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Anne Townsend

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE


What a temptation to retrieve garbage from outside the Chinese store.

Rucksacks (2), a pair of old boots, a doll (only in knickers) and bicycle wheels.

Outside the Bistro earlier ten black folders from The Cellars, in good nick.

And of course, the super-outsized marrow (or squash) that someone placed outside the street bin next to our gate. Installation Marrow. With a few pricks on the side.

I collected nothing today. As I refrain from investigating lurid news items, and as I check myself every time I have an urge to hoover up gossip or tragic events, what I ask myself is: DO I NEED THIS IN MY UPSTAIRS COMPARTMENTS?

For what purpose do I want the ten plastic folders from The Cellars?

What would I ‘do’ with the naked doll in white cotton knickers?

Is it merely because the merchandise is available, and free?

Will it enhance my life? Once I’ve taken on board yet another lurid abuse story, my mind has to process it, or store it, or get rid of it. And what else could I do instead?

Would it be more productive, relaxing or mentally healthy to walk past those bulging trash cans I passed, from my front door to The Donkey Shed, or to admire the composition of the boxes, and to refrain from taking anything on board. Just because the 24/7 news machine churns out global tragedies, do we want to collect them, for what? It is not in any way useful, joyful or helpful to be a pack mule for the world’s miseries. So why do we offer to absorb the news?


We don’t have the bones ~

A friend of mine works for the Missing Persons Bureau. Dead people, who were murdered under apartheid, are excavated, their bones returned to the families, and they are laid to rest. In some cultures, until you have the bones, and the place of the burial, it is impossible to grieve and process.

It is the same with incest. And it is often impossible. We don’t have the bones. We dream about the uncle, and in the dream we are upbeat. He is in a car. We are going on a journey. We know (in the dream) that the trip will end with us sitting in a public place, face to face. We will be …….. We can’t remember.

We can’t have a burial. No one would attend the funeral. We can’t ‘quantify’ the murder. And we are not missing and deceased. We live in Barrydale, alive, well, and determined not to die. The Missing Persons Bureau contains our relatives. Some phone us (long-lost cousins) but because we have not yet mentioned the ‘incest’, we can’t let our guard down. We can’t risk another turned face. So we shrink our lives, say nothing about our ‘research’, and casually ask: ‘Are you still in touch with Uncle D?’

Incest. It is all of what we are. It is a nothing. Both…… and. Our lives are irrevocably changed. We fear men. We’d probably fear them regardless. (Look at the rape & murder stats). We are never quite sure what is incest-related, what is ‘just the way things are’ and what is ‘normal.’ We keep on deconstructing the incest#footprint# because it is screaming to be foot-printed#




It’s not you, Calitzdorp, it’s me. XXX


Dear Calitzdorp,

For years, twelve years, in fact, since we spent a morning together in 2006, while I was road-tripping, I’ve earmarked you as the answer to my woes. A bad day in Hong Kong? Why not up sticks and move to you? A sad day in Cape Town? Buy a plot in Calitzdorp, sip port, and watch my vegetables sprout. But it’s been these past eighteen months that you were on my mind the most. Only two hours’ drive from where I now live, I often wondered if you were a better option. Had I made a mistake and relocated to the wrong town?

In time, it became obvious. All I had to do was to book a trip to you, and see for myself your splendour. So I did. Book the mini bus, that is. Splendour? Sorry, Calitzdorp, I didn’t see much. How could I? You absolutely could not live up to a twelve year fantasy. Neither, it seems, could you compete with where I already dwell, amongst wild orchards, 360 degree mountains, sheep, cows, horses, donkeys, baboons, meerkats, tortoises, hadada, guinea fowls, weaver nests, snakes and scorpions. My neighbours are artists, writers, water engineers, potters, motor mechanics, retired physics professors, farmers, builders, kinesiologists, hypnotists, and chefs. The Calitzdorp I’ve been fantasizing about, with some insistence and twelve years of persistence, does exist. It’s called Barrydale and I was so warmly welcomed last year, that I told my ‘city’ friends that I found the locals nosy and intrusive. Um. No. They wanted to know who I was, what I wanted in their town, and to welcome me.

Under different circumstances, I may have found you charming. I didn’t spend time on your farms and vineyards, and staying in a guesthouse is not the same as gardening and living in a place. But for 48 hours I had this strange sense of groundlessness, loss, and mourning. I absolutely couldn’t reconcile the rather odd, misshapen town I was visiting with the glorious pictures I’d seen online, and in my head. Under different circumstances I’d have appreciated you more. Don’t take it personally. It’s me, Calitzdorp, not you.

And now I do need to phone that locksmith in Swellendam. I have a security gate that needs fixing. I have a floor to paint. I have unpacking to do.


Anne PHD in Geographic Fallacy


photos of barrydale @ annetownsend#

Creating space in your new home


Are you a newcomer in a small town? Are you settling into life as a rural resident, having fled the ‘city’? Look no further than these tried-and-tested tips from a Barrydaler.

You will be regarded as fresh meat for your first few months. Don’t let it go to your head. It has nothing to do with charm, looks, wealth or intelligence. It means that you’re fresh, easy pickings, and people will try and recruit you into their camp. Keep a low profile. Take sides, never. Stick to yourself, keep your own counsel, and give it 12 – 18 months before you take sides. Sides will be taken. Ruthlessly. If you’re hoping to sit on the fence, go back to the ‘city.’ Small town life requires invigorating taking of sides. It comes naturally, but only after at least a year. Then, take sides, and budge, never, from your position.

You will be accused of having City Manners. Again. Don’t let this go to your head. It simply means you are energetic, punctual, successful, a go-getter, and almost definitely from Cape Town or Johannesburg. It will be used against you. Let this accidental compliment land where it belongs: on your methodical, organized ears. Try and hang on to your City Manners for as long as ‘rural’ life allows. Don’t slide into rural apathy or languid late-coming. We need City Manners. They are our link to civilization.

You will be invited to barbeques (commonly known as ‘braais’), to dinner parties, and, even though you’re only 45, you will be invited to play bowls at The Recreation Club. Try to decline as politely as possible. Once you’ve made too many new friends, too soon, getting rid of them can prove impossible, or at least, challenging. Decline invitations, (it gets easier wth practice), and once you’ve sussed out who’s who (give it 12 – 18 months), either accept an invitation or two (if they’re still coming your way) or take the plunge and have a Belated Home-Warming. Invitation Only. Small towners have a habit of arriving unannounced, uninvited, and taking over your dinner bash.

Security is considerably more relaxed than in the big cities. Sadly, crime can seem to intensify in a small town. You actually know the person who gets robbed, beaten up, slandered or bullied. It’s not just a name. It’s a familiar face, it may even be an out-of-towner who spent several months up the road, and you feel their pain. Empathy increases in direct proportion to intimacy. Small towns foster intimacy. Be prepared to ‘feel’ more.

You will be regarded as a representative of your former home. You will be lumped together with Capetonians, or Joh’burgers, or the British. As with all stereotyping, wait it out. Your true self will make an appearance, in due course, and you will be seen as an actual real, live person, with your own ways, your own views, and your own manners.

Seventeen months now I have resided in Barrydale. Much of my time is spent, alone, in nature, or alone, at home. On the rare occasion that I encounter neighbours, residents, and the many visitors to my new home, I have learnt to appear inscrutable, neutral, friendly, and invisible. It’s an art that takes a while to master. You can do this, too.


photos of barrydale @ annetownsend#







No Title: 2018-07-30


Photo Credit: Anne Townsend, Barrydale

The fear on your face#


I now expect this. The aftermath of speaking out. The darting eyes, the long faces, the previously open, forthcoming confidences are no longer offered. I go from a warm benign presence to The Whistleblower. It has happened in my own tribe. It has happened in my new home. It will not deter me from my job.

Abuse. It surrounds us like mist. We get used to it. It’s a fine spray of water and we get so wet we no longer notice anything. We keep away. We remain locked in silence. We deter ourselves from taking a stand.

Dirty Laundry. I detest you. You get swept into the closet. You reek. You no longer come outside. You live behind metal gates and burglar bars.

Whistle Blowers. Silence Breakers. Throat. Voice. Spine. Spinelessness. Xxx





The Dirty Secret of Going Public

Sidney Frankel. Billionaire. Private plane. Rolls Royce. Philanthropist. Married. (Deceased). Denies all charges. And now, joined forever in our minds, with eight adult men and women:

Nicole Levenstein and her brother Paul Diamond, George Rosenberg and his sister Katherine Rosenberg, Daniela McNally, Lisa Wegner, Shane Rothequel and Marinda Smith.

This is The Downside. The dirty secret of Going Public. You are no longer Nicole, or Paul, or George, or Katherine, or Daniela, or Lisa or Shane or Marinda.

You are the child who was (allegedly) molested by Sidney Frankel. You are the seven year old girl who was assaulted by your famous movie director father. You are the teen who was raped by Bob Hewitt, the tennis coach. I’d be lying if I was evasive about this aspect of breaking silence. Marriage? Till death do us part?

If you go public, you give up the right to conceal your secrets from reporters, cops, lawyers and the prying eyes of the reader. You are hitched, till death do us part, to a criminal. Child sexual abuse is a no-win. So is going public. So is keeping quiet. It’s the No-Win of All No-Wins. There is no silver lining. ~..~


photo credit @ annetownsend ~ incest#footprint#







Breaking open centuries of complicity

It’s never too late. Dylan Farrow proved that, when in 2014, and then again, in 2017, she illustrated that, even after decades of avoidance, and putting children’s lives in danger by not speaking out, and mistakenly seeing silence as the path of sanity, you can swirl around a stalemate. Her two rather beautifully written essays have changed the minds, and lives, of many.

In this country, we are also ‘in motion.’ Until recently, any sexual assault claims (except for rape) expired after twenty years. Thereafter, an alleged perpetrator could no longer be charged. But, on 14 June this year, this changed. Eight applicants, known as the Frankel-eight, managed to overturn this law as unconstitutional. And of course, the Bob Hewitt trial changed our lives too.

Bob Hewitt’s victims lost, in some cases, relationships with their own children, they had to move house or change jobs. For all three women who went public (and there is a fourth, who chose not to go to court), their lives were made hell by their choice to ”taint” Bob Hewitt’s name. Yeah. That’s why at least one of those women got death threats. She was ”tainting” Bobby’s name,

But not only is Bobby in jail. That’s a minor achievement. What has happened is that those of us who followed the trial, who watched Delaille enabling her spouse in court, have forever changed our neural pathways. We saw an arrogant, blundering rapist led off to prison, and we read about the sheer endurance trial of those who dared to speak out.

To the three of you who endured hell, including years of further contact with the predator, you changed the course of history. You broke open decades and centuries of complicity. You rock. XXX XXX


photo credit @ annetownsend ~ incest#footprint#







No Title: 2018~06~16

tractor (2)

Photo Credit: AnneTownsend, Barrydale

Wabi Sabi ~~~ Beauty in Imperfection

Wabi Sabi. Whenever people ask me about the Japanese calligraphy I had painted on a cream kist, they first think it’s Beauty is Perfection, then Beauty in Perfection, and then, they get it: Beauty in Imperfection. Once this sinks in, they relax. As soon as they grasp that there’s actually a phrase for this, it gives it credibility. I saw it again yesterday when my (beautiful, glowing) new workspace/desk was delivered. The two people that drove over from Swellendam visibly relaxed when they understood Wabi Sabi. ”Oh”, Charles said, ” yes, yes, I get it.” He is the furniture restorer who sold me a chest of drawers last year, explaining that one of the six handles was slightly bigger than the other five, because he couldn’t find the exact size. ”It gives it character”, he explained. My uneven floors, my (porous) 1850 clay walls, and my slightly misshapen front door, are now art. Words really do change our minds. Neural pathways are like any construction site. In flux. In motion. Water#


Photo Credit: AnneTownsend