Tag Archives: dogs

MYSTERY CHRISTMAS GIFTS by A M Smith ©


Boxing Day arrives in a burst of sunshine, decorated with a cool breeze and its obviously Beach Weather. So I grab my towel and cozzie, crank up the VeeDub, and  drive to Melkbostrand.  Because I’m an early bird, I actually find parking, and also a free patch of sand to deposit my towel, beach bag and book. My spirits lift. Christmas Day is always a bad day for me . Too many painful memories, no prezzies, no big family lunch, no …. Stop it, stop it, I scold myself, no wallowing! My eyes are watering.  I sternly tell myself focus on the seagulls, the gentle incoming waves, the ozoney-suntan oily smell of the beach.

There’s plenty of activity. People are being towed along the beach by ecstatic dogs on leads, some owners semi -running to keep up with their joyful dogs.

But  a huge St Bernard has other ideas, jerks free of the leash, and runs full tilt into an elderly lady sitting nearby, in an old fashioned striped canvas deckchair, complete with canvas canopy. She’s shrouded in towels, scarves, enormous sun hat, huge dark sunglasses,  long green skirt topped with a long-sleeved red and white striped shirt, and seemingly absorbed in her knitting.  So the express train weight of a runaway St Bernard capsizes the old dear, chair and all. Confusion reigns.

I dash over, kick the St Bernard who yelps and looks confused. I glare at the panting, red faced owner who has finally lumbered up, ineffectually waving his arms,  and too out of breath to do anything but make a feeble lunge for his runaway hound, who promptly takes off again, at speed.

I leave him to it, and set about righting the capsized chair and its bewildered occupant.

Once the old dear is set to rights,  reunited with hat, sunglasses, knitting, towels and cushions, I take a good look. She has the whitest skin I’ve ever seen. No wonder she’s shrouded  herself from the sun’s invasive rays. She’s even wearing red and white socks – in this heat.

“Thanks you, my dear,” she says slowly in  heavily accented English. “That was a surprise, for sure! Thank you for rescuing me.  My name is Klara. And your name, my dear?”

“Umm, I’m Susie. Are you here alone? Should I fetch you some water, or a coffee maybe?”  I gesture to the mobile coffee cart further down the beach.

“No, no, I’m alright, thank you. Just a little adventure. Nothing serious. Wait ‘til I tell Klaus. He will laugh a lot, I know,” she says cheerfully. She points to the surf where a sturdy  old man is emerging onto the beach.  He’s wearing striped red and white baggy boardshorts, has a green and white striped bandanna tied around his head. His   bushy, white beard cascades downwards, pushed upwards and outwards by his  splendid, solid tummy .

“Oh, Oh, Klara! I go for a swim and what happens? You are alright? “ Again the heavy  accent. German maybe? Or Scandinavian perhaps?

“Ja, Klaus,  I’m okay, Susie here chased away the dog and helped me up and all is well. Don’t worry,” and she beamed at her husband, who huffed out a big sigh of relief .

Klara hands Klaus a towel, and he starts to towel off.

“We do love the beach, especially after our hard Northern winter,” Klara informs me, “but I have to be careful of the sun. Klaus gets outside more than I do, so he can wear the swimming costume. And you, my dear? You are living here? You are very brown. So your skin is used to the African sun.”

Klaus  has departed with the beach bag towards the change rooms.

“You are here alone? Where is your family?”

“ Ummm – I …. I …. “ I can feel my eyes brimming.

“I’m so sorry my dear,” says Klara, removing her sunglasses, and examining me with a piercing, clear blue gaze. “Life is cruel, ja? It is  especially difficult at Christmas. But I will  remember you at Christmas time. Next year will be easier, I am sure”.

Tears well up again, and  “Sorry, gotta go, “ I mumble, “take care, look after yourselves, have a nice holiday.”

Klara nods, carefully replaces her glasses and resumes her knitting .

I stumble off in the direction of my bag, stop at the mobile cart for a coffee to regain my composure, and find a nearby sand dune where I can settle down to read. I look around for the old couple when I leave the beach, but they’re nowhere to be seen.

That was a year ago, and now its Boxing Day again.

On Christmas Eve I watched the Royal Command Variety show, drank too much whiskey, and went to bed too late. Even though I slept heavily I was vaguely conscious of a thumping and bumping coming from the roof. Burglars? Stray cats? My whiskey induced coma  held me captive in bed.

The strangest thing happened on Christmas morning.

I surfaced  pretty late, and once my blurry gaze cleared, I saw … At the end of my bed? No way!   A lumpy parcel wrapped in Christmas wrapping paper, tied with tinsel and sporting a prickly sprig of real holly  over the knot. What? Real holly? It prickled like hell. I sucked my bleeding finger as I hunted for a gift tag. There was no gift tag.

I blinked. Too much 100 Pipers is one thing, and  a hefty  hangover is an old friend, but a mystery Christmas gift on the end of my bed was another thing entirely. I staggered through the house, checking for open doors, or smashed windows but found nothing untoward.

 After a mega strong cup of tea, I cautiously snipped through the tinsel and jumped back. Nothing happened.  So: not a parcel bomb. I prodded the parcel with my scissors. The paper crackled but nothing happened. Okaaaayyyy – time to unwrap.  I discovered a crisp green and white beach towel, wrapped around a knitted  floppy  red sunhat.  Perfect for the Beach on Boxing Day. And, the perfect  Christmas gift for me. Huh. Strange.

My foggy brain couldn’t deal  with the mystery, so I went to the beach, with my new beach gear. Another perfect sunny day on Melkbos beach. This time no runaway dogs, or elderly Northern tourists.

For  two years running, on Christmas morning  I’d wake up to a mystery, lumpy parcel at the foot of my bed. The next  year I found  a beautiful hand  knitted red and green cotton  bikini; the following  year a light green  cotton beach wrap, plus a pair of hand  knitted  socks  – you guessed it – in red and green.

But on Year Four  – no mystery parcel. Because I woke up next to my new husband Sam, and now I have my own family. We have prezzies galore and mammoth lunches, Family Christmas with bells on. And  I’ve made it a family tradition that we have to go to Melkbos Beach on Boxing Day.  Its non-negotiable.

 When I told Sam my story, and he was  as baffled as I am. You don’t suppose? he wondered ….. well, who knows? Does it matter? Christmas time is a time for family, gifts and the joy of giving.

Happy Christmas to us all.

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SHONGWENI FARMERS’ MARKET


 

Over the years on my visits to  my Durban Family (eldest daughter Helen & family) I’ve been taken to the nearby Shongweni Farmers’ Market. It was a scant 5 kms down the hill, sited on a rough, grassy hillside, inevitably wet and muddy, packed with people and their excited dogs. For some reason, Durbanites  saw the Market as a great Saturday morning venue to exercise their dogs, and the ensuing tangle of dog leads, frantic barking and  occasional dog fight were  part of the fun. All this amongst families, toddlers, pushchairs,  shopping baskets, vendors unloading their products, lost kids and runaway dogs. Happy family mayhem. I loved it.

Then – oh no! the market moved. The land lease expired, and another venue had to be found. Which it was, close to the nearby Shongweni Dam.  This, however, is 12 kms from Helen’s house, so I was heaved briskly out of  bed at 0530 on Saturday morning  and told departure was in 25 minutes. Apparently the parking situation, plus the  inevitable traffic tailback on a skinny country road, has to be avoided at all costs. Fair enough.

And so it was I stood at 0630 on a damp, drizzly hillside, peering at rows of  corrugated iron roofs, and neat  cement walkways. Clearly no more mud at the new, bigger, smarter market. To my relief, plenty of families, toddlers, and dogs in evidence :

I must admit the new market is orderly, clean, vast,  and offers a huge variety of merchandise. For example – huge mushrooms, being sold by an elegant vendor. Note the funky guineafowl table covering.

I do love the colourful Zulu beadwork, but it’s a hell of a price nowadays. I cherish my antique strings of beads bought for virtually nothing, twenty years ago. The baskets are not beaded, as you might suppose. They are made from thin wire. Originally weavers used to gather scraps of electric cable left behind by Telkom or Eskom. They would strip off the external plastic covering to get at the 4/5/6 strands of fine wire within, which would be colour coded. Whether the baskets are still made this way I don’t know, but it may partly account for the enormous amount of  of telephone cable  theft ….   Roll on the introduction of fibre optic cable!  The downside will be less – or no – beautiful woven baskets.

There’s food of course. What would a country market be without food?  Locally made cheeses; locally grown coffee; and the ethnic bakers – Greek, German and of course, Indian, this being Kwa-Zulu Natal  which has one of the biggest Indian populations outside of the Indian continent.  I had my heart set on samoosas and a few Pakora*but alas! the market was so big I never managed to find my way back to the Indian food stalls.

I couldn’t take pics of the foodstalls due to the crush around them. But  I’m including a bad pic of the man selling pesto. Unfortunately his colourful pots of pesto didn’t come out well in the pic, but you can clearly see the smart new roofing. Which was welcome on such a drizzly, misty morning.

Me & my cellphone  will never win any prizes for photography.  But I did catch one pic of these fun dog biscuits!

I enjoyed my visit, and would love to go back another time. But the old country atmosphere has gone. The new version may well be out in the country, but now its much more organised and businesslike.On the plus side,  the public loos are a great deal better.  Ah well. Things change. But luckily the  vendor’s smiles stay the same.   Howzit, Barry!

 

*deep fried potato cake – beyond delicious finger food and death by cholesterol, but when you eat one you really don’t care. Actually, stopping at one requires superhuman willpower.

 

 

 

 

 

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