14th March, 2014

Oh the luxury!  Two whole weeks between Twitching, not a care in the world and twenty-five hours a day of shooting hints for amputees on television.  Can there be anything better than this?!

Of course the weather has put a bit of a damper on outdoor activity: no nude sunbathing on the square; the Vaal River rising precipitously and lapping at Bethlehem’s back door; Gautengers fleeing for their lives and finding breathless solace in the flesh-pots of Clarens.  Oh, the drama, the drama!  Our minor leaks and wet washing are not too bad, comparatively speaking.  But what to say this week, with a hindsight view of events stretching back fourteen days?

Well, for starters, what a show at Gosto’s last weekend, the new porro restaurant on the square!  Almost two-metres of tantalizing temptress, nom de guerre of Cat Simoni, wowed audiences two nights running with her take on Barbra Streisand.  Best bit, for those with staying power, was the impromptu jamming session late Saturday night (well, Sunday morning actually), with Hansie on piano and matching chords in short supply.  How good to have supper theatre in Clarens, with more to come.  Rumours of whisky bars at the Highlander and Mexican cuisine (??) up the road abound.  So gird your autumnal loins, dear Clarenites; the good times are about to get better.

Talking of which, has anyone else noticed how busy our little village has been in what has traditionally been called the New Year vacuum.  I can understand the Rand-exchange rate of course: Who wouldn’t travel at R423.63 to the British Pound?  But it is not just itinerant Europeans and Poms.  Accents have ranged across the spectrum, not least Afrikaans, even without the impetus of escaping Johannesburg three-metres under old mine water (why do perfectly nice people still live there?).  No, it is more than that: Things, dare I say it, are looking up.  If you discount the repeated waves of Germans in their condom-wrapped, extra-secret Mercedes test cars, there is still a real sense that Europe has actually discovered Clarens.

We’re not talking about thrill seekers after Kaalvoet, but proper people driving cars (rather than dozing in buses en route to Kruger Park); people keen to see Lesotho and climb a mountain or six; and spend a few hard-earned Euros on our little trinkets.  If you are doubtful, spend an hour or three on the square (oh, alright, in a pub on the square) and use your eyes and ears; the brewery is a good place to start, by the way.  The point is that these nice folks are multiplying rapidly and probably won’t disappear even if the Rand surges to R320.56 to the Pound.  So, bone up on your French; wear orange and speak a little Dutch; or go all out and make jokes in German.  Okay, maybe that’s a bridge too far, but be nice and remember that we are in fact a tourist destination – employing a lot of people and feeding a lot of families.  And maybe even having a lot of fun.

So what next?  Well, if you are into risking your all (no, silly, not getting married) a casino opens its doors tonight; the community braais for charity; the multi-coloured Kgubetswana Stadium opens; local author Don Emby (Soweto Burning) launches his book next week; and Peter Badcock-Walters opens his Gallery On The Square.  On the list of things not to do, is dump your garbage on the village pavements: Clarens manager Peter Reed has given his all to transforming the village and its environs (is the rising tourist traffic really coincidental?), and is none too tickled by ‘dumpers’ spoiling the picture.  You know who you are, so stop it before you get struck by lightning.

Oh, about the birds, which is my real remit: They’re actually not very visible at the moment, for the simple reason that my grapes are ripe and the Mynahs, Starlings and others are just too fat to fly.  Expect more (hungry) birdsong sometime soon however.  Whew.

The Twitcher