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Anne Townsend

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

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

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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.

Love

Anne PHD in Geographic Fallacy

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photos of barrydale @ annetownsend#

 

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