I was enjoying a pint of Pride at the Birkenhead Brewery just outside Stanford, gazing at Leighan Pepler’s horses nosing about in the fields over in the valley towards the Klein Rivier mountains when Guinness-black clouds were whipped up on my left… oh, how I miss a good pint of Dublin-brewed Guinness.
Black clouds to the left of me...
... my beautiful mountains to the front. Pics: Hatman Photography
I’ve given you three blogposts already today and I’m knackered. But I’d like to leave you with this thought to take to bed with you…
“The bontebocks, above all appeared in flocks of two thousand at least. I am persuaded that this day, buffaloes, antelopes of all kinds, zebras and ostriches, I had before my eyes at one time more than four or five thousand animals.” – Le Vaillant, the Overberg (1796)
I live in the Overberg. Two hundred and fourteen years later, where and how far do I go to witness such a thing?
And, in 214 years’ time, what real chance do the future inhabitants of Africa, never mind the Overberg, have of seeing just one of these, alive and running free in the wild?
* So I Google “bontebok photo” to bring you a pic… and I find this…
A dead bontebok. Shot. By a hunter. American. Very pleased with his work.
Ain’t that pretty? This photograph was first published on a South Dakota taxidermy website. With this caption…
“Bontebok was the easiest shot of the whole Safari. After a unsuccessful stalk and sitting in an open field, the Bontebok along with another herd bull came walking out of a draw right towards me. At 40 yards they stopped and I harvested the largest of the two. SCI Gold and Rowland Ward by 1 1/2 inches. Overall 43 0/8.”
“Harvested”? Harvested! What is that? Hunterspeak for “killed”. Can’t hunters say “killed”? Or “murdered”?
I feel very tired. And very angry. I’m going to bed. Here’s the website of that – how do the Americans say? – douchebag who kills Africa’s wildlife… American hunter/douchebag\’s website.
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!
Right. In about 96 hours time, 94,700 crazy people will be frenzying around inside the illuminated calabash that is Johannesburg’s Soccer City as South Africa and Mexico light the wick of the fizz-pop fandango that is to be the 2010 World Cup.
And stretching across every country on our globe, billions will crane their necks to get the best view possible of the opening match. They will see many things on Saturday night… and one view may be this visual treat…
Jo'burg's Soccer City: not an altogether shabby football ground, is it?
No, we quite like it. Not as aesthetically gorgeous as Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium, perhaps, but it’ll do. Fine. So the globe is going to get to see a lot of Jo’burg, Durbs and Cape Town. And maybe a bit more of Bloemfontein and Rustenburg than they would bargain for. But what of South Africa’s small towns, verdant-valleyed villages and rusty-hued hamlets, secreted away behind mountains and filed away, collecting dust, in corners of deserts?
Well, what of them? Are there flags flying in their rutted main roads? Are there rainbow-razzmatazz mirror socks being worn by their donkey-carts? Well? I think, if you wandered into the Karoo today, you’d get a big surprise. And I have another surprise for you.
If you drove out of Cape Town on the R43 tomorrow, bounced over Sir Lowry’s Pass and snaked past the whale-watchers’ paradise of Hermanus, you would – after two hours or so – come across a sumptuous Overberg village that goes by the name of Stanford. You would have to look out for it because you could easily miss it. As many poor, unsuspecting travellers do. But if you catch sight of the Sir Robert Stanford wine estate and you started to slow down next to the Syringa Kennels, you would notice the entrance to the town.
Continue for 250 metres or so down Queen Victoria Street, the main drag, and you will stumble upon this…
Stanford Village Green: not quite Soccer City... but it's ours Pic: Hatman
Yes, that’s our green (well, it’ll be greener after the winter rains). A lot of things happen on this village green. Cricket, horse races, sunset markets, biggest pumpkin competitions… but mostly ladies walking their dogs after a satisfactory afternoon tea. And, I have discovered, it’s a great place to lie on one’s back and stargaze after a hefty night down the pub.
Unlike those crammed into Soccer City this weekend, we won’t be seeing any stars on the field. But we’re doing the best we can. Folks, roll up… roll up to the Overstrand Rainbow Five-a-side Soccer Extravaganza. Our village green will be transformed into a mini-football fest with local teams puffing about, trying to settle old scores, market stalls, coaching clinics… and probably one or two ladies pretending not to notice while walking the dog after yet another highly satisfactory cream tea.
Yes, that’s how we roll in quaint, beautiful Stanford, one of the finest preserved Victorian villages in the fairest Cape. But roll we do. The media will be there to document the festivities. Not Sky Sports or the London Guardian or ESPN or the New York Times. But the Stanford River Talk, the Hermanus Times, Whale Talk Magazine, Whale Coast 96.5fm, the Fasttrax Marine film company and the Fijn Bush Telegraph will be reporting on our main World Cup event, so that people tending to their farms in even more isolated parts of our little piece of the world will learn of it.
Here is the authentic heartbeat of our great country, tiny specks on the map which will not see the likes of Messi, Rooney and Kaka in the flesh. But we will have fun anyway. And the proceeds of our fun will go to the Hermanus Trust, a local educational and social NGO, and the benefits will be felt long after the last ball is kicked.
Local businesses taking part are, among others, La Finestra Restaurant, Stanford Hills Estate, Pam Golding (Stanford), Stanford River Talk, Gypseys Restaurant and Birkenhead Brewery. the first match kicks off at 9am on Friday, June 11 with the final being played on Saturday, June 12. A floating trophy will be presented to the winning team.
So to those fortunate enough to watch Steven Pienaar split the Mexican defence with an inch-perfect pass for Katlego Mphela on Saturday, we Stanfordians say: “Give them horns, guys!” And, we solemnly promise, if we spot a new Steven Pienaar in the making on our village green this weekend, we’ll start grooming him for the 2018 World Cup. Ayoba!
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.
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.
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.
A scene of Stanfordian bliss... come Earth Hour this village green will be plunged into darkness, pinpricks of light illuminating happy, shiny faces
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.
Landlord Jannie Boonzaier checks to ensure that the green light - the only traffic light in the village - is on, signalling that The Stanford Arms is open for boozeness
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.
The Stanford Galleries' Arts Cafe - the fulcrum of the village - is the best place for a coffee... and to start musing how to begin your passionate affair with the grand and elegant old lady in whose bosom you now sit
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?