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Monday, 18 November 2013

Ramblings and Rumblings

It is a balmy afternoon in mid November in the redundant South African province of the Eastern Cape. The distant rumblings of thunderheads can be heard in the far North. They gradually become louder as the storm moves towards the farm, away from the Drakensberg and towards the sea. As it does so the wind starts to pick up ahead of the approaching roll cloud, and the first drops of rain can be heard hitting the tin roof of the room that serves as my office.

Just a few days ago I completed exactly forty years in southern Africa, years that have shaped much of my life. The approaching storm is typical of the summer storms that frequent the region. The rain becomes harder, louder. Soon it will be too loud to stay down in this end of the house and I will soon be forced to move to the lounge, to work from an armchair. This room I am in now is known as the lighthouse room, named so by Liz on account of the drapes and artifacts that depict so many of those phallic edifices. The rain is steadier now, and is accompanied by that fragrance that is so often found when the first of the rains meet the oh-so-dry ground.  

I move to the lounge and, by Murphy’s Law, the storm peters out, as so often happens with storms that come from that direction. Our two summer residents returned from their European home a few weeks ago – coincident with the equinox. This is their fourth visit, and is usually accompanied by a complete makeover of last year’s home. This year, as yet anyway, they seem to have decided not to rebuild. This pair of Lesser Striped Swallows chat to each other from a perch I made for them just outside out front door. On previous years they have had to rebuild their home, but this year they just seem to be spring cleaning the old one and using the two tunnels that serve as both entrance and exit. I am expecting that the female will soon be sitting on eggs – last year there were two fledglings. The male will spend most of his day catching insects and bringing them home.

The summer temperatures have kicked in – the other day it hit 95 in the shade, and at nearly 10.00 p.m. it is still in the high 70’s. We have had 170 ml of rain in the last few weeks – that’s 4 inches - much needed here in the Eastern Cape, where there has been a winter drought lasting several months. As a result, what was a parched and sun-burned lawn has suddenly burst into life, the kikuyu grass six inches high in places and a brilliant dark green. My gardener is a local man called Headman – a retired railway worker I believe. He rents a house from the railways at the old Martindale station and tells me he pays just R10 a month. He recently bought himself a Isuzu bakkie or truck and has been using it as an illegal taxi. I get the impression that this new role has made him too important to cut grass for the likes of me. However I understand that his truck is undergoing repairs in Port Elizabeth, so maybe I can get him to come and cut the lawn next week.

I have decided to start selling off some of the larger items of furniture that remain in the house – after all there is no way they are going overseas once it is sold. I have dropped the asking price on the house as far as I can. Now that Liz has a job and a car, there is no longer anything to keep me in this country. Much of the house is already boxed up and awaiting the freight company. I can’t wait for the day when I can say “I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Kapriviersberge hills”. Whoever buys will be getting the bargain of the Century.