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Friday, 27 December 2013

The Silly Season again

It's the Silly Season again. For six weeks during the school holidays Port Alfred will try to emanate Myrtle Beach. Of course the small coastal town in South Africa's Eastern Cape will never, never be anything to rival South Carolina's Grand Strand, but in terms of population per square mile it must surely do so. This is the time of year, from early December to mid January, when the town is full of vehicles and their passengers from all places north. They have traveled here from Gauteng, the Free State and Natal and even from such far away places as Mpumalanga and Zimbabwe. My local Spar has filled its aisles with extra goodies to cope with the increased demand from out-of-towners. In a few days' time you will not be able to find dog food or dish washing powder on its shelves - not until they start delivering goods again in early January. It's the same every year, but most locals such as me have taken precautions against the dearth of goods that always occurs about now by stocking up beforehand.

This was to be my last Christmas in Africa - soon I will be sailing my boat to colder climes, but at least will eventually be reunited with my family. Speaking of which - to us old-timers seeing out the autumn of our years, the Internet has brought families much closer together. Yesterday, on separate occasions, I got to video-chat with Liz, my wife, with my daughter Julie and her three kids Grace, Owen and Luke, all in Pennsylvania,, and with my sister Suzane along with her three kids Nick, Anna and Lisa and her numerous grandchildren in the UK, something that could never have happened 40 years ago when I first came out to southern Africa. The only problem is that the Internet speed here on the farm is so appallingly slow. I am going to be so spoiled by the download speeds I experience in other countries in the near future.

We all make mistakes - I know that I have made many, but many of our mistakes eventually turn out to have been for the best. For example I sometimes wonder whether it was a mistake buying this farm, but where else in the world can you find such a small corner of paradise, where else can you sit outside after breakfast and have two lesser striped swallows chatting to each other and to their newly fledged offspring perched nonchalantly less than two meters away. This year a sunbird built a nest on the wire perch that the swallows use - not sure which species as the bird that made and now occupies it (see above) is a very dull color and obviously a female. The farm abounds with birds and in clement weather is a continual orchestral interlude during the daytime. At this time of year, when there is water in the farm's two dams, the orchestra's players change at nightfall, the birds being replaced by frogs that continually call to each other during the starlit hours.

Talking of starlit hours - I have lived in many homes and traveled the world over, from Hong Kong to Wellington, through Europe and the Mediterranean and as far west as the Great North Woods. Only here, in Martindale, have I regularly been able to see this corner of our galaxy in such detail. This small community is a paradise for star gazing, even through the naked eye. By the time that I take my leave I will have spent eight happy years here, but just cannot spend any more time trying to sell the place. When deciding between family and property, family has to be the winner. If I have to start from scratch all over again, so be it. At least I have the satisfaction of knowing that I have a small but sufficient passive income to fall back on during my pending long journey.

A few weeks ago I was thinking that this would be a fairly lonely Christmas, my being all by myself in Martindale. Actually, being a free thinker, I don't really celebrate Christmas - rather Yule. But that's another story. However that expected solitude was not to be. My good friend Alberto from Bologna in Italy, together with his protegĂ© Jimmy, has been my house guest all week. It has been refreshing to have someone to talk with, and we have touched a wide variety of subjects. I know that I talk to Katie (my white shepherd) much of the time - but understandably that is a rather one-sided conversation, despite her being extremely intelligent and having a very sensitive nose. Katie will not be accompanying me on my pending voyage. My good friend and neighbor Wendell has offered to give her a good home - and I know he will. I just have to find a home now for my two inseparable cats. Any offers of a home to two neutered male cats that have been together for 8 years?