Lucille and I headed out of Stanford towards Montagu. I had heard that Montagu was “the best-preserved Victorian village in the Western Cape”, my home village of Stanford listed a mere third.
I had to see this for myself. Cue a “Hatman and Lucille Roadtrip”. But we never got there. Actually, we did. Eventually. For a whole, wholly unpleasant 90 minutes. I really tried. I tried to find accommodation. But there was something that just didn’t work for me. What really didn’t work was when I was subjected to a tannie (elderly Afrikaans woman) behind reception at one of the joints slagging off the “country house” next-door and saying it was awful and that I should book into her place.
No. This wouldn’t do. I had just spent two days in the zow-wow zen gardens of a tranquil retreat in McGregor and this vrou was dissing her neighbours and harshing my Temenos mellow. I gave Mrs Reception a smile radiating with the karma of forgiveness, with only one corner of my mouth slightly curled in utter contempt, and gunned old Lucille back to McGregor.
Once a month I am afforded the privilege of writing what I like about what I like (or sometimes don’t like) in our little gem of a local newspaper, Stanford River Talk.
What I had planned to write about this month was my most recent roadtrip, one which was meant to take Lucille and I to Montagu and beyond, to places I had never seen. Instead, I got as far as a retreat in McGregor and stayed. There was a reason for this, as there is for everything. I was taken on a journey of the spirit and soul. And left feeling replenished and uplifted. I had been taken to a place within me which I was required to look at.
But I can’t write anymore about this. Because my experience of two even more recent journeys have occupied my mind. And heart. And soul.
They were certainly not planned. And they happened within four days of each other.
On the Tuesday, I found myself driving to Bredasdorp, To stand at the very spot where a 17-year-old girl had had her body taken from her. In every terrible way imaginable. You will know the story of Anene. It is a story which South Africans must never forget. Because if we are to even begin to scratch the despicable surface of reversing the pandemic of rape and abuse of women in our country then Anene Booysen, and the countless and unnamed others like her, must never be forgotten. Bredasdorp was another trip I had to make. And it still haunts me.
Four days later I stood on a beautiful farm just outside our village and, with you and you and you and you, paid tribute to a little life lost. There is little comparison to be made with what I had experienced a few days before except, once again, I was taken on a painful and extraordinary journey.
Welcome to the first in my weekly series of “The Stanfordians”, interviews with interesting people with whom I share the spectacularly beautiful Western Cape village of Stanford. This is a special place with special people. You may have already read me banging on here about the unique vibe of Stanford. If you have, you will know that I love living here. Well, I love it so much that I will be writing the occasional blogpost about what goes down – and you’d be amazed – in the third best-preserved Victorian village in the Western Cape.
OK. So you want to know which are the first two? Perfectly understandable. They are, apparently, Montagu and Greyton. They must be phenomenal. I haven’t visited either. I find it disconcerting to leave Stanford, even to Hermanus just 23km away, so magnetised am I by its unsurpassed beauty. I kid you not. It’s even better than that. As you’ll find out.
Anyway, here’s the first Stanfordian to answer my questions, “The Big Five” as I call them. Ready? Let’s go… wait, not before we’ve clapped eyes on the lovely Natalie Snyman, co-owner of Stanford Village Properties (one of the new advertisers on this blog – yes, that’s how it rolls in the commercial world, folks!)…
Natalie Snyman: a gentle soul whose smile enchants our village of Stanford Pic: Hatman
FH:Hi Nat, sorry if I’ve embarrassed you with my hyperbole above! Please give us a little personal background. Where were you born, schooled, shaped as a human being and when and how did you first discover Stanford?
NS: I lived in Tamboerskloof in Cape Town for many years and was a born-and-bred city girl but with a hankering for the country. Mariana and Peter (owners of the nationally renowned Mariana’s restaurant) were my neighbours in the city before they decided to move to Stanford. I was one of their first visitors after they settled here. That must have been in about 1984? I remember that there was the general dealer, NG Church and the river… I fell in love with Stanford and the lifestyle there and then. My children were eight and two years old and they loved it and still do. It was not as easy to relocate to country living in those days. In fact, country living only really became possible / fashionable about 10 years ago.
FH:You are in the property estate agency business. How did you start doing this in Stanford? And tell us why people, and especially foreigners, choose Stanford as the place to call home (holiday home)?
NS: Well, I brought two friends to Stanford on a Sunday afternoon in 2003. They were wanting to purchase a plot somewhere in the Overberg and had been driving around the greater Hermanus area since the Friday afternoon. Come Sunday morning, they thought that they would have a quick look at Stanford. I jumped in with them and we arrived in the village at about 12 o clock. We drove around for a bit and spotted a little Private Sale board. Well, after making an appointment with the owner who was relaxing at a friend`s house and drove back especially to open up for us, we traipsed in and I just fell in love… It was the first and only house that I looked at (an agents’ dream client). I was a weekender for two years and then (just as impulsively as my purchase) decided that this was where I was going to live permanently. I went to night classes at the Estate Agents Board, passed my exams and joined Homenet in Stanford. My business partner (Marianne) and I decided to open Stanford Village Properties at the end of 2008 …during the worst property recession! Stupid, clever or just crazy? Anyway, I like to think its women’s intuition. We have a very successful business and look forward to many more sales! I eventually convinced Kevin (Nat’s husband) to settle here as well and we have a fabulous lifestyle. I often think back to the days when we would buy the Country Life magazine and dream of this lifestyle. How privileged we are! I believe that Stanford chooses its people, local or foreigner. It is a “feeling“ that you get when you first arrive in Stanford.
FH: What can people expect when they approach Stanford Village Properties with a view to selling or buying a home in Stanford?
NS: I think our passion for the village shows straight away. We also have a more “organic“ personal way of dealing with our clients. Buying or selling is such an emotionally daunting experience and we try to ease that uncertainty for our clients.
FH:What is your personal experience of Stanford, Nat? What does it mean to you, what about our village gives you the most enjoyment and is there anything you miss about not living in a big city?
NS: What I love most is the fact that you can make such a difference here. I mean with any charitable work! You can immediately see the results and it’s very rewarding . I don’t miss much about the city, maybe the movies.. but it is only a two-hour drive if you really need to go to Cape Town. Most enjoyment? There are so many… walking on The Plaat (Stanford’s local beach) on a Sunday morning, chatting to all the locals at our lovely Sunset Market, drinks at the pub on a Friday and mostly seeing a satisfied client settle in happily !
FH: In your opinion, what gives our village its special vibe? And how would you describe it to, say, a Capetonian friend who had never been here?
NS: Hmmm, the special vibe is the melting pot of people who live here now. Nice mix of age, language groups and a few nice “oddies”.
FH: Nice answers, Nat. Thank you for your time. I know I speak for all of Stanford when I say that I hope we see your smile around our glorious village for a long time to come! Natalie can be contacted atStanford Village Properties.