THERE IS NO RUST IN …

Those of you who have moved to a new town will empathise with the difficulties one faces when seeking a home to purchase. An obvious priority is that the house must fit within one’s budget, yet there are many other aspects to consider. The real estate world drums out the message ‘location, location, location’ … in our case, having spent a considerable amount of time travelling between home and school, we were keen to find a house that would be within reasonable walking distance of the schools our children would attend, not only at the time but as they grew older. Then there was the matter of the railway line – in some towns the siting of a house on one side or the other can make a difference of one kind or another. Not here, the estate agent told us, happily pointing out that a judge lived here, an advocate there, a professor somewhere else … This estate agent had several houses on his books and took us to one close to the one we finally settled upon. I had spent a year living at the coast and had been horrified at how quickly everything rusted there. As most of the houses we had looked at didn’t have a garage or, if they did, not one large enough to house our trailer, gardening equipment and so on and the fact that our town is only about 60km from the coast, we inevitably asked “Is there a problem with rust?”

At the time the estate agent was standing at the end of the driveway of a house we had looked at and had his hand balanced on the post box affixed to a wooden pole. It was not this one, yet looked very similar:

He looked at us with a straight face – perhaps not aware of the irony – and declared “There is no rust in Grahamstown.”

Needless to say, we concluded the sale of our present home with someone who appeared to be a little more honest!

FOR MY GRANDCHILDREN

Once you cross the suspension bridge across the Storms River, you come to a very small boulder-strewn beach that boasts a variety of rocks that have been tumbled and smoothed by the action of the waves.

Over the years our four grandchildren have visited this beach and been fascinated by the size, shapes and colours of these rocks – and experienced the thrill of escaping the odd wave that is closer than they had thought.

We have listened to the magical rumble as the rocks roll over and clink together when drawn back by the sea, only to be pushed up the gentle slope by the next wave.

The magic of this beautiful place is best shared with the joy of watching my children, and in recent years, my grandchildren exploring the rocks, laughing as they too tumble over or calling out with glee when an especially beautiful rock / stick / piece of sponge is discovered. They built towers too – choosing their rocks with care. It was not the same without them this time. Instead, I sat on the warm rocks for a while and let my memories float about me, listening to the echoes of their voices and the all too distant sounds of their joy mingle with the splashes of the waves … And so it was, my dear, dear grandchildren, that I set about making a tower for all of you.

Every stone I used came with a memory of each of you – over and over. The tower will have been knocked over with the next high tide that brings waves strong enough and high enough to smooth out and level the rocks again. That does not matter for memories and love are much stronger than those natural forces. So, it was with each of you in my heart that I left this small tower behind – for all of you!

 

WAAINEK WIND FARM

The turbines making up the Waainek (meaning ‘windy corner’) wind farm along the Highlands road on the outskirts of Grahamstown dominate the skyline – much to the initial chagrin of residents in the area. One can get used to most things and so, over the years, they are regarded as part of the landscape.

The wind farm consists of 8 Vestas V112 – 3.075 MW turbines. These have a hub height of 84 m and a rotor diameter of 112 m.

Seen from close up each turbine is enormous!

This turbine looms ahead of an avenue of Eucalyptus trees on the Highlands road.

As they are all placed on top of the ridge, the turbines command a magnificent view.

Despite the many negative views that abound, there is a certain elegance about the turbines.

THE END OF WINTER

When winter ventures in everything looks sad, laments Tracey Blight in her poem The End of Winter. During our winter walks we have noted how the drought-stricken grass has turned to golden straw and, in places even disappeared. Some trees have been stripped of their leaves; and the regular winds still have a chilly edge to them. The end of winter is a sombre time – this year the edge of the sombreness has been honed to a keening for the social isolation that the COVID-19 pandemic has imposed upon us. Cheerful gatherings to ward off the dullness of the cold forbidden; even travelling to feast our eyes on distant places has been restricted; the greatest loss has been the pandemic-imposed distance between family and friends that has prevailed for so long.

In a way these steps in our street epitomise that loss:

There was a time when these old stone steps led up to a gate in a low wall that opened into a garden of happiness. I remember how the old man who lived there when we arrived in the neighbourhood used to bring a basket around after the rain to pick the large white mushrooms that popped up all over our lawn. We learned so much from chatting to him as he went about this task and I was warmed by him saying more than once “it is wonderful to hear the sound of young children in the neighbourhood once more.” Both the man and the mushrooms have gone.

I remember a time when these steps led up to a gate that opened and shut several times a day as children came and went: such happy days when friendship meant entrance without question. I recall bicycles being humped up and down those steps to be ridden around the streets accompanied by laughter and shouting. That family left; the children of the time have grown up – some already have children of their own; most have sought their happiness in other towns or even abroad.

It was with a deep sense of horror that I noted the workmen outside one day. The gate had been tossed aside and brick by brick the gap in the wall was filled. The plaster was roughly applied, leaving the outline of that hole still visible to the casual eye. The happy entrance has been permanently replaced by a dull, cement-covered wall – leaving only the drive-way as an entrance to a garden one can no longer peep into as one walks past. A fortress of a wall shouts keep out!

Yet, the rough stone steps remain – worn in places from foot traffic from decades past; a reminder of happier times, freer times and, alas, safer times when people mixed more freely and neighbours knew each other better.

Winter is not all drab and dull: we have enjoyed the aloes that brighten the landscape and now, as the season turns away from us, the scarlet blooms of the Erythrina trees brighten the mood and point us to spring peeping from the wings, still too timid to take full stage. Looking down too at the debris of leaves and seeds shaken by the winds that have roared and tugged and made us shiver, we can see beauty in the end of winter:

This collection of leaves in a gutter represent what has gone and should be forgotten, the sadness that will heal with time, as well as the hope we need to nurture as we face our uncertain future. We move to Alert Level 1 of the lockdown on Monday … along with brighter prospects, a new season, and hope – lots of it!

https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/end-of-winter/