Saturday, December 19, 2009

Two Worlds

It is raining when we arrive . We pull up outside their house in Joubertina. Desmond and Garrie are gracious and friendly, inviting us in, out the rain.

We come at the invitation of Barnard, the dominee and his wife, Este. Lex and I have been reading Desmonds' letters from Krakeel, written in the early two thousands. They are written in Afrikaans, but even me, with my rather poor Afrikaans have appreciated the brilliance of the writing. Lex has explained subtle nuances, innuendos and word play that I otherwise might have missed.

We pause in the entrance room with Des. He is older now, a little shaky - and he fixes us beneath his gaze, with one particularly bright eye sparkling at us - we stand there and chat. We are surrounded by paintings, beautiful furniture, and soft carpets underfoot.

Garrie calls us in his soft Portuguese accented Afrikaans to join the party. We find them all in a busy kitchen and soon move through to another room, pink Camparis held high.

Here we settle and glancing round I take in a little of the art and artifacts that surround us. Garrie guides Desmond to a chair and he joins us, his conversation still bright, the twinkle in his eye winking at me. I feel totally somewhere else, here, under the high thatch, enclosed in other places. The world of Desmonds' travels and successes.

At table Garrie pads back and forth to the kitchen on bare feet, their two 'woefies' twirling round his feet like two large make-up brushes. The crystal glasses are heavy in my hand. The pink Camparis are followed by heady rose, the rose by vials of dry white wine that lingers on my tongue. We talk through mouthfuls of pancake mushroom starters, more pink in the maincourse ( what is it - delicious!). And end with berries and mousse ...

Through it all Garrie tenderly tends to Desmond, who shares of his life. On his other side is Este, Nordic, blonde Viking, beautifully assisting, bearing platters aloft. Sitting down she places a gentle hand on Desmonds arm. Desmond tells of the world of Peter Stuyvesant, and the Ruperts. And I think that he has surely lived his own byline - 'So much more to enjoy'.
And here we are, doing just that - in Joubertina.

By the time the coffee comes we have touched on all of them - the Strydoms of Krakeel (meaning Quarrel - like the sound of the waters that used to busily run through it). Desmond knows them all , is one. And here they have settled, back in the Langkloof. And those Langkloof tales, the Kritzingers, the Ferreiras, the Oliviers, are too many to tell, and they mix here, under the thatch with images of Europe, the Americas, Egypt...

The wine has mixed it all up and in the end we are fingering pottery Picasso-esque Portuguese figures, as Garrie dreams of them both one day living in Portugal. But thats not happening now, as he tends to a now tired Desmond, and I hear about little snippets of my own ancestors, the Tautes, also from the Langkloof.

In a sense we have something in common then, me also returning - feeling at home here from the big wide world. The 'woefies' do their swirl dance around us when we leave. Desmond braves the cold for us - it has stopped raining - and anyway he says it does not rain in the Kloof like it used to.

I have promised Garrie a pot of Basil - we spoke of Salad Caprese - and I heard them both invite us again. I want to go back.
To step off the Joubertina street and back under that cool high roof.
So many stories still to be told, by Des the once politician ( historically a Smuts man - and yes, he has the beard too) who once lost to the ANC by three votes. So, beloved by the people here also, obviously. The man who has known many a Dominee, many slain by his pen, others (especially Barnard) - encouraged.

I wish I knew them all - the characters that march through the pages of his writing - that spring to life. But I also have a sense now of a measure of suffering, maybe harsh words not only from him but towards him - mostly about his orientatation. His love.
A courageous man, living a life, then and now on his own terms - another extraordinary Langkloofer. How many more are out there?

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