertising (1 yr full time). This was still the days before computer design. Graduated and got my first job as an assistant to a fashion photographer. Taught myself DTP (Desk Top Publishing) and changed jobs to work for an advertising agency. Spent the next 9 years in Cape Town working in the ad industry.

1998 saw me take leave of family and friends (I had been engaged to a long term boyfriend Etienne Bruwer which ended abruptly) and embark on a life-changing journey through Asia. Spent a year travelling in India, Nepal, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Phillipines and finally across to Australia. Met a super Dutch guy who I was madly in love with and thought I would end up living in Holland but I was realistic and returned home after the year was up.

On my return to SA, I was offered a job in an advertising agency in Dubai (United Arab Emirates) which I took the chance at. Spent three wonderful years there. However I did manage to take an 8 month sabbatical to visit my life-time dream country, South America. Had, in the interim, met my now fiancé Dave Stretch - from New Zealand - who had since moved to Mozambique to work on a 6 month engineering contract for Mozal Aluminium Smelter. We spent his last 2 months in Mozambique together and then we headed to South America, visiting Argentina, Chile, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. I was unfortunately under obligation to return to Dubai to my old job and Dave started a new contract in Johannesburg for 6 months. His next contract was to be in Mozambique again, so after 5 months back at the job, I decided to pack Dubai in and move there.

We have been living here since Feb last year (2002), I'm still working for the same company in Dubai but via e-mail and an ISDN line. Live a wonderful expat life-style working a few hours every day and spending my time gardening, reading, socialising, playing bridge and travelling on weekends. Couldn't be happier. Dave's contract will be up end of May this year, when we'll return to Dubai again for another year or two, before finally moving permanently to New Zealand to build a house and settle into "life in the burbs". (and can't wait!!!!!!)

All my travels have been significant events for me, including 2 trips to New Zealand which were both mind-blowing.

Another significant event was when I risked a laser eye-operation. I now sport 20/20 vision and am grateful every waking day to modern technology. The day I decided to brave the big world and leave the comforts and security of my life in Cape Town and travel east. That was a big day...

Of course my biggest love is travelling. anywhere. I love the great outdoors and any form of adventure although I have a crippling fear of the sea and watersports (which I wish I didn't have). Love hiking, tennis, reading, have a wild passion for books of any sort, love good design and interesting architecture, fashion and trends, gardening, history, cooking and fine dining, and of course my friends and family. Love life!!!!!!!


Updated Oct 2014:

Dave and I now have two children, Troy Kelby Stretch (born 2004) and Stella Mia Stretch (born 2006). Troy was born in SA (East London) as Dave's next job posting was St Petersburg, Russia and I didn't want to birth him there. At 6 weeks old Troy and I flew to Russia to join Dave and stayed all of 3 months before the project was shelved and we returned to NZ to await the next posting. Off to Western Australia, Bunbury (2 hrs south of Perth) where we stayed just under 3 years. Stella was born there, but Troy had become increasingly ill with a failure to thrive and was eventually - at the age of 1 - diagnosed with Crohns disease. No family history that we know of. 10 Years down the track with loads of suffering and medical intervention (in and out of hospital), he has never been in remission but 2 months ago had his colon removed which has given him amazing relief and he's now enjoying a huge growth spurt and high energy levels! Long may it last!


Stella on the other hand is fit and healthy with no signs of the disease. We moved to NZ when she was 6 months old and built a house on the spectacular Crown Range down south near Arrowtown/Queenstown. Live on a rural block with magnificent views of the Wakatipu area below us and are part of a fabulous community of multi-cultural friends who all make living here so enjoyable. We have since sold that home and built a second one which we moved into 3 months ago. We also have bought a 9-unit motel along the way which keeps me employed, Dave has been building the house (still doing the landscaping) after which he'll start a business or get a job! I in the meanwhile I keep myself busy designing graphic prints which I sell online and to a few shops in the area. I have now undertaken to redesign and upkeep the family website which I anticipate will be a whole new adventure in itself - a new direction for me....