The Quaint & Serenity Factor of Stanford South Africa

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There are a plethora of reasons why we Stanfordians have been drawn to live in this little, old village in South Africa.  I have a plethora all of my own.

One, one that I have grown to hugely appreciate and cherish over the past three and a bit years, is simplicity.

This is never more beautifully apparent than when I sit at my kitchen window in the mornings and look out over what I call “my back garden sanctuary”… and beyond that to the fields, where rainwater lakes have formed, and where Howard’s horses graze along with a group of fallow deer and guinea fowl and geese and ducks. And whatever else blew in overnight.

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Beyond all of this are the magnificent trees that line the river. And the river, flowing purposefully towards the lagoon, now an estuary blissfully married to the ocean.

Beyond the river is Sillery Estate, the first ranks of houses one sees of Stanford. And, beyond the village, the rolling hills and their eventual horizon, which blends harmoniously with the great Overberg sky, proud purveyor of glorious sunrises and the most ridiculously ornate cloud formations, beguiling in swiftly changing moods.

But I summon you back to my home. And the little sanctuary outside my back door. It belongs to the birds. and the family of Four-striped Field Mice. And anything else that wants to afford me the privilege of visiting or taking up residence here.

Each morning I go out briefly, whistling my signal that the seed and breadcrumbs and, occasionally, leftover bits of cheese have been deposited on the old table and under the milkwood.

Then I sit back with coffee to enjoy the unscripted theatre of creatures small and even smaller. And I wonder. And I think. And I lose myself in the wonder of it all.

And the birds and the mice fly and scuttle. And they eat together. And both are terrorised by the dive-bombing evil that is the supremely irritating Pintail Whydah male. Which I am tempted to trap and post off to a research station on the icy edges of the Arctic.

Him aside, the birds and mice get along beautifully. And, out on the fields, the horses and the geese and the fallow deer and the guinea fowl and the newly-returned blue crane have all found their place — and their food sources — in perfect harmony.

So, I sit and drink this all in and marvel at it — and think and ponder and let my imagination run wild — and I wonder why it is that many Syrians cannot sit and eat at the same table with many other Syrians. And I wonder why Christians cannot stand as one with Muslims. And white with black.

And men who wear luxuriant moustaches and are prone to wearing yellow shirts and purple stovepipes and keep parakeets with those who are bald and completely dig throwing out a red paisley pattern vibe while filtering fish-tanks.

And those who own humungous and shiny SUVs with people who drive battered bakkies with home-made racing stripes. And those who cut fat deals in the corridors of power with those who have little more to cut than a slice of bread.

And I am left to ruminate over this. And to wonder why. And to look at the birds and mice. And to live in the civil harmony of it all.

Fred Hatman
Fred Hatman (AKA Howard Donaldson) knew he wanted to be newspaper journalist at age 13. He has worked as a reporter and sub-editor for the Daily News and Cape Times, both based in South Africa and Wimbledon News, Today, London Daily News, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mirror, all based in London .
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