Written in December 2006
Comfort and joy
Suddenly it is the 21st December. Summer solstice. The longest day of the year in the southern hemisphere. And the beginning of the end of what seems to have been the most agonizing, frustrating but extraordinary year of our lives. Our guest lodge, after a lengthy and difficult confinement, is born…15 weeks late. We are finally open for business.
At sundown this evening, alone at last on our ‘upper deck,’ our stunning crow’s nest of an outside dining area, we fondly gazed at our green and serene surroundings. Over the past few months we have seldom had time to appreciate what a lovely elevated spot this house occupies: sweeping views up to the Sparrebosch hills and across to the Knysna Heads; the majestic trees, our beautiful garden, sun decks and swimming pool.
We cracked a bottle of sparkling Krone Borealis (keenly priced at R45.99 from Pick & Pay) and drank to the health and future success of our new enterprise.
Sunset this evening was a fitting finale to midsummer’s day. The sky, azure blue since dawn with nary a cloud in sight, took on a wonderful hue of deep tangerine. A colour unique to this part of the world. A true African sunset – and it was marvelous. The trials and tribulations of the building and decorating horrors we have had to endure for the past 10 months began to fade in the soft, pale light.
I wandered down after dark to our new lapa. It’s a small timber and thatch shelter at the bottom of the garden next to the pool. It looks a bit like a small bandstand – all it needs is a string quartet to complete the scene. The construction was fascinating. It took four guys two days and something like 2,000 bundles of reeds (from Albertinia, about 200km away) to complete the thatching.
As ever, it was not without its problems. They decided to cover the ‘top-knot’ with chicken wire. It looked like one of Ena Sharples’ cast-off hairnets and we were not amused. The foreman agreed that it did not look at all lekker and they returned the next day to create a more ‘natural’ looking ridge to the roof. But, despite their best efforts, it still looks a bit odd and resembles an ill-fitting toupé. But the overall effect is nice.
We have just received our Knysna Tourist Board accreditation – a certificate and special loerie-infested window stickers, to boot. They are confident that they will be able to send us guests as early as next weekend. We got the same response from a privately-run tourist booking booth in town. So, fingers crossed, we’ll have a full house for New Year, even though we’ve missed the Christmas rush. We’ll be applying to the Topurism Grading Council of SA as soon as we can to get our ‘stars’, we’re aiming for 4!
Knysna is again heaving with visitors, mostly from other parts of SA. Every day is like August Bank Holiday in Brighton and, with traffic and supermarket queues at a crawl, it’s a real mission just doing the grocery shopping and buying last-minute items from the local hardware and homeware stores. I’ve paid so many visits to these establishments over the past few months that I’m now on first-name terms with most of the staff.
The Schroders invited us to their house for Christmas dinner. “We’ll be there with jingle bells on!” we replied. If we stay at home, it’ll feel like just another day at the coalface. We badly need a bit of fun a gaiety.
Our neighbours, Wendy and Neville from across the road, have taken the ‘10 rand tour’ of the house and are amazed at the transformation. We’ve asked them to join us for supper on Christmas Eve.
Our family grows
We have staff! A friend of a guy (we call him John-the-grass) who has a kind-of landscaping-cum garden rubbish removal business, introduced us to a lady looking for a job. I held a very informal interview in the lapa a couple of weeks ago. With all the banging and drilling going on in the house it was the only quiet place available. I liked her immediately.
Her name is Annie. She is, of course, African and from Knysna. She refers to herself as being ‘brown’, rather than black. We find this all very confusing. Annie spent a few years in Cape Town working in a retirement home and also for another English family in Knysna who recently returned to the UK. So she’s used to our unusual attitudes, funny accent and strange ways! She’s bright, talkative, friendly and speaks terrific English … plus Afrikaans, Xhosa and smattering of Zulu. She’s currently here three days a week, but will join us full-time (5 days) from Jan 2nd. She works very neatly and methodically – though a bit slowly at times – and is doing a fine job in making everything in the house and guest accommodation gleam and sparkle.
She loves working in our house. Not surprising really as coming here has been a bit of a bonanza for her. As well as a modest Xmas bonus and some small gifts for her and her kids (she has four boys), she has been given several large carpet off-cuts for her home, many items of bedlinen and a whole bagful of clothes. She’s asked God to bless us so many times that we’re starting to detect a feint glow above our heads. She certainly seems very appreciative of the things we’re able to pass on to her.
Our second employee is Mike (proper name Remus Siwande) our Malawian gardener. He’s been working full time at our friends’ guesthouse and they have agreed to share him with us. He comes here on Tuesdays and Thursdays and has been ‘busy with it’ – planting, mowing, clearing and shoveling great mounds of gravel. He agreed to a bit of overtime last weekend helping us move furniture and unpack boxes of stuff we haven’t seen for 14 months! Some of our possessions were something of a revelation to him – such as paintings, photographs and ornaments. He was particularly taken with a couple of model fishing boats and was totally enthralled by the iMac computer!
He’s a nice lad (30 is a lad to us) and although his English isn’t nearly as good as Annie’s, we get along fine. He doesn’t drink or smoke and lives alone up in Nekkies as his wife and four-year-old daughter are still in Malawi. I feel rather sorry for him, especially at this time of year. His shack is now carpeted with our off-cuts as well!
So it’s comfort and joy all round this Christmas.
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