My Old Dutch

We’ve been togevver now for forty years,
An’ it don’t seem a day too much

Well not quite, I’ve been a wife for 34 years and to be honest, it doesn’t actually feel that long. Although when I look at our wedding photos, I find it hard to believe that we’re the same people. Peter and Alex came up to the farm on Friday and we had a lovely evening sitting on the front veranda while Alex cooked us supper on the braai. On Saturday, which was our wedding anniversary, we went for lunch at a restaurant just outside Howick, called Tumble Downs,  where we had a very pleasant afternoon, eating and whiling away the hours under a huge oak tree. It’s one of the few places here in the Midlands where one can sit outdoors and have beautiful views of the Karkloof Valley. And the food was damn good too, especially the Lindt chocolate fondant dessert. I could have had two but that would have been piggy.

CIMG0133_edited-1

chilling under the oak trees

Fortunately, instead of a medal (which I truly deserve) Peter gave me a fantastic new camera as my anniversary gift. I am absolutely gobsmacked at the difference in quality between the new camera and my old one, and hopefully you will be seeing better photos on my blog from now on.

After much toing and froing, Peter and I have finally decided to put our Durban house on the market. It’s not such a good time to do this as house prices are really low but we simply cannot afford to continue to maintain two homes, and the Durban home costs the most to run. This was not an easy decision to reach but I know that I could never voluntarily return to live in Durban and Peter has agreed that he can continue to work from the farm. I’m so pleased that we spent this Christmas in Durban with our very good friends. It felt like a fitting farewell to the old house, as we fondly reminisced about all the fun times that we’ve had there over the years. I was finally able to take leave of the house and accept that that chapter of my life is over.

Alec, Alex, Edna, Shirley, me, Judy, Peter and Annie

Alec, Alex, Edna, Shirley, me, Judy, Peter and Annie

As a result of this decision, I’ve been reflecting on how much I love living here and how I still don’t take any of it for granted. Every day, there seems to be something that happens that gives me pause for thought or causes me to marvel at the beauty of it all. Recently I spotted a crowned crane on my neighbour’s dam and rameron pigeons in my garden for the first time; and a few days ago I watched my other neighbours, the swallows, taking their chicks out for their first flight. But apart from the birds, there is always something appealing to catch one’s eye, whether it’s a flower or a sunset or the moon hanging low over the dam in the early hours of the morning.

coming in on a wing and a prayer

coming in on a wing and a prayer

And something else happened today which pleased me no end. After Peter and Alex had left, I had a visit from two young boys, the sons of Essa’s parents’ late domestic worker, Angelina. Angelina worked for them for many years and when they came to live on the farm, Angelina, her husband, Paulus (who worked as a petrol attendant in Nottingham Road) and their sons, Njabulo and James, moved into a little cottage on the property. Both Angelina and Paulus were devoted parents, the boys were charming and it was a pleasure to have this family on the farm. I remember Njabulo collecting crates of pine cones for us for kindling and he would bring them over in a wheelbarrow with James perched on the top. And Alex and Njabulo would play soccer together on our front lawn. Then Angelina fell ill. I asked my brother, Mike, who is a doctor, to come and talk to the staff about HIV/AIDs and ARVs. Afterwards, both Angelina and our farm worker asked to be tested.

We took them to the HIV/AIDs clinic at McCord’s Hospital in Durban where they both tested positive for HIV. This was about 8 years ago when there was no government support for HIV/AIDs. The days I spent sitting in that clinic with Angelina and our farm worker were very rough, it was particularly hard seeing young kids coming in ravaged by the disease. Eventually, after months of tests and TB treatments they were both finally put onto ARVs. Our farm worker thrived and is today as strong as an ox. Angelina was not so fortunate. Because she had also been infected with Hepatitis, the ARVs damaged her pancreas and she had to come off them. Eventually she was too ill to work and her family left the farm to live with her sister somewhere near Pietermaritzburg. Not long after that Paulus suffered a stroke and died, and 5 years ago I heard that Angelina had also died. I lost touch with the family when they left the farm. Neither Essa nor her parents kept in contact with them and I stupidly felt it wasn’t my place to interfere. It is something that I’ve always regretted and since Essa left the farm I’ve been thinking more and more that perhaps I should somehow try and find the children.

Then, out of the blue, they pitched up here today! I couldn’t believe my eyes. Since their mother died, they have lived on their own in a township called Elandskop near Pietermaritzburg. Their aunt lives near them and they do have a grandmother who lives near Howick. Njabulo (18) looks after James (12) and I must say it looks like he’s doing a good job. They were both well dressed and doing well at school (I was given the school reports to read) although the subjects they are doing are a total waste of time – tourism, mathematical literacy, life orientation – for fuck’s sake, what bloody good is that in Elandskop, or anywhere else for that matter?

We swopped cell phone numbers, I gave them some money and took them shopping in Nottingham Road for groceries. After filling the trolley with foodstuff I asked Njabulo if there was anything else he needed and he very shyly asked me if he could have some “Colgate”. I have to confess that this request almost reduced me to tears. I am certainly not in a position to support these two boys financially and fortunately Paulus did leave them the house and a pension fund of sorts. But I would like to help where I can, like helping to access them to grants which, up to now, they have been unable to get because the welfare office has been messing them around.

If perseverance is what’s needed to help them, then I think I’ve got what it takes, after all I’ve been married to Peter for 34 years.

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2 Responses to My Old Dutch

  1. Angie & Ken says:

    Have been meaning to tell you for months how much we enjoy your blogs Cathy but as usual procrastinate myself into a corner! Sorry you will be giving up your lovely home on the Berea but bear in mind there is always a bed for you and yours in Kloof if you need it. Here’s to a healthy and wealthy new year.

    • Cathy says:

      Hi Angie and Ken, lovely to hear from you. Quite a coincidence because I said to Peter this weekend that I was sorry that I had lost touch with you! I remembered Ken recommending Tumble Downs to me years ago, and this was the first time we’ve been there. So I was thinking of you when I tucked into my heavenly chocolate fondant. All the best for 2012 and thanks for the offer of a bed, very kind. And please DO come and visit, you have an open invitation to come and stay with us, anytime.

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