Formerly 'Rambling with a cantankerous old mule"
I was born in Pretoria, South Africa; I grew up here, went to school here, and once again find myself here (temporarily, I hope). When I was a child we used to go on holiday to two main destinations – Nature’s Valley in the Cape and Durban in Natal. Durban was just six hours away by car, but Nature’s Valley was a whole day’s drive.
We owned a station wagon; my dad would pack all the suitcases in the boot, then lay a board and mattress on top of them, which we three kids would sleep on. Our maid, Elizabeth, would get the back seat and off we would set in the middle of the night. It was a real adventure of a holiday.
But the main drawcard to the Nature’s Valley vacation was the family we would meet there every year. They had three children, including the youngest – my special friend Linda. Like ours, Linda’s family lived in Pretoria too (less than 4km from our house) but we hardly ever saw them there. And I guess that’s what made our holiday friendship so special.
They owned an A-frame double-storey house a block away from the beach, while we rented a house just across the road from theirs. As I write this I can almost smell it; leading to a flood of memories … Memories of our Nature’s Valley Amateur Dramatic Society plays; of clandestinely eating Milo (a hot drink) powder out of the tin; of the tin-can telephone stretched between our two top-floor balconies; of picnics on the sand; of the Big Run from the lagoon to the first line of rocks; of the wooden walkway that snaked through the strandveld and fynbos to the sea; of Easter-egg hunts; of treks to the rocky cove; and of the friendship between Linda and me entwined in all the memories …
Looking back, most of the photos of the two of us have us building sand castles or playing in the rock pools – which was our make-believe home complete with bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and lounge. I remember one time when we built a volcano, with a smoking chimney. Others on the beach weren’t as excited about our creation as we were. I know who was the creative genius between us when it came to our sand sculptures. And it was not I.
I remember her playing Beauty to my Beast in one of our plays …
And then we grew up. Our family went to Nature’s Valley less and less and it would have been plain weird if Linda and I had carried on playing in rock pools together ad infinitum … I saw her now and then over the years – she even went to my Matric Dance (something like the Senior Prom, I guess) with me. And eventually – in the mid 1990s – we lost touch completely.
But the memories remain – special memories of a childhood enjoyed together.