Sunday, May 23, 2010


The school Kermis happened last weekend. We were very busy and a trifle stressed - and to top it all I had flu. Looking back I think my flu added something to the Kermis experience. I have always been one who suffers from fevers. Rudolph Steiner is very positive about all that - saying something along the lines of fevers helping on to move from one milestone to the next. I think I believe him.

I had been asked to do decorate Grade 10's stall - the Teetuin - probably because I bailed when it came to having any talent in baking - peppermint tert, melk tert, souttert or any other tert. I went at it with a will, basically packing up my kitchen, and raiding others' farmyards - stating that the theme was going to be 'Shabby Chic' or 'Oumas Kombuis' or something along those lines.

L and I arrived to set it all up at 6 in the morning. It was still dark and I was coughing, but we both felt a strange excitement, which we realized, watching the pink and orange sun rise, was because we felt like we were on a shoot. With the car piled high with decor bits and pieces, we could have been rushing ahead of the actors, cameramen and crew - memories of another life lived, not so long ago. Still, a teacher arrived with a huge abundance of lavender hacked from her farm garden - which provided the final finishing touches to a rather quaint tea garden setting - even if I do say so myself. Feverishly working took on a whole new meaning, and it was only 7 o clock!

I worked at that stall until about half past one, dimly aware that I was surely doling out my virus with just about every cup of coffee, tea and slice of lemon meringue I served. I doubt if I have ever spoken Afrikaans so well, it peeled effortlessly off my tongue, together with some English for the visiting few.

L slaved away over a hot braai all day at Grades 7's stall. I wandered over at some point seeking anything that was not sweet and we shared a sosatie amongst the smoke. By 2 I was feeling pretty grim. We had sold out every slice of every tart or cake, and I had been released to teeter to the side lines to watch the match of the day - the first rugby team playing some school from PE. I don't, as a rule do rugby, but somehow a casual glance turned into total involvement, and I found myself joining THAT mother (every school has one) who paced the line cheering like a banshee. Only I was hoarse to begin with, but I joined my croak where I could. Probably it was because of 'my' koshuis boys who were playing and I care about, suddenly. It all ended in fisticuffs and a yound lad being carried of on a kermis table with his neck in a brace in the true spirit of the game. He is okay now, thank God.

I heard from someone before I left, to go and climb into bed, that our stall had won, being the best in terms of decoration. My head was spinning, but I felt absurdly happy about that as I sank down into the pillows.

This Saturday morning saw us rising up to attend yet another Fees - this time in Misgund. Autumn is busy being particularly fine and we drove the half hour, with orchards turning yellow and red on either side of the road. All these fairs are Harvest Festivals really, held by the NG Kerk in the small dorpies, and the Misgund Fair was no different. We bought pockets of oranges very cheaply, homebaked bread and the obligatory roosterbrood, pancakes and bakkie of curry and rice. We sat with friends and drank coffee out of styrofoam cups, while Georgia cheered on the first netball team which all her friends play in. The music was loud , and is the one thing I struggle with. Platteland dorpies have a certain taste in music which takes me back to those 'Springbok Hits' records of the 70's - something I had pleasantly forgotten - until now. L and I had enough pretty quickly, but we left Georgia to hang around and hitch a ride home with a friend. Looking back I saw her with her new gang, demonstrating her skill in throwing up popcorn and catching it in her mouth!
There is little sophistication in the Langkloof, I thought, regretting not having had a portion of 'Bazaar Pudding'. Never mind, there might be another Fees next weekend, and we will be there.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Home and away

Things are hotting up here in Joubs. Life, in a small town can get claustrophobic, especially when you, your husband and your children all 'work' at the same place. The school and the koshuis (the foodhouse - how appropriate!) are consuming us all at the moment.
A month to go until it all closes down, but till then we have to get through
- teething problems at the koshuis (I am being euphemistic here - you understand!)
- writing exams (the children)
- setting exams (L)
- practical drama exams (yours truelly)
- marking tests, tasks and exams (my darling L)

So, last weekend we headed out, L and I. For weeks I had been muttering about needing to be in a city, be amongst people I don't know....
And whining on about seeing the sea, like some landlocked sailor, or wind blown seagull tossed way off course.
A solution presented itself - a meander to Port Elizabeth. We left the children, they had no desire for shops, or even for sea breezes. I am very fond of PE, having grown up there. It is, as someone said, a ten minute city, although many also say that they lose direction there, get lost. I could never get lost, feeling it is only those Capetonian types who are used to steering their vehicles by the rudder of that huge mountain that get disorientated.
Port Elizabeth has only a blue sky horizon, but I love its hills and kloofs gashing their overgrown, green way through its centre, under bridges and cutting relentlessly through suburbs.
I am not a shopper, and I was no sooner in a mall than I wanted out. Out, out to the sea again....the wonderful sea and the sky.
L and I ate fish and calamari and drank wine in a sort of swanky restaurant with a glorious view of the sea, so close we could smell it! And towards the end, with my head light from wine and sea air ,I too leant on the balcony railing as a pod of over 50 dolphins blessed us with their presence. I watched them, as others ran down to the waters edge, and stopped there, unable to get closer. Wonderful, untouchable they were, arching over the waves, unconscious perhaps, but everyone thought they had come just for them, probably, before they headed out to the deep sea.

Anyway Port Elizabeth was never going to be big enough for me right now. I think I have a longing for a place like London, Paris, maybe even New York!

But nothing like that is possible right now, so we returned, having found a Twee Rivieren friend parked in the carpark next to us. Home was definitely not far away.

This weekend was the Krakeel Bazaar. The dominee told us it is not to be missed. That morning we took too long, arriving at 11 when it had started at 10. Just about everything was sold out. But Krakeel is a pretty place, apart from its entrance through the poverty area, but the houses are quainter that Joubertina, the church hall all old stone, with a huge shady tree. We bought braaivleis and roosterbrood, all other tables were stripped bare, everything having miraculously vanished. Still, the company was good (Krakeel attracts, it seems, some 'kunstig' folk ), and we settled down on kitchen chairs outside - like so many people in Provence, and waited for the auction to begin. It was an amusing one, obviously providing an event whereby the locals can make largish donations to the church by paying R700 for a very ordinary tart, or R250 for a bottle of outlandish green witblitz.
A friend of ours bought one of those bottles, and we all sniffed it, before the daring amongst us sipped some from the bottle lid ( the sun was only just over the yardarm...) They declared themselves disappointed, the sip not having delivered the expected kick of a mule. They muttered that they expected that only peppermint flavour had been used - the dominee was particularly down at the mouth!

We had to leave early, exam papers awaited us.
It might not be New York, I thought to myself, but in terms of a cultural experience this life rates quite highly.
Tucking into my cold chop and roosterbrood at home I felt quite satisfied, and determined to have some of that green poison next time I visit!

Thursday, May 06, 2010


We now officially live in Joubertina - or Joub Joubs as we affectionately call it. Thats a surprise - for us ,I mean. We never intended this to happen. We came to the Langkloof to live in Twee Rivieren. We left Cape Town for Twee Rivieren. Our dream, our road led there. Our path, we believed, led there. Joubertina was just the nearest dorp, a mere 5km away, a place we would buy supplies. Nothing more. It just goes to show...

Joubertina is not a pretty place really. It is flanked by wonderful mountains on either side, the Tsitsikamma and the Kouga, and deeper in, the Baviaanskloof. The main street is forsaken, litter strewn. There are no tree lined sidewalks, like other dorps, no quaint shops. The signs are mostly those red ones, sponsored by Coca cola. The shop fronts are uninspired. No broad stoeps here, no broekie lace, no shady tables under trees.

We have lived in Greyton. Picture postcard perfect as it is, one wanders down the oak lined lanes, browses in the many interesting shops, sips real capuccinos at a variety of restaurants and coffee shops. Not so Joubertina.
In search of koeksusters the other day, I went and stood in the queue at the take out chip and burger place where they are available, freshly made from a stainless steel bowl next to greasy frankfurters. I was surrounded by people from Africa, maybe Zimbabwe, Malawi or South Africa. I loved it, paper strewn, jostling, loud. Many, I suppose, would not.

Joubertina is that kind of place. A koeksuster kind of place - bought at the greasy spoon on the main road.
Actually you really have to know the locals in order to know where to buy things.
I have compiled some examples to clarify:
- the most beautiful bunch of exquisitely fragrant roses (VERY cheap - I believe) bought for me by L from the local hairdresser.
- homemade rusks, aniseed or buttermilk - we buy weekly from the shop that also does hair (a different hairdresser), sells coffins , milktart, bully beef and organises my contact lenses!
- the cheapest and best cheese is to be had from the local haberdashery store, who does clothing alterations, serves tea and satisfies all our stationery and small gift requirements.
- one of the best caterers in town takes orders from her place of employment - the bank!
- the cheapest and freshest milk - straight from the cow is available from the hardware store, who also sells second hand furniture. Fresh spinach is also often on offer!
- all laundry requirements are met by a take out shop, advertising pies and chips on a blackboard outside.
- I have found some great second hand clothing from a shop in town, and if there is nothing for me that day I can always buy some homemade jam, wool or fresh herbs in pots!
- immediate medical emergencies are normally diagnosed and prescribed for by the local pharmacist
- all clothing requirements are met by the three shops owned by neither Afrikaans or English speaking Chinese - ofcause they also sell radios, TVs and bicycles
- a courier service is run from the car repair shop who also meets all glass requirements and
- there is a great little deli at the liquor store

We know that there are many other services still to be discovered, but as all is not immediately obvious it is by word of mouth, and that word is definitely an Afrikaans one.
Anyway, we now live in the prettiest street in town - a long one that includes the school, the church, the dominees house, doctors surgery, the clinic and the sport field at the end. The people are pretty real. What you see is what you get. Mostly they are 5th or 6th generation, with hardly a transplanted city person in sight. We know all the English folk. And they, the towns folk, farmers, shop owners and everyone else it seems, knows us.

The people are friendly to us, allowing me to speak my very poor Afrikaans, rather than speak English. They just don't, speak English I mean. Everyone can understand it very well though.
Twee Rivieren, the home of all the English inkomers is often visited by us and our children. They all remain our closest friends. We miss them all, but with much to do, and much to keep us entertained, we are doing nicely here in Joubs!