|Milkwood Glen: A relaxed environment.|
Since then, Estelle and I have moved from our timber cottage in the forest to a house bought by my son at Milkwood Glen, about five minutes walk from the sea at Keurboomstrand, near Plettenberg Bay. This is a beautiful verdant place with, as the name implies, plenty of milkwood and other trees. Trees, shrubs and flowers flourish here. We do miss our forest walks with the dogs (and sometimes the cats, too) and we miss the calls and sightings of the wonderful variety of birds, including the regular chatter of low-flying Knysna loeries. But being on the edge of the ocean brings within easy view a new collection of wildlife, most notably whales and dolphins.
|Wide open: Keurbooms Beach with Robberg on the horizon.|
Yesterday evening we had another surprise show of pure glory. As the sun set on Robberg peninsula, across the bay from us, a dead-calm ice-blue sea met a pink sky as the breakers rushed gently to shore. The colour of the distant Tsitsikamma mountains was a sharply defined deep blue. Berg wind conditions clear the air and bring the environment into sharp focus, retouching it with magical colours.
We returned to the beach this morning and the sea was as calm as it can be, softly ironed by the gentle north-westerly. But this time nature provided additional delights. Two whales wallowed serenely a couple of hundred metres out. An ocean safari boat soon arrived with a full load of red life-jacketed whale-watchers. But it was not an intrusion and must have provided those tourists with the kind of experience that is beyond description back in London or Berlin. The colours of the boat and the life-jackets reflected brightly in the still water as the whales showed a leisurely fin here and an unconcerned tail there. Back on the beach, the tide had strewn a million intricately detailed shells and we collected pockets full as we walked.
In the man-made past year, of course, the recession has bitten deeper for many of us. We resist, but it persists. Estelle is working some nights at the rehab in Plett and at the vet shop and surgery some days. I still have some newspaper work (and a very small pension), but, in Estelle's absence, I am now quite largely engaged in house-husbandry. Yes, house-husbandry, as in househusband instead of housewife. It’s an occupation which for some reason I don’t seem to mind too much and I even take some pride in washing up (it could simply be a socially accepted form of obsessive-compulsive disorder), hanging up the laundry, sweeping the patio and shopping for groceries. I try to approach these tasks with what Buddhists call mindfulness, which teachers say can be interpreted as “unconditional friendliness” towards what is happening in the present moment, and appreciating it for what it is, without judgment.
|Buddha: He likes cooling off in water.|
|Birthday hike: Estelle on Robberg on the eve of her 60th.|
Many people in this area are familiar with the financial struggle which can follow making a commitment to this most beautiful part of the world. It seems to breed a toughness and self-reliance – a kind of battle-hardened acceptance which lies side by side with a love of doing your own thing in a lovely place. If your fridge or TV needs attention, you don’t book it in for repairs with hundreds of others, or, better still, buy a new one. The repairman, who you know from the old days, comes to your house and fixes it with good humour and goodwill, and you pay him an undeniably fair sum in cash. And the appliance works better than ever.
Anyway, to get back to the point. My situation is such that I have been forced, or rather provided with the opportunity, to look at things differently. It’s all about perception. I’m learning to find “greater joy, deeper peace, more certain wisdom and more loving relationships”, in the words of an eminent spiritual teacher. But, of course, I’m still a student with common weaknesses.
|Concert time: Charley and Anna with Missy.|
I still write travel stories, as you can see below, but these days I prefer going to the many interesting South African destinations rather than doing long hauls overseas, even in business class and staying in fancy hotels. I cherish the memories of some of my overseas travel, but my tastes have changed. For example, thanks to Alex and his network of associates, in August we are going on a walking safari as a family with my brother and his wife, our children and their partners, in a remote part of Ngala private game reserve, staying in a tented camp complete with ranger, tracker and cook. Alex is a veteran ranger and professional tracker himself, so when we get into the bush we should know exactly what we’re looking for, and at.