As might be expected, your faithful correspondent was resplendent in a deer-stalker hat and heavily camouflaged track suit, pursuing several species of rare and exotic birds this week. In the interests of detailed reporting, I clutched an enormous pair of ex-naval binoculars (Battle of Jutland, 1916) and had a notebook in my sweating left hand. But as I loped from shrub to dead fruit tree in pursuit of my feathered quarry, it became increasingly obvious that I was also moving from building site to building site.
Could this be Clarens, I asked myself, or had I wandered over a provincial border into another century? Having checked my bearings and consulted several passers-by, it became clear that I was in Clarens, now liberally dotted with houses rising from the virgin veld. What?
I doubled back and began counting these new dwellings and stopped at 10, since primary school math had not prepared me for life in the fast lane. Sure enough, there are at least 10 new homes in construction in our fair village, and I suspect many more on the drawing boards or locked in municipal process. Somewhat disbelieving, given the odds against persuading ESKOM to part with any of their electricity, I stumbled into the nearest estate agency and learnt that they had been doing about two deals a month since January.
They also told me that the flow of enquiries was better than it has been for the last many years and that interested ‘buyers’ were coming back again and again! Could this be the sleepy hollow that fell out of the property market four or five years ago?
Still discombobulated (don’t you love the English language?) by this information, I lost my binoculars and stumbled onto the village square. As I drew in great draughts of fresh mountain air, I swung around to confront the sight of a large erection on the corner (no, silly, a building!). What had once been a refreshingly grubby spot, with a quota of unwashed sandstone carvers hawking their wares, was now pockmarked by foundation holes and the apparent makings of a 10-Pin Bowling Alley rising from the proverbial. On enquiry, the builder told me (confidentially, of course) that this was stage one of a Teasers franchise, with a KFC and undertakers on the ninth-floor.
Shocked, I moved down the street looking for a bar to straighten out my thoughts, only to trip over the new owner of what was once Valley Cats, opposite the 423-room Protea Hotel. On his knees, he was attempting to find True North with an antique ‘dumpie’-level, in preparation for the conversion of his newly-purchased property into a shopping emporium. Up the road, the equally new owners of an empty stand were ruminating on the merits of a glass elevator on the north side of their proposed building. Down the road (thankfully, with a bar) the Artichoke’s proprietors were celebrating the first phase construction of an opera sound stage, overlooking the Lake!
Development on this scale would hardly signify in a halfway-decent gated estate in Johannesburg, but in Clarens this almost qualifies as boom times! So, what can this mean, your shaken scribe asks himself? First, people with sufficient intelligence and breeding to want out of the urban sprawl will eventually find their way to the village life. Second, people are fed up to the back-dentures with banks withholding the means to procure new and exciting places to live, and will make a plan – and therefore make banks less meaningful. And third, the cost of a little piece of God’s green acre (well, actually fairly brown at this stage) has descended to levels too good to miss.
This information is of course strictly private and confidential, and anyone acting on it to secure the last 23 stands in the village will have to buy me a drink. Now where did I put my binoculars?