On sudden impulse last week, I took a sudden left up Tokai Road and turned into the grounds of the library to see how the rebuilding was getting on.
There on the gate was the notice that the library would reopen on Monday May 15. Hurrah! It’s been a long long time for our pile of books sitting on a table gathering dust waiting to be returned and possibly running up hefty fines. They were due back on November 18, 2016!
The good news is that nobody will be fined. The library has cancelled all bad debts.
I had a good look around the grounds and found that several pines have been cut. Not only the four near-neighbours of the huge one which succumbed to the storm on October 8 2016 and fell on the library’s roof, but also a few pines growing next to the fence near the parking area. Possibly they too were rotten to the core and could have fallen down in a storm on houses the other side of the fence.
The remarkable thing was that nobody was injured that October morning. The staff arrived to find their place of work badly damaged and, for safety reasons, it was closed for months while an insurance claim was lodged for repairs estimated around R250 000.
There’s been lots of gnashing of teeth about the reopening date being extended a few times. People were concerned about school pupils without access to the internet for study purposes and the various family-supportive societies having difficulty finding another venue for their regular meetings. The worst scenario was a nine-month closure but in the end it was seven.
The restored building looks great in its fresh green paintwork, which also covers the security fence hugging flowering creepers which look in need of trimming. But that’s a small detail. The big plus is our library is back and ready to circulate good books.
One of the first books I want to borrow is Housemaid’s Daughter by the South African-born novelist Barbara Much. Her second and recently published book The Girl from Simon’s Bay totally capti- vated me. It is a beautifully told nar- rative about love and heroism set in familiar Simon’s Town from the 1920s to 1960s and with four ships at the heart of the tale.
Each is real, each played a distinguished part in World War II, and each passed through Simon’s Town for repair or refuelling. Their painted badges can still be seen on the side walls of the dry dock. They were the cruisers HMS Durban, HMS/HMNZ Achilles, HMS Dorsetshire and HMS Cumberland.
The book’s fictional hero, gunnery officer Lieutenant David Horrocks DSO, served on all four ships.
Requiring an emergency appendectomy, he is transferred from the Dorsetshire (which fired the torpedoes that finally sank the famous German battleship Bismarck) to the Royal Naval Hospital in Simon’s Town. There, he meets and falls in love with nurse Louise Ahrendts, a beautiful and ambitious local girl, classified as coloured. The star-crossed lovers have a troubled future. He is of noble birth, married and with a daughter.
Author Barbara Much has described how she explored the alleys of Simon’s Town, discovering the old Royal Naval Hospital and feeling the ghosts of wartime sailors, the ships that came and went and the folk who served ashore.
“And from the post-war era, a new set of ghosts began to populate my imagination: people who had once lived on the mountainside above the dockyard but had been evicted from their homes in the 1960s. Was it possible, I wondered, to marry the two threads in a book that would stretch from the sea battles of World War II and onwards into an uncertain future?”
I can assure you she has. The description of how the families were dump- ed in the wasteland of a new place called Ocean View – which had no view of the ocean – will make you weep. This tightly-knit community, which had not experienced racial discrimination under the Royal Navy’s control, suddenly found themselves treated like second-class citizens.
A queue too long
I’m not sure how appreciative motorists stuck in bumper-to-bumper peak hour traffic at the Newlands lights will be now that the M3 queue has been reduced from 6.5km to 3.3km. It’s still a queue too long.
The improvement is the result of the City’s transport and urban development authority adjusting the timing of the traffic lights at the intersection to reduce congestion from the far south. The losers are the motorists coming from the direction of Kirstenbosch. Instead of a car queue of 300m, they’ll find the length has grown to 1.7km.
If he were alive today, Dr Solly Morris, the City’s inspired engineer in the 1970s, would be shaking his head at the state of congestion on our roads. His far-sighted but unpopular proposal in 1971 to create an elevated six-lane freeway past the gate of Kirstenbosch was vigorously contested for four years and was eventually turned down by the Cape Administrator in February 1975. No alternative route was ever found. En kyk hoe lyk ons nou!
It’s a big issue
I always feel guilty when I see the men and women selling the Big Issue. I bought it regularly until the price went up to R30. It’s such an inconvenient amount. I don’t have it handy when I’m at a stop street and see a salesman. And if, when I remember to put aside R30 in my car, I use it on something else – like bread or milk – when I go to the shops. It’s a shame. These people do need the money.
Last year I joined a support group for procrastinators. But we haven’t met yet!