Thursday, October 27, 2011

Call back the past

I have always loved history.
In fact, I loved it so much that I chose it as a third 'learning' subject for matric – and the truth was, of cause, far from the history books of South Africa in those days.
I know that there remains a gap between what is truth and what isn't, when it comes to History.
Nevertheless, the past still holds, for me, an allure, which the present, simply does not.

I have always been intensely enamoured with the Victorians, the Edwardians, the Georgians, and their Poetry and Literature. I have a penchant for those in this group of people who lived, or at least desired to live, outside the frontiers of the conventions of the day.
I day dreamed my way into some of their bohemian lives. As a young woman, I sometimes wore coloured stockings, and eventually a bob, and Victorian shawls and brooches, like some D H Lawrence heroine.
I have always allowed all sorts of characters from the past , to crowd out my reality, at will.

The truth is, I suppose, that I don't much like 2011.
Its too lonely for one thing, with the technology of the day masquerading as closeness, but in fact bringing distance of global proportions.
I long for long letters, and languid days of company and conversation. I long for the time before telephones and emails, and definitely for the time before the dreaded cellphone, which has become the intrusive soundtrack of humanity, with its beeps and buzzes and bizarre tunes.
Still, with no time machine at hand I must, it is the only way, seek solace in film and books and old maps and photographs.

Here in Knysna I've been reading books about the old life. From my wide white wooden verandah I look out at the lagoon and try and imagine it all.
The mysterious George Rex, in his day, with his misty imagined past (who really knows the truth), had this whole beautiful stretch of blue and green world as his idyllic playground. There was no other European here for a while, until the ships came sailing , braving the devastating sand bar, to tie themselves to an island, that would later be claimed by a family of blonde, Nordic Thesens.

I do try and imagine it all – the winding road to George, through dense forests bursting with elephants, in which lived communities of forest dwellers, that hardly ever saw the sun.
Such a different world!

The approach of summer makes me long for old Africa anyway.
I dream of tents and living simply, with a river running passed our camp, and the heat crackling with cricket sounds, just beyond the tree line.
I remember the smell of canvas in the coolness of the night, and the starry sky appearing again, as if it hadn't been there all the time, in the city.

I'm reading a book about Denys Finch Hatton – the real person, not Robert Redford.
What a world there was then, for adventurous types. Sure, he came from a privileged class, but there was a window of wonder at that time, and he and his friends, just caught the end of an Africa, which was vanishing at the hands of the Colonialists.

Denys, they say, had a great love for Africa, and planes, and bohemian women. He, said Beryl Markham, invented charm and so, luckily, could indulge all three, although with loves like that, one was surely going to kill him.

It's just that the world seemed to be so much more interesting then. Maybe because so much was as yet undiscovered, in a technological sense, and the very naivety of those past heroes pushed them on.

I probably just need to go camping again.
I remember us loading our old Cruiser, with tents and boxes, and taking to the road less travelled. We used to open the windows and let the dust blow in and over us.
We left behind houses, and our normal restricted life, which by necessity held us in.

In the past, there definitely were fewer boundaries, and border posts, keeping people out, keeping people in.
The world, it seems to me, used to be a more tolerant place, for a restless spirit like mine, although the price of loneliness, intrinsic to rootlessness, no doubt still had to be paid.

For now, I'll pace the verandah.

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