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.
Out of The Hat column, Stanford River Talk, May 2013.
I can see it now.
Queen Victoria Street, Saturday morning… people milling about at the morning market, Brydon’s lemon tart in one hand, Elsa’s mozzarella in the other, and complaining in a genteel and socially decorous manner about what happened to Tracy’s trees and the fact that the Municipality sat fatly by and did diddly-very-squat about it.
Then a hush falls over the small gathering. A lemon tart makes a ka-plop as it falls, lemony side-down of course, on cold, hard concrete. A Yorkshire Terrier squeaks as the weight of a Stanford Info leaflet drifts gently past its ear.
Many faces all turn sharply in one direction and reflect absolute horror. Well, OK, not horror… more a face-mash of wonder and consternation, lightly garnished with escalating anxiety.
Stanford’s children, practically all of them and from every corner of the village, are coming down Queen Victoria Street. And not just strolling, as they usually do in that somewhat directionless we’re-not-quite-sure-where-we’re-going-but-we-are sure-we’re going-to-have-fun way that Stanford’s children appear to have perfected. No. Not at all. Not today.
Children and I are on the same wavelength. I adore them. They tend to love my company. We play. The child is strong within me. None more so than an adorable pair who are the children of a friend.
These girls, my “Gargoyles”, and I went to Platbos Forest the other day so that I could take some photographs of them for a project I’m working on. I want to produce a set of three images for a conceptual artwork which might illustrate the spiritual path of children.
R & S have walked a very difficult path without their father. I imagine it has been both heartbreaking and strange. And the strangeness was there when we entered Platbos Forest for the photo-shoot.
My “Out of The Hat” column, first published in Stanford River Talk, the quite extraordinary little local newspaper that serves (and I mean serves) my village – April, 2013.
I STEP out of the shower I share with large frogs, even bigger spiders, any size and number of exquisitely hand-painted moths and and am immediately enveloped by the heat once more.
Sipping the dark, bitter remnants of last night’s sweet, black tea, I feel the mountain-dew breeze diffusing through the fly-defying mesh of the screen door and on to my chest, prickling my still-damp skin with it’s early autumn cool-creep.
The vista from my front door is the same, as always. In that is is constantly changing. The aimlessly scudding clouds, the groping, gripping mist and the love of the light all conspire to create new mountain edges, resketching a familiar landscape in my mind. Doves clatter inconsiderately through the leaves into the tree, just outside my wonky gate, where they have chicks to feed.
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.
It was my day off – released from the pixel-searing underbelly of The Argus building – so I hopped on a spray-paint-clad carriage for Kalk Bay.
One of those gloriously still and sunny days occasionally gifted Cape Town by the whimsical windstreams and K Bay showed its most flirtatious face.
I lunched in the heart-warm bosom of the Olympia – and within perfume range of the delightful Dame Janet Suzman – before unleashing my camera on myriad shadows, reflections and warmly-lit walls.
It was then that it dawned on me that we might have wriggled free of winter’s grasp… and, when I saw this young boy playing on the wall of the tidal pool next to the seemingly ancient Brass Bell, I mused that summer had indeed kicked off.
Pic: Hatman Photography
Shot. But so, too, did summer’s wicked wink shoot by and grey drizzle returned the following day. No matter. I had captured in my mind’s eye the golden glow of a majestic and memorable day and that will sustain me until my return to Stanford. And the promise of diving naked off the Jetty of Love into the Klein River by the light of the moon.
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