It may be autumn outside… but in my heart it’s spring…
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…
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!
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.
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.
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.com/ firstname.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!
The Scottish town of Inverness and environs has done very well out of a monster that may or may not exist. Well, have you seen the Loch Ness Monster? No, I didn’t think so. It may just all be a rather shrewd marketing ploy by those canny Scots.
In Stanford, where we have our own cunning plan to bring a lot more feet into our stunning village (but a lot more about that in good time), we have our own animal phenomenon. We have a resident seal which lives in the stretch of the Klein River which winds around the village.
What’s so phenomenal about that, you ask. To which my riposte would be: “Were you paying attention during Geography class?” Seals live in the sea. That’s why they’re called seals. And not riverls. Are you following me?
Good. So our seal, which is meant to be fishing about in the sea, hangs out in a bit of river about 20km from the ocean. No salt water here. Being a seal of exceedingly good taste, it liked Stanford so much that it metamorphosed into a freshwater-dwelling riverl.
And, unlike those Scots who have been pulling the wool over our eyes for centuries, we can provide photographic evidence of our phenomenon.
Here it is…
There you go. Absolutely no reason for you to spend good money in the forlorn hope you might spot a monster in Loch Ness. Instead, come to Stanford and check out our riverl, quite possibly the only one of its kind in the world. Impressed? You should be!
* A languorous back-strokey kind of red hat tip to Tim Hague for the use of his quite stunning pic.
* Wait. Before you rush off to phone your geography teacher, please look at this… 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!
We all have them. Places where we feel at peace with ourselves. Where we feel immediately at home.
This is how I feel about Stanford. And this how I felt when I first came to Stanford in March, 2008. Instantly at home. At one with the place, the people, the homes, the dogs, the whole beautiful vibe. Just like that.
But, in 2008, I had newspaper work beckoning me in Cape Town and I answered the call, leaving my dogs to revel in Stanfordian bliss in the loving, nurturing hands of dear friend Janika Dorland.
Before the year was out, however, I found myself on a work exchange at a Buddhist Retreat, Bodhi Khaya, near Stanford and the magnetism of this charming market village was again irresistible.
The warmth and easy friendliness of the locals in this village that time has almost forgotten made it easy for me to fit in and now I find myself once again nestling in Stanford’s roomy bosom.
I needed to forge new leads for freelance writing work in Cape Town and I have chosen to do that at a distance. The exact distance between the bustling, stimulating cultural metropolis that is Cape Town and the Western Cape’s largely undiscovered gem, just a relaxed two-hour drive away past Hermanus.
A local has gone on record as saying that “you don’t choose Stanford, Stanford chooses you”. Well, I must have done something to please the spiritual powers-that-be. I say that because, although I am not given to undue flakiness, this blessed village is certainly presided over by a celestial committee of kindred – and overwhelmingly kindly – spirits. In the physical world, it appears to run itself, nudged gently along by the nurturing minds of good folk who were chosen by Stanford’s guiding spirits to protect their legacy.
They (some locals) say that Stanford sits squarely on no fewer than seven ley lines. I must say that nobody has been able (yet) to give me exact GPS co-ordinates for them. But I can tell you that there have been times, golden moments, when I sense that I am tightly embraced by all of them.
This may be when I am walking the “wandelpad” along the edge of the beguiling Klein River, it may come as I stand on the village green (the last remaining one in South Africa) and stare at the blue-purple-green-grey Klein River mountains which semi-circle the village, while I savour a fine cappuccino on the stoep of the Arts Cafe, devour fine food on the vine-smothered verandah of Madre’s Kitchen or even as I sup a pint of locally-brewed Birkenhead ale at The Stanford Arms.
But, in trying to describe the specialness, the thoroughly unique vibe of Stanford, I know that I fail to do it justice. You simply have to be here, to experience it for yourself. To see whether you are lucky enough to be “chosen” by Stanford. Or temporarily entertained by its charms and then spat out, back from whence you came.
Stanford isn’t for everybody and you would be wrong to perceive any elitism in this. Many have come, been seduced by its allure… and then dumped by this ageless and graceful beauty after whom everybody lusts to have an affair.
Many may find tranquil, becalming Stanford simply too small and sleepy for their tastes. And, indeed, it does appear that the village has fallen aslumber under the compelling spell of its rare natural beauty, if not the magical ley lines.
But, it falls to me to happily report, there are bright young minds working now and anew to change all of that. I have been fortunate to attend a couple of meetings in the two weeks I have been here and the torrent of ideas to pull together all of the glittering strands of Stanford’s charms and put it firmly on South Africa’s tourism must-see map is in full flood.
It is too early to divulge the plans to breathe new life into our old lady but, believe me, there will be compelling reason for people, especially those with children, to veer off their beaten track – if only for a weekend.
Stanford is stirring. Stanford is coming alive. And it starts with its annual celebration of Earth Hour on the Village Square on March 27. The village’s hour-long plunge into darkness on behalf of the environment has, in the past, been low-key, attended by locals and a few curious out-of-towners.
A highly committed woman by the name of Nadia Pheiffer has changed all of that. She and her helpers have called on some fine musicians to create a jazzy vibe around Earth Hour this year. Before they even grace the stages of the world-renowned Cape Town Jazz Festival, the likes of Geln Robertson, Chad Zerf, Piano Ben, saxophonist Les Witz and Johan Dowries will fill the dark night with their jazzy tunes. They will end the festivities with a free jazz jam session.
Much earlier, from 3pm, the High Street will be closed to traffic, allowing the traditional Sunset Market to get into full swing with Stanfords’ antiques shops and trading stores spilling their wares out into the street.
From 6pm onwards the Earth Hour picnickers will converge on the Village Green, eating and making merry until the church bells signal the onset of the hour during which a black darkness and a respectful hush will fall on the village.
I could go on. But I won’t. How much more do you want? Yes. That’s right. You’re sold, aren’t you? You should be. Earth Hour is a phenomenal opportunity for you to do your bit for our fragile environment. And allow Stanford the opportunity to choose you. Well. What are you waiting for?
* Visit Stanford\’s tourist information website for more minute detail of the wealth of goings-on. Go on. Do it. Well done. Nice, hey?