Sunday, May 12, 2013

AFRICAN ADVENTURES Last Garden Route stop: Leisure Isle

It was the great Margaret Atwood herself who alerted me to something that I was already experiencing when I struggled to achieve the first draft of 'Cape Town', then called 'Clearly in the Dark'. I can't quote her exact words, but the gist of what she said was that, when you focus on your story, the universe conspires to provide the research help you need. Thus it was with me. Looking through a few old papers we'd brought from South Africa, I discovered I'd kept a calendar from 1989, so I knew when Easter fell that year. And no, I couldn't simply google it, because this was in the dark ages. Also, weirdly enough, I'd kept a fashion magazine from those days, and so could see what the cool girls would have been wearing.

But on a more serious note, I needed more insight into the political Struggle. This post tells how I found it.

Leisure Isle lies in the Knysna lagoon. In the early Sixties, my parents built a retirement home there, which turned into a holiday house for us as well. It was also the location of my cousin's restaurant, The Pink Umbrella, and many were the meals and cream teas, and scrumptious evening mealtimes we enjoyed there.

One time I went to stay with Mom and Dad. As was my wont, I strolled down mid-afternoon to go for a swim. An elderly couple were already bobbing around in the warm water, so I joined them and we soon fell into a conversation. It turned out we were both going into town that evening for a piano recital, but also discovered mutual friends, the artist Frank Spears and his wife Dorothea, who'd played an important part in my Cape Town student days. Here's the portrait sketch he did of me at that time:

To cut a long story short, I was invited to tea to see their paintings. When I told Daphne I was writing Renee's story, she immediately rose and went to get a copy of her own book, which she gave to me. 'From Tribulation to Triumph' provided me with the facts I needed. Yes, you'll find her name in the acknowledgements.

So this preamble leads me to my recent visit with Daphne. Sadly, she lost her husband some years ago. Despite failing eyesight, she still lives on her own, in the same house I visited that first time. She invited me to lunch. And here we are, at the restaurant across from where The Pink Umbrella used to be, sitting under an old milkwood tree. Amazing, isn't it?

Lastly, in case you need flowers for Mother's Day, here's one of Frank's paintings that always hung on the wall of our Leisure Isle house.

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