2. Arrival

The morning of the 27th June dawned bright and early. It was a glorious day with glistening sunshine and cerulean blue skies. The pantechnicon arrived in park Villa Street, Observatory, at nine am, and by midday had loaded the possessions we had spent two weeks packing. This included amongst other things the giant elephant Johan had acquired in Zimbabwe, all our furniture, four suitcases and thirty carton boxes. Jinx was there too with her bakkie and that plus our car were filled to the brim with pot plants and sculptures, paintings, vases and the endless odds and ends one accumulates.

The drive to the farm was uneventful and we arrived full of joy and anticipation by one pm. The Loubsers’ were there and we all watched as the elephant was, with the help of six farmworkers, unloaded and placed on the stoep, looking out over the farmhouse garden. There it has remained to this day, something of an icon to farm visitors.

Johan’s giant Zimbabwean elephant being off-loaded

One item by one our possessions disappeared into the house : a couch, two chairs and a coffee table to the lounge, beds and suitcases to three of the six bedrooms, the dining room suite into the dining room, and boxes to the kitchen. What had been a full household vanished as if by magic into the huge farmhouse leaving just sticks of furniture in some of the rooms, and us somewhat daunted by the task of making this home Nonetheless we were over the moon and spent the rest of the day walking about excitedly in between unpacking things in a confused fashion.

Although the outside of the farmhouse was in good repair, the inside was in poor condition, with stained and shabby paint work and doors darkly varnished and chipped. The floors were scuffed and grey with wear so that one could barely see that under the dirt were actually oregon pine floors. Bathroom tiles were broken and dirty and the linoleum floor of the kitchen was pealed and buckled. But fortunately no structural changes had been made to the lovely house. It stood very much as it had in the late eighteen hundreds when it was built.

A rather sparse garden surrounded the house, although it did have eight beautiful old oak trees. The circular entrance road divided the garden and lead up to the front steps, and on the side of the house, there was a large sand area for parking cars. In the garden were additionally three beautiful quiver trees “Did you plant these?” we asked Basie Loubser. “Yes”, he replied. “They come from Namibia where our eldest son died during the Angolan war”. We later learnt, that this son had been the one of the three children who had been earmarked to farm – the other two children – a daughter and a son, who years later came out as gay, were not considered appropriate to pass on the farm. Old-school Afrikaners we learnt were full of prejudices.

The farmhouse and garden area were themselves situated in what was called the werf –which translates more or less to `yard’. Basically this farmstead area was a total mess of weeds and piles of half bricks and metal, old roof sheets, tires and untidy rolls of fencing. The area was bounded by a broken down cellar also dated late 1800’s, a workshop, four storage buildings and the remnants of a stable dating back to the late 1700’s.
It was all going to require a massive amount of work, but however huge the task, there was the sheer pleasure of being there. That evening as the sun was setting red and gold across Sonkop mountain I went out into the vineyards and raised my arms heavenwards, slowly turning around in a circle. This was our dream, our future, our home.