Go on, increment the last digit of that dubious, ethereal placeholder and pretend that something momentous has happened. What can we deduce from that number? At least, according to the Chinese calendar, it’s going to be the “year of the monkey”. Now that sounds curious – a year characterized by a mischievous and clever animal. Perhaps I can harness 2016 of them to sit down at 2016 typewriters in the hope they can write a decent blog entry. Sorry, but details are a bit hazy this week. Pictures are a little thin too, but if you’re in search of visual satisfaction, I’m offering a written form a picture, a poem, newly installed in the “doggerel” link above.
A day in the life
You know the problem with all those monkey typists? They don’t sit still for longer than 5 seconds. And I can sympathize. Recently I’ve begun work, and if I have any reason to complain (and I don’t) it’s that I am having trouble adjusting to an ass-based lifestyle. I have devolved from Homo erectus to Homo sedentarius all in the name of a paycheck. Whereas for the last year or more, my horizontality was well-earned at the end of a physically-demanding day, now my fatigue is more of a mental sort, and at night my little monkey brain dreams of spending my days endlessly swinging through the jungle, freed from the confines of the desk, while I feed myself bananas gripped by my tail.
But it’s not all bad. In fact, it’s not bad at all. In actual fact, it would be utter sacrilege to suggest I am not one of the luckiest monkeys in Africa. I now earn a respectable income from the comfort and quiet of my dining room table. When I do need a break, I walk about three metres, open the door and am enveloped in the bright, warm embrace of the African sun. I have ample time in the mornings and evenings to tend to the garden and walk a few miles with Bruno, and generally enjoy a quality of life most medieval kings would have envied. Even, I suspect, medieval monkey kings.
So given it’s start, I can’t help but be optimistic about 2016. Although traditionally a retrospective is in order, it’s already a bit late for that, and if you’ve been following for a while, you probably know quite well how we spent our time last year. It was a blessed year, a year in which I must have borrowed against my karmic balance for at least the next three lifetimes. Cognizant of this, we started to address this imbalance in mid-December with a looong-overdue braai in honour of our first building team, our masons. These were the guys who dug trenches, slung concrete and generally convinced the ground to yield to our insistence that a house would be put there. They got us started. Their energy was the catalyst in this whole reaction, the answer we needed to our question “can we even do this?”, and I hope our offering was ample reward.
By then it was mid-December, and here in South Africa firms and schools were closing for the Christmas season. Everything was winding down; it seemed as if the fairy dust of festivity was being carried far and wide by the winds. I could sense it too, and welcomed a couple of weeks away from my insatiable to-do list. I had already completed a day of orientation with my new employer, and needed time to re-orient myself towards a more mental occupation; i.e. remembering how to code. But, we had also invited a large group of people to join us for Christmas holidays, and that meant the upstairs bedroom had to become at least inhabitable. Until now it had served wonderfully as a workshop and general storage space, but with the impending installation of new flooring there, we had to work quickly to finish the remaining painting and then clear everything out of there. At the end of the week, floor installed, we rewarded ourselves with a trip to the ocean and I “sourced” a Christmas tree locally. The Christmas week would see me watching the skies for reindeer alone, though, as Kogie was once again serving a week of night duty. No problem – I still had plenty to do and when the big Day did come my excellent neighbours took pity on me and invited me to DeHoop nature reserve, where I spent the day walking, biking, and swimming. No cacophonic carols, no insipid eggnog, and no triptophan hangover (but I still miss those things!)
The privilege of being able to swim in the Indian Ocean is another thing to be thankful for. The Atlantic, too, has its charms and during the more scorching days, is hard to resist. Fortunately I have another option much closer by, and that is a lovely dam belonging to those same excellent neighbours who took me to DeHoop. Rather, it will soon no longer be theirs since the sale of that piece of land, but during this interregnum (and weeks of 35 degree heat) I took advantage regularly, and even tested Bruno’s tolerance for water (he has none). Late December was brutally hot, though the evenings were blissful so a dip followed by a braai and star-watching became a regular habit. These are quintessential African experiences, and with good reason.
The following Monday saw the return of Kogie and the kids, and then a day later the arrival of six more guests – family of Kogie’s from out east, who had already been sight-seeing in Cape Town for the few days prior. Now it was time for a taste of the Overberg and so another trip to DeHoop, followed by Cape Algulhas (the southernmost tip of Africa) got us off to a good start. The next day, the last of 2015, was Hermanus and then some beach time nearby. I think the thermometer reached 40 Celsius that day, so the cool currents of the Atlantic were just the thing. That night it was the biggest crowd yet at the Blue Crane Cottage, as it was all of us plus our neighbours and another local couple. The liquors flowed freely, we enjoyed a lovely fusion of braai and some of Kogie’s dishes, and although most of the fireworks were pretty tame, we did send off one really big banger which provided a fitting climax to an unforgettable year.
And then the sun rose on 2016. It rose and rose, and much later, so too did the inhabitants of Blue Crane Cottage. Easy days followed – Bruno surprised us all by demonstrating a pretty decent, if not panicked, breast stroke in the dam. Our eastern guests made their way home, as did Kogie and clan shortly thereafter. A quiet satisfaction followed their departure; it was wonderful to have filled this place with other people. Normally this house barely tolerates my lonesome presence – even the echoes sometimes don’t bother answering me – but during this short week it lived up to its potential.
However, now it was to become my workspace as well – just one more week of freedom before I started my engagement in earnest. So, tyre wall it was. I paced myself again, but managed to do 33 in the week and it’s now 6 courses high, and should prevent almost all possible erosion. There’s quite a potential for planting there, too, and during summer it’s not even shaded out by the house. The other beds near the nursery are also doing nicely too. I never fenced them off and am quite amazed that the local critters have left my pumpkins and gem squash alone.
So now, with almost a whole month of paid work under my belt, my dreams of glorious orchards and intricate canal systems are starting to seem less like fantasy and more like a recipe for how I’ll spend my next 48 weekends. I hope your year looks equally exciting – Happy 2016, I hope the monkeys smile upon you!