Again, an old piece of writing about our return trip to the place I wrote about yesterday, this time in Winter.
We followed the ribbon of tar that leads upupup into Africa to the desert, drove past the Ugly Duckling Beauty Salon and looked into the Lucky Lips Café in the small town that boasts that it’s the cleanest town in the country.Then we left it behind us and drove through fields of bright green lucerne, to the even smaller town, the one that doesn’t even have a petrol pump, the one where Tannie Anna stood outside the bottle store, red guitar in hand.
To a cottage with thick stone walls and a fireplace, surrounded by stillness. I could breathe, huge lungsful of clear, crisp Winter air, the sounds of birds twittering. We ambled over to the pub, me with my book, G to watch the rugby upstairs. The view from my window looked like a painting – two adjoining fields, one golden, one emerald in the fading afternoon sun before the clouds came over, bursting with big, fat drops.
She’s from Holland, so doesn’t speak Afrikaans – the pretty girl that walked in looking for Oliver. He was upstairs, watching the rugby, but she sat next to the bar and ordered a tomato juice. It was taken to the kitchen and seemed to be taking an awfully long time, which we started discussing. I asked if she wanted a Bloody Mary, because it seemed that was what was coming and she told me that no, she couldn’t, because deep inside her a tiny foetus is growing. I clasped this secret information to my breast, a beautiful little glimpse into somebody else’s life, as I explained to the bar lady in Afrikaans, feeling protective of this stranger and her little secret burrowed inside her, that just tomato juice was required, no vodka.
We chatted for a bit, then I returned to my book until a disappointed-in-the-rugby G came down and we ate tomato bredie in front of the fire to warm our tummies and cheer her up. A young girl and her boyfriend were entertaining the boyfriend’s parents in the next room and she kept escaping and coming to chat, exclaiming they were the only two in the village under 50-year’s old. We spoke of longing to be in such a place and her boyfriend basically invited us to stay with them, desperate for young(er) company.
And then back to the little cottage with its fireplace and rietdak ceiling, the rain playing music on the tin roof. Even the manager was away for the weekend. Blissfully quiet, woken by birds and the sound of the church bells up the hill. Driving home we took a back road, through emerald lucerne fields dotted about with lambs, it was surreally beautiful and I wished not to go back to the city.
I received a letter on Stalkbook, from a friend from ‘varsity days, someone I’ve had no contact with for… ahem… years. It was a sweet, encouraging, letter and it was just what I needed to boot me up the arse and get me back onto this blog. I’m cheating a bit, and using some old writing, but I’m here. This is from a weekend trip I did with one of my best friends, a while ago:
I loved the window in the bedroom. It was tall and thin, like everybody in my family. Outside the window, which had shutters on the inside, was a white wall with the tendrils of a new, growing creeper peaking up and the branches of a big tree above in which birds tweeted.
That’s all we woke up to, the birds tweeting and the wind howling through the enormous eucalyptus trees in the garden. I could’ve sworn I heard Tannie Anna’s voice too, singing, carried on the wind, notes from her red guitar dancing like leaves on the wind’s breath.
We’d met Tannie Anna outside the Spaza shop when we drove into the town on Saturday. The golden wheat fields spat us out into a tiny town with a good feeling. It was like coming across a kindred spirit. There are fifty houses there, the Spaza shop, a bottle store (synonymous with Small Town South Africa) and a tiny restaurant. If you need petrol, you have to go 20km down the road to find it.
Tannie Anna and her husband are a tiny, wizened pair. They could be 40-years old, or 60. The cheap wine that they sell at the bottle store – in a plastic bottle resembling those containing vinegar – has turned their skin wrinkled and their eyes rheumy. She carries a red guitar that makes her look even smaller. As we stop the car, she comes up to it. The pair launch into an old Afrikaans folk song, their voices thin, but her strumming beautiful.
That evening I watched dusk come over while I read my book with a glass of wine outside on the stoep and G watched rugby upstairs in the bar with some locals. After the match they joined me, pulling me from my book.
What can be better than a Blue Sky Saturday trip on an open road that stretches as far as your eye can see?