Howick, about 25 kms from where I live, is a very nice, one-horse town in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. I say this not because it is particularly attractive but because the people I meet there always seem to be so very friendly and besides that, there’s a reasonably good selection of shops and restaurants in the town. When I get gatvol of the Spar supermarket in the village with their badly stocked shelves, overpriced and past the sell-by date goods, I tend to head into Howick to do my shopping. First stop is the good old-fashioned hardware store and I usually have quite a long shopping list for this stop. I love this treasure trove with everything and the kitchen sink crowded into it. I inevitably land up buying all sorts of odds and ends that are not on my list but that I know will come in terribly handy one day, like a set of lovely enamel ramekins that I haven’t used yet but I think will make excellent dishes for baking eggs in (not that I’ve ever baked an egg), and a miniature dust pan and brush, and a little tin bucket full of clothes pegs, etc.
The next port of call is Hopewell’s Farm Supplies where I buy bird seed in bulk (mixed fowl food for the francolins, or rather spurfowl as they are now called – whoever came up with that name ought to be shot at dawn – and wild bird seed for the rest). Next is a pit stop. I’ve learned never to shop for food on an empty stomach, so I make my way to a little café, charmingly called Chinwag, next to the Woolies food shop. This café is a gem. It is spotlessly clean, the food is freshly prepared and it is incredibly reasonably priced. An acceptable cappuccino with a slice of French toast, bacon and grilled banana costs R50. This is where I catch up on international celeb news because they have back copies of Hello! magazine. I found out yesterday that Kate Moss got married last year so I’m still in the loop, unless of course she has since got divorced.
Once I’m fed and watered, it’s off to Woolies, the French bakery (for a baguette and pain au chocolat for me) and the home industries shop (for a Bakewell tart for Edna) before ambling home along the Curry’s Post road.
I’m not surprised that Howick has become quite a popular place to retire to. It is full of retirement villages all called Amber something. Some of them have really good views over the Umgeni Valley and I suppose one could do worse than to end up in one of these old-age settlements. I heard that one of my aqua ladies bought a house in Amber Valley for R3 million, so I don’t think I’ll be retiring there anytime soon.
Our Durban house went on show last Sunday and I went down to Durban for the weekend to make sure it was looking its best. My friend and neighbour, Vicky, who has impeccable taste, especially when it comes to décor, came over to help me jazz things up a bit. She brought armfuls of cushions which she plumped up on our sofas and added some of her beautiful orchids to our living room. She tweaked and adjusted the existing furniture and decorations and made the house look absolutely lovely. If we weren’t trying to sell it, I would’ve bought it myself. There were lots of positive comments about the house but unfortunately, the only purchase offer made was from a woman wanting to buy Vicky’s orchids!
25 years is a long time to live in one house and it serves as a kind of memory bank of our family life there. Each room seems to hold in store a bunch of images of my past life in the house – the hole in the floor which Layla chewed when she was a puppy, the bathroom where I used to bath Alex when he was a baby, the desk in Kiera’s bedroom where she used to sit all curled up at her computer, the lounge where we would gather for tea at 4 o’clock and watch Rugrats and Hey Arnold together, the spot on the front veranda where Ted used to sit in the warmth of the afternoon sun while Edna trimmed his hair. I thought I had moved on when I relocated to the country but I still get choked up at the thought of the old house no longer being there for us or us for it; that Kiera and Alex won’t ever sleep in their old bedrooms again and that there won’t be any more gatherings in the kitchen and on the back veranda. It’s hard to let go.
That’s not to say I don’t love my new house. I am very happy here and looking forward to starting a new life with Peter in the country. But, as I’ve said before, I’m just not very good at saying goodbye.