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.
So you think that living in the country is easy? That all we do is plough a few furrows before parking the Massey Ferguson under a tree, haul out the old Blackberry and get on to Facebook to sow our oats in Farmville?
Well, yes, that’s exactly what most of us do. That’s how we roll out here in Stanford. But not every day. Take Wednesdays. I have to come over all corporate on Humpday. And what a hump. I can barely get my tractor over it.
I had two meetings today. Two. This entails me getting out of my Barney pyjamas at 2pm, washing my hair front and back of my bald Karoo (sounds better than Sahara) and going down the pub. That’s where we have our “informal tourism group” meetings. Informal being the operative word. No tie required. I was going to say “No Jacket Required” but that’s the name of an album by my least favourite musician of all time.
Not entirely the vibe we have going at our Stanford informal tourism group meetings
The cool thing about meetings at the pub (Stanford only does “meetings” in the pub) is that a certain amount of alcohol is required before any ideas remotely worthy of discussion are issued forth. And, boy, do we have ideas. Let’s just say that you are going to be gagging to get over to Stanford soon enough.
Moving swiftly alo… what? You want minutes? We don’t take minutes. We take hours. And you’ll have to ask the ridiculously effervescent and clever Janet Marshall of Stanford Info for the attendance register. I’m not saying who was there in case they were actually meant to be doing some work. We’re protective of each other out here in the wilderness. Reminds me of a saying I came up with a couple of months back… “One for all and all for one”. I should have patented that. It encapsulates our vibe.
So it was home to feed the dogs and the cat and neck a couple of Milk Thistles before rushing back (I was thirsty) to the Stanford Arms for the Rotary weekly meeting. This was even more exciting than usual because four young people from Knoxville, Tennessee (I love how that sounds) were there.
Now I might be breaking new territory here but I fully believe that “kids” today are nicer, better-looking and more intelligent than when I was their age. And more responsible. It’s like they looked at my generation, thought about it for two seconds, held a global conference and unanimously passed a motion to be far cooler than we were.
Erin, Stephanie, Connor and Sam are seriously nice kids. Not only have they been busy helping out with upliftment projects around Stanford but then they come to our meeting and tell us how wonderful our country is, how warm and friendly South Africans are and generally how blown away they have been by their African experience. We liked that.
I mean, we South Africans got a lot of that during our beautiful World Cup, right? But keep it coming is what I say! And now The Knoxville Four are going home to try to raise funds to improve conditions for the disadvantaged people in our area. Like I said, seriously cool kids.
Now I must iron my Barney jim-jams and bomb into bed. It’s been a tough Humpday in the corporate world. And I need to be ploughing my fields in Farmville before midday tomorrow. Yee-ha.
All of you, unless you’ve been living under a rock, would have heard about Earth Hour. Come to think of it, if you do live under a rock you probably haven’t been wasting the earth’s electricity supply and resources anyway – so you’re excused. Well done. And be careful when you light candles next to your rock and don’t set the veld alight.
The rest of you know all about Earth Hour and how important it is to be aware of how we abuse our natural resources by using electricity like it’s going out of fashion. Which, along with Eskom, Crocs and Lady Gaga, I hope will.
OK. Now listen up. If you are going to be celebrating Earth Hour (8.30pm-9.30pm) on Saturday night – read all about it here – there’s only one place to do it. Stanford, Western Cape, South Africa.
Yes, that’s Stanford. Twenty-three kilometres beyond Hermanus, driving away from Cape Town towards um, oh yes, Gansbaai. You’ll be hearing a lot more from me about the sublime village of Stanford but, wait, let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. Be patient, OK? OK.
I’m here to tell you that you had better at least switch all your lights off at the appointed hour or, even better, join all Stanfordians on the Village Green for a memorable night of darkness, light, the moon, market, food and all that jazz that Nadia Pheiffer has kindly arranged for us.
You don’t have to be ridiculous about it. If you live in Kakamas or Cairo, we’re not expecting you to drive all the way to Stanford but, if you do, I’ll personally buy you a restorative Fanta Grape at the Stanford Arms.
Right. Movie time. While I fiddle with the projector, get out the popcorn, switch the lights off and enjoy…
Check? That was an ad, right? So you don’t have to go waving your Woolies duvet cover outside your window. Adpeople get a bit carried away sometimes. They’re just illustrating a point. A point I feel very passionate about. Like Stanford. Very passionate. And, while we’re on the subject, let me introduce you to Janet Marshall. Hatpeople, meet Janet, Janet meet my loyal and long-suffering Hatpeople. Cool. Here we go…
There she is! Janet Marshall. Effervescence personified. And as sharp as a lemon.
Now there’s a lot I could tell you about Janet. Suffice to say that, to many of us Janet and Stanford go together like bacon and eggs, like a fire and a jolly good Raka red, like… OK, you get my drift.
Now the thing you really need to know about Janet is that she is as passionate about Stanford, its people, its vibe and its potential as a tourist destination as Julius Malema is about talking crap and pissing everybody off. Which is pretty passionate, isn’t it?
OK. So here’s a heads-up for you folk lucky enough to be reading about this for the very first time. Janet’s going to be on Whale Coast FM radio between 12 and 1pm tomorrow (today if you’re reading this on Friday), making her debut as the host of a new slot devoted to what people can do if they come to the Overstrand area for a weekend or a week or, if they’re really lucky, a month.
Which, you may be totally gobsmacked to know, is a lot. Tomorrow’s show (we’ve established that that means Friday, right?) is dedicated to, yes, Stanford. Well, Stanford and Earth Hour and the general vibe that’s coming out of your favourite Overberg village these days (read “red-hot”).
You’ll be equally gobsmacked (and perhaps horrified) to learn that she’s chosen me to banter away the hour with her. Don’t ask. I don’t know. Perhaps everybody else is busy trimming their fingernails at 12pm tomorrow or something.
Never mind. I’ll do my best to keep up with the highly effusive, engaging, totally rad raconteur that is Ms Marshall. I like a challenge. OK. 12pm. Friday. Whale Coast FM. 96.0mz. Tune in. Or I’ll be tuning you.
As I wrote here yesterday, Stanford is a village of humungous charm and character. And so are its people.
People make the place, yes? Yes.
And among many people dedicated to making Stanford an even better place than it already is is Paul Chew.
Did I say charm and character? Paul has aircraft carrier-loads of both. And guts.
And a yearning for adventure which has taken him all over the world, attempting the weirdest challenges… and overcoming them.
Paul Chew... adventurer extaordinaire and a man who wants to make a difference
Climbing icebergs, free-diving with sharks, crossing India in a ricksha, swimming the English Channel… these are just some of Paul’s gut-wrenching pursuits.
His most recent exploit was to take part in the Mongol Derby, a very demanding horse-ride across a vast tranch of China’s most inhospitable territory. He finished third, despite being the oldest person in the race.
Pure guts. But that’s not all. Paul’s thirst for adventure is matched by his hunger for positive change in the world.
His challenges have helped to raise more than R500 000 for the Mercy Corps which provides funds to alleviate suffering, poverty and oppression by helping people build secure, productive and just communities.
He’s relatively new to Stanford but, once “chosen” by this crazy village to take up residency, he looked around him and saw that all was not sweetness and light for the the people of Die Skemers, a “coloured township” up on the hill above Stanford village.
So when he heard that Inspector Mpanda of the South African Police Services was running a boxing club to give the kids something other to do than get into trouble, Paul wanted to help.
Insp Mpanda needs help. His pugilistic prodigies are enthusiastically running the roads around Stanford to get fit but they don’t have a venue. Nowhere to actually box, nowhere with a ring, nowhere with a punchbag, nowhere with gloves, nowhere with anything. Nowhere to keep warm and dry while they try to become boxers. And Insp Mpanda’s kids have potential. At a recent Western Cape tournament, 20 of his charges scooped 13 medals, gold and silver, between them.
It would be really cool, don’t you think, if they had a building in which to train. Paul thinks so.
So he’s riding the Cape Epic next week. Eight hundred kilometres of of monstrously hard mountain bike racing from Wellington through Ceres, Worcester and Elgin to Lourensford Estate. Paul has shaken off a bout of flu to complete his training for his first-ever bike race and will start on Sunday.
Paul in training for the Cape Epic, eight days and 800km of extremely testing mountain bike riding
He would love for his efforts in the world’s toughest off-road bike race to benefit the little boxers of Stanford. For whom a boxing training venue would mean the world.
So, how can you help? I’m glad you asked. Because you can. You can sponsor Paul Chew, kilometre by tortuous kilometre, and the money you pledge will go towards enabling the good inspector to buy the materials to build a venue for the boxing club. This club will help to bring the quite separate communities of Stanford together and give the kids hope. Hope that they can become better boxers. And better people. Nothing wrong with that, hey?
* You can read much more about Paul’s deeds of derring-do by hurrying straight over to here. Please contact Janet Marshall at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 082 456 8091/028 341 0216 to make your pledge to support Paul Chew in his gut-busting effort to help the children of Stanford
Only now am I able to deliver the Last Post on The Heart and Sole Tour saga.
And it is delivered in pretty much the same key as Peter Sellers used to such diabolical effect in the opening scenes of The Party.
I hope that you, dear Hatpeople, will find this as funny. But I doubt it.
Because it’s not. It has taken me damn nigh a week to even begin to drain the porridge from my stultified brain and start to order some thought process about the rather epic two-month unicycle ride from Durban to Cape Town, which ended in dramatic fashion at The V&A Waterfront last Friday.
In the case of our phenomenally gutsy unicyclist, Geoff Brink, it was utter physical exhaustion which enveloped him once the adrenaline began to ebb from his body at the end of his record 2,000km one-wheeled feat. But it was the mental pressure required of us to focus on finishing our cavalier mission, amid some distracting sideshows, which led to us spectacularly falling out at the finish line.
Kim, Geoff's fiancee, joins the Heart and Sole Tour at Peregrine's Farm Stall near Grabouw on the penultimate day of the crazy ride
And only now can this story be told.
Please know that we were always mindful of the fact that the Heart and Sole Tour was about raising awareness of the awful devastation that landmines continue to wreak on the lives of innocent civilians around the world. And, of course, it should always have been about that alone. But Geoff Brink and I are only human. And very fallible humans at that. So it was that, early in the tour, when pressure was brought to bear on us from back home, that the ugly spectre of the male ego leapt to the fore. The jostling for position in the Heart & Sole roadside pod of the alpha male instinct began to permeate the high-spirited vibe of our beautiful roadtrip.
Don’t get me wrong. There were bucketfuls of banter, a chuckling stream of laughs and a camaraderie that one comes to expect of two friends combining to achieve something both mad and magnificent. In fact, many of you might question whether the flipside of our tour should be told at all. The Heart & Sole Tour undoubtedly achieved its objective and what purpose is there in hanging out the stinky unwashed laundry for all to sniff at? What goes on tour stays on tour and all that crap.
Geoff "Heartman" Brink negotiates the downhill treachery of Sir Lowry's Pass. A moment of respectfulness, please!
I’ll answer that. I have mulled over this for nearly a week. I am fascinated by the human condition. That is why I chose journalism as a career. I am equally captivated by the human spirit. And this piece of introspection – should that be “retrospection”? – is about wanting to understand how Geoff and I managed to complete our trip despite our differences as much as because of the unity we displayed when it really mattered.
I have talked with people about this since I emerged blinking into the bright Cape Town sunlight from the highly buffered bubble that was our “hard shoulder crawl” across our great country. Some have drawn comparisons with “The Long Way Down”, Ewan McGregor’s and Charlie Boorman’s motorcycle jaunt from Britain through Europe and down to the foot of Africa.
I must confess that I have yet to watch the whole movie. Geoff and I began to watch it as an entertaining aside to our minimal preparation for the Heart and Sole Tour but, dismayed by the showiness, grandstanding and, quite frankly, over-indulgence displayed over what amounted to a pretty easy ride, fell asleep.
I don’t see the similarities. Yes, Geoff’s fiancee, Kim Millar joined us towards the end of our ride, a development that, for me, was both unexpected and temporarily gripped me with trepidation… but, such was my determined hyperfocus on getting our unicyclist safely to the Mother City that her presence in the back-up truck proved to matter not a jot. And I know that Geoff was greatly motivated by his sweetheart to bravely finish what he had started.
Mmmm. "Cape Town, 40km"? Take that!
What caused our “Skirmish at The Clock Tower” was the result of two very tired minds and one exhausted body melting down after 58 days of intense concentration and unbelievable strain. So what happened, you may ask? OK. Fair question. But I’m not saying. I have too much respect for what Geoff achieved and, yes, for what we as a team did for people who deserve a better life than to tarnish in detail the magnificent outcome of the Heart and Sole Tour.
Never mind the bollards which prohibited myself and the back-up truck from following our unicyclist – and our final-day amaonetya.co.za escort of unicyclists Alan van Heerden and Johnny Cronje down to the Clock Tower. After watching Geoff’s back for 58 days and nigh on 2,000km, a row of concrete bollards stopped me from seeing the boys home. Emotions spilled over. There were harsh words. It was unsavoury. It was, after what we had been through, almost inevitable. It happened. It is over. It’s gone. Gone, gone, gone. No regrets. We move on. We have learned lessons.
Johnny (left) and Alan (right) of amaonetya.co.za and OddWheel Unicycles escort Geoff into Cape Town and safely down to the V & A Waterfront. Awesomeness, guys!
Before we set out on December 28, 2009 on a mission which many called impossible, both Geoff and I knew that there would be challenges for which we could not prepare, that lessons would be taught that might make better people of us. And so it proved. And I am massively thankful for this gift. I remain privileged to have had the experience of supporting Geoff Brink on his incredible journey.
Crikey, what a ripper, Nige! You are a total mensch.
All pix (apart from this one): Hatman
* I will be working with Kai von Pannier of The Sole of Africa to draw up a full list of individuals, companies and establishments which should be acknowledged for the part they played in helping The Heart and Sole Tour to achieve its objective.
In the meantime, I would like to thank these people for the enormous help – and inspiration – they gave Geoff and I: John Fogarty, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Kim Millar, Olivia “OJ” Symcox, Rox-ann Govender, Kai and Cindy von Pannier, Mike Kendrick, Toni Rowland, Dilana, Sir Richard Branson, John L. Evans, Alan van Heerden, Johnny Cronje, Sharon Heger Basel, Steve Connor, Jimmy Reynolds, Andre Cronje, Rob Gower, Rich and Sarah McLennan, Neil and Hayley Millar, Kathy Reay, Dennis Theron, Pierre and Elise Brink, Jonny and Jane Roberts, Keith Chapman, Vaughan Raw, Warren Bartram, Donatella Pontesilli, Doc and Maggie Mears, Mama Cordelia, Martin Schroder, Toni Brodelle, Emily Shayler, Paul Chew, Janet Marshall, Marc Forrest, Mike Adams, Mandy Morgan, Fred and Yolandi Roed, Mike Perk, Clayton and Paula Whitaker, Father Matthias, Mama Zondeka, Nic Nel, Marcelle Delew-Kappen, Andreas Kappen, Brett Horner, Julie Davies, Seth Rotherham, Mike Kuttner, Jacqui Daniels, Riaan Manser, Bob Skinstad, Claire Alexander, Dave Duarte, Chris Rawlinson, Mike Saxby, Ken Taytasac, Penny Sandham, Carol-Anne Stephenson, Craig Bettridge, Vicky Nardell, Annette Oberholster, Helen Walne, Brandon McGugan, Martina Gilli, Michelle Solomon, Krista (New York), Neal Collins, Chris Whitfield, Lesley Byram, Marilyn Bernard, Wendy Landau, Dhashen Moodley. If anybody feels left out, it’s because you will be thanked in the full list to appear on both The Sole Of Africa website and this blog.
* One last thing. Both Geoff and I exhausted our savings on The Heart & Sole Tour. He’s a freelance photographer and a very good one at that. We both need to find paid work, he to finance his forthcoming wedding, I to pay the rent for a ramshackle dwelling down near the river. Should you have some paid work to slide our way, that would be completely cool. Ta!