Lumley, we’re off to the Bay [short story]

Lumley was somewhat restless, head on my lap, we were sitting on the stoep (veranda) enjoying the sunshine. A sugarbird was fluttering in and out, sipping nectar from the flowering cacti in the garden; it was meditatively peaceful, we were enjoying the quiet time together. I had not done much for the last few days, being a bit restless, in somewhat of a dark mood. I had read a few books: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, based in Botswana and given to me by a friend, then an easy-going thriller that I had polished off in a day and a new book by a South African author, Damon Galgut. I had been a bit tentative about the latter book, The Promise, as it had one the 2021 Booker prize; I quite often buy these books and am then disappointed and stop reading. This one seems to be different, probably as it is situated in South Africa and deals with family dynamics pre- and post-apartheid. Walking home, reading a book while nearly stumbling into lamp posts; it’s been a while since I’ve done that, the walking & reading.

Lumley had clearly picked up on my mood and was happily agitated when I cleaned the bakkie (pickup truck) earlier, he knows somethings afoot, she was waiting for me to tell her. I look down, those beautiful brown eyes, and scratch her back, tail wagging in happiness. Lumley, tomorrow we’re going on road trip, up to the Bay to see U&L, and along the way we’ll also visit the Youngster. Let me go tell auntie La-La and Boetman, then we’ll have a braai.

We’re taking the Klapmuts road, a bit longer, quiet and scenic; it’s a sunny day, a lovely breeze coming in through the window, Lumley’s head poking out, the radio playing. Maybe we’ll get a song or two that both of us know. We cruise along at a sedate pace, this is wheat country, fields of gold, every now-and-then a few horses, some sheep and plenty of cows. Crows are fluttering about in the fields, which always seems to remind me of the Van Gogh painting. Some of the farms are quite netjies (tidy), as Boetman would say, others a bit messy. How much has really changed for the workers on these farms, I wonder? A few ‘clicks’ (kilometres) after the Radio farm, I start looking ahead or the old bridge roadside picnic area. Boetman and I often stop there; Lumley and I need a stretch.

We’ve still got a way to go, about three hours maybe four until we get to the Youngster’s place. We’ve got time, I would like to get there to see the sunset over the lagoon; possibly, probably, enjoy a drink or two. I settle into cruise mode, Lumley’s having a snooze. An hour-or-so later, we pass a town called Hope, a quaint plattelandse dorpie (rural town), in a few minutes we’ll be at the Plaasmol farmstall, which serves Spoorweg coffee (with condensed milk), and ham & cheese toasties, one each for Lumley and myself. The locals greet us with a ‘Lumley!’ and ‘Hello oom, the usual?’ ‘Asseblief, and make it a big coffee. Any gossip?’ They laugh, I’ll get an update with the coffee. This is the platteland (farm country) that thrives on stories about the ‘boks, infidelities, politics, which I avoid, and the latest farming wisdom and market prices. Sometimes I get the impression that every farmer should have been a rugby Springbok in their day, the selectors clearly got it wrong. I remember that there’s a Stormers match on Saturday, it’s against the Bulls, the old enemy; maybe the Youngster and I can go watch the game in a pub? Lumley trundles ahead, through the shop to the tables at the back; a few ‘More, alles reg?’ (Morning, all ok?) along the way. ‘Daars ‘n paar Duitsers en Ingelse daar buite’ (there are some Germans and Brits outside). Sometimes I’ll chat with the tourists, give them some local knowledge; not today, my head is somewhere else.

‘Lumley, es geht wieder los – bakkie!‘ We’re heading west again, to the lagoon and the Youngster. We get there in good time for a sunset dinner and cocktails at the waterfront. We’re quite relaxed, exchanging stories, we’ve not seen each other for a while. Lumley is lying under the table, I give her a chunk of my burger and a few chips, she likes them with ketchup. As the sun sets, we notice a band setting up. The Youngster looks at me; we’re going to stay a while, with the right music we get itchy feet. We don’t stay late, tomorrow is a workday for her and I’ve long-lost the ability for all-nighters.

I wake up slowly, the eyelids heavy, the Youngster is having a shower.  The kettle is hot, I brew some coffee and give Lumley his breakfast.  We leave at the same time as the Youngster, heading in opposite directions.  Lumley and I cruise around the lagoon, a game reserve; the last time here we saw some Eland, Steenbokkies, tortoises, a Lynx and even sheep grazing in the dunes.  I’d like to see a snake, not that I’m comfortable with them, it’s just been a while; no luck, they do often move away from humans.  The sea breeze is a bit nippy, a good refresher before we start the drive north towards the Bay.

We drive along the coast, heading north, and a few hours later we get to a campsite near the Bay. U&L have parked their caravan here, they tend to escape to isolated spots, preferably with limited cell phone signal. I’d sent them a text about 15 minutes out, they’re sitting under an awning; I can the start of a braai. I let out Lumley, who goes a bit crazy. The auntie walks towards me, that familiar smile: ‘Hi Du!’

Life is good, tomorrow we’ll walk along the beach and go fishing. First, spoorweg koffie – dit is lekker by die see.

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