There are, of course, many distinctions to be drawn between people who somehow exist in the city and those who live the life of Reilly in the countryside. I lived in inner-city London for 13 years. I loved it. Then. I have now lived in Stanford for the past six months. Stanford? It’s OK. Reasonable question. Twenty-three kilometres the other side of Hermanus, Hatpeople. If you’re coming from Cape Town. Which you will be. Unless you live in Vermaklikheid of iets. Which you don’t. So don’t argue with me. Because I’m irritable.
I’m touchy because I’ve been looking after a friend’s house in Cape Town (while she swans about the shifting sands of the Namib with her man) for the past week. It’s noisy. It’s over-populated. It’s discombobulated. It’s nincompoopulated. It’s smelly. Too many cars. Far too many people. Too many airs and disgraces. Not enough air and graciousness. Too many millions of refrigerators humming around my eardrum. It’s kak.
Are we clear on this? Good. Now another thing about Cape Town is, if you smile and wave long enough, you might get lucky and strike up a conversation with someone who has just enough time between the last really important call from his PA (to remind him of his 2.30 with the chick who cancelled the 11.30 yesterday to go surfing instead) and the next SMS to the au pair to remind her to take the Woolies fully organic, fat-free, absolutely-no-MSG-darling, gluten-extracted TV meal out of the freezer to chat with you.
After you’ve gone through this a few times, you are now ready to arrange to meet for a coffee/drink which has absolutely zut chance of ever happening. This is the cardinal rule of social etiquette in Cape Town. One does not ever deign to arrange to be seen in public with someone with whom one did not attend school. Even pre-school. And definitely not somebody whose brother/sister you didn’t try to snog in the doorway of Fabiani after a movie at Cavendish. Social circles in Cape Town are tighter than a fish’s ear.
Not so Stanford. In Stanford, if you mention to somebody you’ve only spoken to once before that you might just pop into the pub on Thursday next week and you don’t turn up… well, the town will send out a search party to ensure that you haven’t stepped on a puffy (puffadder) and expired. Because there is absolutely no excuse for making a promise and not keeping it. Unless you’ve died.
That’s how it is in small villages. People keep it real. And nowhere more so than Stanford, where it’s all for one and one for all. So when I needed recently to move Hatman Mansions to a new location near the river and it was unfurnished, the community, nay family, sprang into action.
The offers rolled in. Somebody’s sister had a sofa she wasn’t using. Uncle Digby’s queen-size bed had been in storage for six months and he wouldn’t miss it. Oh, Clarissa’s cousin was doing Tibet and she wouldn’t mind her complete kitchenware collection being used for a while.
It was quite stunning. And overwhelming. And after moving into my furnished-by-oursourcing abode and I was sitting on my stoep, drinking tea and staring at the mountains, they started turning up. People. Friends. Stanfordians.
They came bearing gifts, a kettle, an ironing-board and candles… and loads of food and beer and wine for a surprise roofwetting. I was gobsmacked. But I shouldn’t have been. For this how Stanfordians roll. These are my people. The people who have reminded me, a veteran city-dweller, what a true community is all about. What life is about. About keeping it real.
So, thank you Rina, Ansie, Ken, Jami, Pete, Nat, Kevin, Robyn, Roz, Tim, Caitlin, Janet, Paul, Jill, Nikki, Mark and Antony. And all of the others I cannot possibly list here without running out of blogroll. I am so grateful. And humbled.
It was so good, let’s have another…
I grew up in Pietermaritzburg. Which, as it was then, was strangely a bit like Stanford is now. Community. Fraternity. Authenticity.
It feels like I’ve come home. Thank you, Stanford.