There are times when birds simply don’t feature in a Twitcher’s life, overshadowed perhaps by events of apparently great public consequence: a riot; an earthquake; birth; death; or a beer festival.
In and of itself, the Clarens Craft Beer Festival was what you might expect. Four and a half thousand thirsty visitors, more food of generally good quality than you can shake a stick at and the happiest little village in the Southern Hemisphere. Oh, and seventy-two pregnancies, sixty-nine of them unplanned and one uncertain; the balance involved a twin-conception for a pair of lovelorn accountants from Parys who managed the feat in the toilets of the Highlander. In short, it was a runaway success and confirms that people of all three genders will travel clear across South Africa to sample their favourite cup of foaming brew. God knows what next year will bring, but odds on five thousand five hundred are pretty short. So brace yourselves, Clarenites, and practice your dance steps.
Of equal interest is the re-emergence of our own Kaalvoet, a 3.5 metre princess of the Big Foot variety. Readers may recall that she ran off to sink ski boats on the Vaal Dam before trekking south to mess with international shipping in Cape Town harbour. Well, she was back for the beer festival. Cunningly disguised behind an enormous pair of shades and wearing a fetching Korean engineer’s overall (retrieved from a fishing trawler in the fairest Cape) she called herself Edna and worked at a Durban brewer’s stall dispensing large volumes of Irish Red Ale. For those in the know, her feet were a dead giveaway (size 18, matted brown hair and a beer cap on her pinkie toe) but at least two bikers from Pretoria proposed marriage to her before dusk.
The point is that she was very obviously with child. No-one is talking (not surprisingly) but suspicion is growing amongst locals that she may have cohabited with a Japanese seaman on her travels. It is generally agreed that the Japs are particularly non-discriminating when testosterone levels are up, and even Blue Whales have been known to move oceans when the moon is full in Tokyo. So Edna may have been seduced by a bowl of Sushi and the promise of a visit to Yokohama. Whatever happened, Slim Bruce is mad with jealousy and the Clarens Women’s Institute has started knitting quite large socks. Perhaps the Creature Wall in the Brewery will soon have a new addition to its story of Big Foot colonisation, but spare a thought for the midwife to this quaint union.
As for the village, much gloom about the closure of three – or is it four? – businesses. However, the opening of On The Square (yes, on the square) has introduced four new businesses to Clarens and relocated another; so we are still in credit, it seems. Had Oom Paul been about, I feel sure he would have opened this spectacular creation in wood and iron with appropriate solemnity. At least the architecture would have been familiar, and the taste of Portuguese tit-bits would have swept him back to Lourenco Marques and another, perhaps better, time. The point is that Clarens is, like every other piece of geography, locked into cycles of growth and decline. A brief examination of the last decade confirms explosive growth and now we are meandering through a national economic malaise which has in fact affected us far less than the rest of the country.
Time to start smiling again, notwithstanding only 258 shopping days to Christmas, and accept that we came to Clarens to have some fun.