28th March 2014

With Easter on the horizon and the Gods of Winter mustering their wrathful breath for a frosty blow through our little valley, autumn promises to be quite an interesting place to be.

That’s right.  There are only 276 sleeps until Christmas Day, so time to start ironing your old wrapping paper and breaking out the gifts you didn’t want or like from last year.  Try not to give them to the people who gave them to you, however, or there may be a long silence ahead.  Talking of which, what constitutes a shopping day in this Year of Our Lord 2014?

For starters it probably depends where you are.  In New York, for example, 275 days means 275 shopping days.  In Lusaka, by contrast, it probably means 27 shopping days, while in our sunny village it depends WHO you are and what your sleeping habits involve.  Ten short years ago, Clarens slumbered until 09h00 of a morning, most mornings, and certainly didn’t entertain any shopping on a Sunday afternoon, a Monday possibly or a Tuesday certainly.  In fact, this was quite variable and depended whether or not the Shad were running on the South Coast or there was a newly-divorced person (or either sex) in town.

The net effect was, and to an extent still is, that shopping, dining and/or wining in Clarens was an uncertain experience.  The interesting fact, however, is that our clientele does not read from the same page of the Hymnal.  Since the days of Oom Paul, we have stumbled uncertainly into a tourist era that has been equally uncertain; the meandering Transvaalers and Free Staters who passed through our village, admiring the Holy Acre and Security Key Point that passes as our Square, have grown up and changed nationality, language and interests.  For starters, they now have the temerity to come seven-days a week; they simply don’t seem to know that Clarens celebrates Mondays and Tuesdays as alternate days of rest, or that we work from 09h00 to 16h00.  Sometimes.

Anyone who is on the Square from 07h00 onwards will have noticed squadrons of tourists, hands bunching Euros, Pounds and Dollars in their designer-jean pockets, stalking about looking for a place to off-load their newly-inflated largesse.  More to the point, we’re talking about those sacred days of the week when tourists are not supposed to be here.  Oddly enough, there are growing numbers of Clarens business people (okay, insomniacs) up and about at that hour, who are actually selling stuff; moreover, unless they suffer a chronic illness during the trading day, they discover that these self-same tourists are still financially-active after 17h00 – an hour when Clarenites are traditionally into their fourth beer.

So what to do?  Well, best we recognise that the game has changed.  We have just had a brilliant couple of months when we were supposed to be hibernating, and the markers for a great trading year are up.  Weekdays are open-season for shoppers of all descriptions and the Rand is plumbing new depths and due to meet the Australian dollar coming the other way.  The Clarens shopping experience has matured almost beyond imagining and the range of dining experiences has reorganised itself to actually be quite inviting.  We have the best little Brewery on the planet, a wonderful bookshop and even a mini-casino in situ, all of which seems to be quite appealing to our European cousins, judging from their steely-eyed circumnavigation of the Square of a morning.

So, dear Clarenites, gear up, spread your wings and open your doors seven-days a week: You have 275 days to make some money and have some fun, before wishing your dear ones a Merry Christmas and facing the challenges of 2015.  You have been warned.

The Twitcher