I don’t want to go far anymore. I like that my grocer, hairdresser, favourite coffee shop and chemist are all in the same place. Once upon a time it would have been a village high street – now it is a shopping centre. But it’s all the same thing when you boil it down – it’s my local.
People know my name, and my preferred coffee order: and that has become important to me. I will spend days at home – working, taking Jack for a walk – but not getting out much more than that. My life has telescoped – in rather than out. For someone who once travelled all the time I now don’t want to travel at all.
But I do want to get away.
So I pack a case, pull together Jack’s belongings, throw in a bottle of Campari and we head out into the countryside. Most often to a small town and self-catered rental. We set up shop for two or three days – and chill. I’ve been to McGregor a good number of times. There is something about the town that resonates. An hour’s walk with Jack will take me through most of its little streets and sort out most of my grumbles. There’s always somewhere open for a coffee or a drink to celebrate my return to sanity and someone will stop for a chat. I don’t do much but read and eat – and time passes quite amiably.
But lately I have wanted more than someone else’s usually inaccurately advised money-maker-on-the-side. An old annuity had just matured and I am wondering whether to reinvest in some abstract idea or in bricks. I have been dragging the nans and my brother off to see various small towns and many properties and always come up wanting. The kids and Mark won’t join me anymore – so I head up the highway with the pooch, see a halfdozen places in quick succession, eat lunch and head home. Usually disappointed.
People I poll are divided on whether owning ‘a second home’ is worthwhile – most cite the maintenance as being the biggest bugbear. Others saying: ‘but you have to go there all the time”. Petal said she loves her holiday home – and visits most weekends. Ian thinks I should take half the money and stick it in a ‘go where the heck I want’ bank account – and reinvest the rest. My parents have gone back and forth, and my brothers just laugh and say – “don’t overthink it, do what your gut says is right”.
This weekend I was meant to go to a place called Papkuilsfontein. A farm, about 4 hours from CT, that has no electricity, no internet, not much at all. Apart from waterfalls, 1000 acres, a quivertree forest and all of the nightsky. But they double booked and let me down. So at the last-minute I called my favourite B+B in McGregor and ended up in the front room. An early morning walk with my dog, a look through a window, a chat with my host: and the renovated barn I had passed suddenly became a must-see.
And Niklaas was right, it did suit me. I could see myself being there. Often.
South Africans love to chat to strangers – ask a question and we will really answer you. Old Village Lodge serves breakfast at a long table and over croissants I met Dainty and Reinier (thanks for the lovely dinner!) and Drienie and Christo. So I told my new pals all about the cottage – and they said – “love it, we want to see too, after breakfast tomorrow then”.
‘My’ house got eight thumbs up from the panel – Renier said it had him at the front door. Christo, who has flipped nine properties said was a great deal and … you could do this and this and this … I called sofabrother who said – “why not”: so he is in for a share. And camparigirl emailed: “I know what you would say to me, if it makes you happy, do it.”
I crunched the numbers with various doomsday scenarios attached and it’s workable. So now it starts – the fear and loathing that is negotiating a property deal.
I took my nervous self out for Sunday roast and ‘apple pie a-la-mode’ at local spot called Frangipane and fell into conversation with the couple at the table next to me. I told them my story. “Oh buy it”, they said: “you can always sell it”. They had done the same – 30-odd years ago and had never regretted the decision: make it beautiful, enjoy it, come when you can: they told me. Don’t put pressure on yourself, be here when you are and be in Cape Town when you are there. Don’t worry about the in-between. It all sorts itself out ….
Then the wife leaned forward and said: “But listen dear, just one piece of advice … bring your own man. There are none here. And most of the women are widows. So, there’s a lot of competition.” She patted her husband’s hand and he rolled his eyes at me. They had to have been in their eighties. But, forewarned is forearmed.
Who knows, maybe by Wednesday I will be the woman who went out for a walk and came back with a house. Finding a fellow, though, may take a little longer.