There are, of course, many distinctions to be drawn between people who somehow exist in the city and those who live the life of Reilly in the countryside.
I lived in inner-city London for 13 years. I loved it. Then. I have now lived in Stanford for the past six months. Stanford? It’s OK. Reasonable question. Twenty-three kilometres the other side of Hermanus, Hatpeople. If you’re coming from Cape Town. Which you will be. Unless you live in Vermaklikheid of iets. Which you don’t. So don’t argue with me. Because I’m irritable.
I’m touchy because I’ve been looking after a friend’s house in Cape Town (while she swans about the shifting sands of the Namib with her man) for the past week. It’s noisy. It’s over-populated. It’s discombobulated. It’s nincompoopulated. It’s smelly. Too many cars. Far too many people. Too many airs and disgraces. Not enough air and graciousness. Too many millions of refrigerators humming around my eardrum. It’s kak.
If I loved Stanford before this weekend, I don’t have the words to describe how I feel about it now.
I had never been down the river. I’ve sat and stared at the reflections in it. I’ve swam in it. I’ve thrown the ball into it for the Scrapster and Doodlebug, my two delinquent Jack Russells. I’ve even created a rather amateurish artwork next to it. But I’d never taken a boat ride down the Klein Rivier.
Until Saturday. I hadn’t yet stumbled out of the Stanford Arms on Friday night (or was it Saturday morning?) when the SMS came though: “Weather permitting, see you on the river bank at bottom of King St at 10.30am. Cheers, Tim.”
Tim Hague. Photographer. Boat-builder. Chairman of Rotary Stanford. Top-notch bloke. And builder of a very nifty motorboat called “Three Summers” (it took him three summers in London to build it).
So we go for a ride on the river. And this how it looked…
We're off... and I've got no problem with the way things are going...
... and the view up front didn't look too untidy either...
Swing your gaze to the right, Hatpeople, and you'll see those holes in the rocks? Natural beehives. Serious. And people come to collect honey from them. How cool is that, hey?
I must interrupt this hi-tech slideshow to ask how we are all getting on here? Enjoying the ride? I thought so. What, you’re thirsty? Hang on, I’ll get the beers out of the cooler box. Whoop, don’t touch this! Just kidding. Here you go. Hold on, we’re about to hit the blue lagoon. If you’re lucky, you might spot Brooke Shields pretending to build a grass hut on the beach while not pretending to be buck-naked. OK. Whooosh!
Ah, that'll be the two original Marlboro men straining their eyes for a glimpse of Broo... I mean the lagoon...
And there she is! Brooke building her holiday home without municipal approval on the beach near Hermanus. What?! What do you mean you dropped your binocs in the river? All pix: Hatman
Fine. I think that all went rather well. I’m glad you enjoyed the ride as much as I did. The countryside, people. Not much wrong with it. You’ll be back behind your desks in the big, bad city this morning. It doesn’t have to be like that, you know. Make the change. And when you do, let me know and I’ll see if I can arrange a cosy little cabin on the lagoon for you.
* A wobbly-legged doff of the old hat to Tim Hague for making this all possible. Nice one, skipper!
As you may well know, there are myriad top-notch brands that are just gagging to be associated with the fredhatman.co.za success story.
Every morning I wake up to an inbox chock-a-block with offers of free suites at premier hotels, free dinners at top-rated restaurants, free round-the-world cruises, free clothing, free wine, free i-Pads, free tickets to absolutely everything, including VIP invites to glamorous international parties jampacked with supermodels, and the occasional offer of a free smack about the head from somebody very upset about something I’ve written.
These super-brands want “visibility in the most desirable market segment”, the exposure that will “fit their profile”, indeed the “insane coolness” that would come with being associated with South Africa’s only “diagnosed SA-positive” blogger.
But I don’t roll like that. I’m a country blogger. I get the shakes when I leave Stanford for longer than two hours (to go shopping in Hermanus). So when I received an offer to engage freely in some “land art” here in Stanford, I jumped at it.
I went down to the river to meet Leli Hoch and Andrée Bonthuys, who run these “art in nature” sessions, and local artist Sanette du Toit Upton, whose work I have admired at the Stanford Galleries Art Cafe.
We were told to “try to get as one with nature, see everything as a piece of art and collect things to make something that will express whatever it is you want to express”.
With the issue of our press freedom being under threat gnawing at my mind, I was immediately drawn to the piece of a Cape Times’ front page I found littering the wandelpad. Then I saw a piece of red plastic cable that seemed almost to form part of a plant with red flowers.
Ah, I could make a noose from which I could “hang” the Cape Times, I mused. Symbolic of a possible execution of a free South African press.
I found a clearing partially surrounded by bush – a “village square” – and got to work. I’ll show you what I made.
Hardly a work of art, you may say... but it speaks to me Pic: Hatman
OK. So that may be seen as an interpretation of what might happen to our press freedom if the government’s Protection of Information Bill is not resisted with our every ounce of strength.
But, while I was creating my little masterpiece, I felt something else bubble up within me. My motive for wanting to create a symbol of the public hanging of South Africa’s press began to shift. It became – and it was deeply emotional for me – also a need to bury my past, my 25-year career in newspaper journalism.
Attaching a piece of newspaper to a noose and hanging it from a branch stuck in the earth stirred up feelings, old resentments, and I found myself stabbing small “bullet-holes” in the paper, burning the edges of the Cape Times front page and tying a length of blue twine I had found earlier tightly around the body of my soon-to-be-lifeless newspaper career.
Whoo! This exercise had taken on a whole new meaning for me. I was putting to rest two and a half decades of my life in the world of newspapers. I felt no anger, just a calm determination to finish what I had started. And then I felt relief, an inner peace, a release from the weariness of battles fought with editors more enamoured with indulging the wishes of advertisers and politicians than with meeting the needs of readers and the public interest.
But my work was not complete. I went in search of flowers and the material with which to make a rudimentary cross. I wanted to pay my respects to the corpse of my newspaper career. It seemed like the right thing to do. Once this was done, I felt a huge sense of release.
The others found me in deep contemplation and speculated on the intensity of what I had made. And then we walked back up the river to examine their work.
Sanette du Toit Upton's beautiful artwork Pic: Hatman
The afternoon had been a wonderful exercise in how to create something beautiful and meaningful from what is available to us in nature. And I was very moved by what “land art” had given me, an opportunity to express and release something that I didn’t realise was impacting so profoundly on my life.
* Leli Hoch (of Stanford Valley Farm) and Andrée Bonthuys (of Baardskeerdersbos) give half day, full day or weekend land art workshops. They offer sessions on demand along the Klein Rivier in Stanford and along the cliff path in Hermanus. For more details, and to book, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org / 072 622 3456 or email@example.comfirstname.lastname@example.org / 082 350 0253
* If you scroll up to your right on this page, you’ll see a big fat badge saying something about the 2010 South African Blog Awards. I’ve entered your “diagnosed SA-positive” blog into three categories: Best New Blog, Best Personal Blog and The Kulula Best Travel Blog. I wouldn’t be at all offended if you clicked on that there badge and nominated http://www.fredhatman.co.za in any of these categories (be sure to type in your e-mail address on the blog awards site for your nomination to be registered). In fact, were I to amaze all of us by winning something, the Birkenhead is on me down the Stanford Arms! Cheers!
I’ve been asked to pay the hosting fees to renew the fredhatman.co.za blog with Hetzner, who have looked after me extremely well for the first year of my blogging life.
Wowness. A whole year! Now, usually at this point, people like to look back and review the past year, pinpointing their highs and lows and generally boring me to within an inch of my life with what has gone before.
I’m not a fan of looking back. Give me today. Carpe diem. And then let’s grab hold of the future. So, what does the future hold for your “diagnosed SA-positive” blog? You’ve got me there, Hatpeople. You don’t mind me calling you Hatpeople, do you? Good.
Just as I don’t analyse the past, so I don’t like to try to prescribe the future. That’s never worked for me. Visualise a best-case scenario, yes, make decisions around it, no. What will happen will happen. What’s the point of planning for the unknown? “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans,” said John Lennon. He was sharp, was John. So all I can say is, that for as long as I write this blog, its central theme will be one that is “SA-positive”.
It’s the way I’m wired. To be positive about my beloved country. South Africa. It’s purely instinctive, my great love affair and affinity with my country. And I instinctively write with passion about the things that make South Africa the best country in the world in which to live.
Wave the flag, wave the flag...
So, if it’s all the same to you, that is how we will continue on this blog. What I am doing, however, is bringing a bit of structure (did I hear cheering at the back?) to how I deliver to you my blogposts. Yes. I need to do that.
It’s been a bit all over the place, hasn’t it? Loyal followers of fredhatman.co.za (and I thank both of you for lasting a full year) have never know when to expect to find some freshly-laid waffle to read. There have been days I have kept you waiting. There have been days, especially during this post-World Cup cold turkey slump, when I gave you diddly-squat. I’m sorry. No, really. I am.
So, today’s previous post will give you a hint of what you can expect to find on any weekday. First up, in the morning, a fascinating fact about South Africa, delivered with a Hatmanesque twist. You’ve told me you like it. So I’m sticking with it. This start-your-day factoid is called “Know The Beloved Country”.
Then, later in the day, you’ll be getting something – it could be anything – which generally will show off our uniquely beautiful and intriguing country in an “SA-positive” light. You know where to go to read the bad news. And you know to come here for the good stuff.
Cool. You’ll get that before home-time. Unless, of course, you’re skiving off early for a bit of how’s-your-daddy. And that’s fine by me. You’re probably over 16. You have choices. Far be it for me to judge. Good golly, no.
OK. So you should, by now, know that not only am I lucky enough to live in South Africa, I’m seriously blessed to live in a particularly gorgeous part of it. Stanford. Third best-preserved Victorian village in the Western Cape. In the Overberg region. Twenty-three kilometres on the R43 beyond Hermanus going towards Gansbaai, to be precise.
Yes, we’re sandwiched between South Africa’s “whale-watching capital” and our “shark cage-diving hotspot”. Lucky fish. That’s us. It’s a largely undiscovered rural gem, is Stanford. And a village that has a vibe that is impossible to describe. “Hugely spiritual” will have to do.
Stanford: a spiritual experience
I’m going to be doing some writing about what it’s like to live here in Stanford. The amazing people it continues to attract. The strange goings-on. The headless horse which gallops through the roads of Die Skema by night. The seven leylines which run across our land. The annual far-too-hotly-contested giant pumpkin-growing competition. Weird stuff.
And I’ll also be updating you on the exciting campaign to position Stanford as the gateway to the fast-developing biosphere that is blossoming around the Agulhas National Park, right here on our doorstep. How we are growing towards becoming a hugely attractive nature-based tourism destination. But more, much more, on that later.
You might remember The Heart and Sole Tour, a crazy 2,000km unicycle jaunt from Durban to Cape Town earlier this year? Well, there is to be another unicycle marathon starting in November… and this time three unicyclist friends of mine will ride off-road (almost all the way) from Umhlanga lighthouse to Mouille Point lighthouse to raise awareness of a an excellent cause that is close to all of our hearts.
This mammoth undertaking is still in the planning stages but I will be writing a great deal about this as it unfolds. Prepare yourself. It’s going to be another rollercoaster adventure, babies.
What else? Oh, ja. You’ll want to read something after you’ve got home. Once you’ve put the TV to bed and before you slump on to the sofa to watch the children. Something like that. So I’ll be posting a wee taster about how it feels to me to spend another day in paradise. A rumination about life in a small country village in South Africa. Stanford. I might call it “By A Country Smile”. We’ll know by tonight.
And, if you’re really unlucky, I might start posting reports of my “Weekends with The Beast”, adventures down the dirt roads which lead in every direction out of Stanford and into the magnificent Overberg. But that’s only if you dare to visit me on a Monday…
How beautiful is The Beast?
* If you wish to receive updates of all of my blogposts, please join the Fred Hatman group on facebook or follow fredhatman on Twitter. Should you want to be updated only on Stanford-related posts, join the Stanford Alive! group on facebook. For updates on posts about the “mammoth off-road unicycle ride”, join The CounterBalance Project facebook group. Whatever you do, stay SA-positive!
In the third of my weekly interviews with the beautiful characters of my home village of Stanford (Western Cape), I posed the “Big Five” questions to Rosalind “Roz” Nale of the homelier-than-home Galashiels Lodge, a family-run guesthouse in the middle of town.
Here she is…
One very happy Stanford family: Grant, Roz and Griffin Nale
FH:Please give us a little personal background, Roz. Where were you born, schooled, shaped as a person and when and how did you first discover our magnificent village of Stanford? And when and how did you and Grant hook up?