Well, a little passé perhaps, but Happy New Year to all our faithful readers!
Assuming you survived the fireworks of course. We are used to Kgubetswana lighting up, come midnight on Old Year’s Night, but having the Clarens Square turned into the Edinburgh Festival with 86-decibel sound effects was a new experience. Great fun, notwithstanding the bangs, and may introduce a new tradition to the village calendar. The village dogs may not of course agree; ours had a shared bowel collapse and hid behind the loo all night. Perhaps the compromise is limiting the level of noise and controlling the time of the event, this 2014 New Year. The good news is that we aren’t living in the maelstrom of Durban, which rivals the First World War for explosive sound and light – although the acrid stench of mustard gas is replaced by the curry aromas of mince samoosas and bunny chows!
The curious thing about Clarens though is its failure to do anything about Christmas. Nary a light on the square, or for that matter in most shops and restaurants. Your faithful scribe is not, for the record, a Christmas tree hugger or much into Carol singing, but the sight of our square without a car in sight on Christmas Day, no festive trappings and almost no shops open really begs credulity. If we aspire to being a holiday destination, we have to review our approach and remember that our clients and customers expect us to behave like a tourist attraction. I have a creepy feeling that many (most?) retailers and restaurateurs will contest this view, but perhaps a debate on the subject is long overdue. After all, who do we blame if our Clarens Christmas season slowly fades and dies? Our annual rate of retail and accommodation growth is probably four- or five-times higher than that for the rest of the country, but we need to wake-up to the fact that this can turn on its head if our visitors go cold on us. About as cold as we were over Christmas, actually.
But enough banter: 2014 has started in grand style with idyllic weather. Post-Christmas tourists are gambolling happily along the trails, packing out the Brewery and spending with gay abandon. I even saw two farmers smiling, so the rain must be good. But perhaps best of all, we haven’t had a newspaper to speak of for over a week, so the mood of the town has skyrocketed: No Zuma, no Nkandla, no E-tolls, no politics. If that’s not a seasonal gift from the Gods, I don’t know what is. Next week, birds, birds, birds. Until then, blessings for the New Year.