Lansdowne dearest: My family’s story of forced removals – an interview with Bronwyn Davids

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Book cover: https://www.nb.co.za/en/view-book/?id=9780795709807; Bronwyn Davids: https://jgf.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Bronwyn-Davids-skrywer-van-Lansdowne-Dearest.jpg

Bronwyn Davids talks to Naomi Meyer about Bronwyn’s book Lansdowne dearest.

Bronwyn, your book Lansdowne dearest was published by NB Publishers during lockdown. Congratulations on the achievement! You didn’t plan to write this book, as I understand. You actually intended to write a book on eco-awareness for the youth (please correct me if I am wrong!). Please tell our readers the story behind your story – when you wrote Lansdowne dearest, and why.

Thank you, Naomi. In 2018, after losing yet another contract job – my fourth one in three years – to keep positive while I applied for jobs, I googled “How to write a book”. And that’s where I seriously began to get down to the business of realising my 43-year-old dream to write a book – 43 years from the time I read Françoise Sagan’s Bonjour tristesse and discovered that she wrote it at 18 years. When I was a young teen, Gerald Durrell’s My family and other animals also struck quite a few mental chords, inspiring me to want to write a book one day when I paid my dues or when I was blessed by overwhelming inspiration. Ha! The idealism of youth.

So, in 2018, there I was, savings dwindling, with the overwhelming thought, it’s now or never. My best friend, Google, told me how to make character arcs and such things. But while I was doing this plotting of characters for a young adult eco-adventure story, I kept on remembering my first home and the fact that it had all these fruit trees and plants and animals. My early years were also very outdoorsy, climbing Table Mountain often and going over Hout Bay’s Sentinel to Duiker’s Klip, and hikes through several national parks a few times a year. It was the way I was raised; I had to love nature and all things Cape Peninsula and environs, or bust. Me, I loved the sea and seashells and shorelines because I could breathe and there was so much space. But, huffing and puffing, trying to keep up with the older ones, I climbed mountains every holiday because it was the family’s great love and, besides that, it is good for you, you know.

These thoughts kept on whirling around in my head, and I began to write them as posts in the memo pad on my old cell phone. I realised that these mutterings were not meant to be deleted, as was my habit with such pieces. And that’s when I began to save them to Vodacom Free Facebook as posts, not expecting much reaction. But people liked them, and that’s where the seeds of Lansdowne dearest were first sown.

And that eventually led to Na’eemah Masoet, NB Kwela Books non-fiction publisher, finding me and asking me to write my story. I made a mess of that first draft. She said, write about your life. My life in its entirety is like a patchwork quilt, with most of the stitches coming loose. Quilters call this type of patchwork – where you take little pieces from here and there – crazy quilting. Very little of it makes sense. Anyway, there I was giving poor Na’eemah a headache with this crazy quilt book with contrary voices from different parts of my life. What she did, then, was apply to the Jakes Gerwel Foundation, who in 2019 would be opening up Paulet House, their house for writers in Somerset East in the Eastern Cape, with their mission being to:

  • Enrich and build up South African literature;
  • Support upcoming writers who have a story to tell but do not quite know how to put it in words;
  • Give a voice to new perspectives and worlds of experience.

I was completely unaware that moves were afoot to post me off to Somerset East for some learning at the Jakes Gerwel Foundation and NB Publishers’ Mentorship Programme for Upcoming Writers of Fiction and Non-fiction. When Na’eemah eventually informed me that she had done this applying, and by the way you’ve been accepted to go learn how to write books, it’s like that scene where Harry Potter is hanging around his cramped little room with his miserable life, but entertaining himself with making books fly and turn into strange objects, and the owl pitches up, faints from exhaustion and drops the exploding golden letter summoning him to school.

.........
Man, it was a most surreal experience. And my entire life has been like that, long periods of flat lines and then, bam! Fake coloured smoke and ta-da, it’s surreal time again. It’s no wonder that my imaginary friend at two years old was called Dali.
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Man, it was a most surreal experience. And my entire life has been like that, long periods of flat lines and then, bam! Fake coloured smoke and ta-da, it’s surreal time again. It’s no wonder that my imaginary friend at two years old was called Dali. That was, then, the early months of Lansdowne dearest, which, at the time of my being posted to Somerset East, was titled, Up, down Lansdowne Road (now a chapter title).

The title – the origin of the name Lansdowne (and the subtitle, as well: My family’s story of forced removals) – this sounds like a love letter to the town/community, but then the subtitle makes one think. When you wrote the book, did you feel a sense of talking to your younger self, to your family, to the place of your roots/”komvandaan”? Please tell me about the writing process.

After my first workshop in Somerset East, once my mentor, editor/journalist Suzette Myburgh, had taught me about structuring and putting together things that belonged together, and dropping clues into tension lines, I came home and I called it In my thoughts, Lansdowne dearest. Later that year, “In my thoughts” was lobbed off in pre-production because one-word or two-word titles are usually the norm. It became the Lansdowne dearest, and the subtitle was added.

I’m still not so sure about the use of “my family”, because it was every family’s story at the time.

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I’m still not so sure about the use of “my family”, because it was every family’s story at the time.
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About my writer’s voice: the voice I use isn’t my adult writer’s voice. The voice you’re reading is my younger self’s voice from 1966 to 1980. The voice changes as I get older. I worked with a limited palette from the time of going to Somerset East.

Leaves from a dress I used to wear sometimes on the Somerset East stays. Rosary was Aunty Dorothy's (wife of Uncle Joey. She converted to Catholicism after his death). The locket that became a pyramid on the horizon is memory of the parents. Beads are all from a charity shop bracelet. There is a medal that our parish priest in Mitchell's Plain Father Tommy (mentioned in book) gave my mom when she was going through the divorce. She wore it right to the end, pinned to her clothes. (Picture: Bronwyn Davids.)

Suzette had examined both the first and second drafts and decided that the strongest part of my story was the first part. The first two rough drafts each consisted of three sections. She gave me the print version of that first section, consisting of about 22 000 words. In my first two-hour lesson with her, we discussed what I had to do, how I had to expand stories that had been just one or two paragraphs, into whole chapters. She liked my titles of chapters, and so I had at least that when I came home to write my third draft.

It’s a lot like being in psychotherapy, when you analyse why you did what and said that, with your editors and, in this case, mentor/tutor, so Suzette could sense my fears and my trepidation about tackling this book.

What you have is first my five-year-old self, and this progresses to my 18-year-old self. Only at the beginning and at the end do you get a sense of “the me”, as I was more or less in 2019. We all change all the time; we are deluding ourselves when we say we are like this or that and stick to that particular party line. So, I am not talking to my younger self; I am my younger self telling my older self, “Hey, this is what you used to be, so get a grip, you flaming idiot, and be kind.”

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I wanted to give my family dignity and closure and, above all, let them rest in peace. And to the future generations, this is what it was. You can go on and make your own lives.
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I wanted to give my family dignity and closure and, above all, let them rest in peace. And to the future generations, this is what it was. You can go on and make your own lives. Much that was truly ugly in my extended family and with family friends has been left on the cutting floor. I wanted to write a beautiful book, and I was not going to give the ugly and mean-spirited elements any more publicity or hold than what they already had back then. They were simply left out or reduced to whatever bit I chose to assign to them.

And we discussed all of it, Suzette and I. She knew that to reach me, she had to say, “Write it for your community.” I tend to write less rather than more, so she told me to write everything I remember, so, in many places, it reads like social commentary.

The shells: this is a canvas stretcher that I repurposed with Hessian ribbon from China Town. The crocheted daisy wheels come from the charity shop over the road and the shells come from Muizenberg and Bloubergstrand. I must still finish it off with crystals. (Picture: Bronwyn Davids.)

There was no way that I could write it for myself. I had to give it a purpose, and I found that after coming back from Somerset at the end of February 2019; I heard something devastating to do with my family legacy, and that became part of my tension line. There are characters in my book whose life and times I record, but I have hidden characters – the house my great-grandfather built, his garden he made, and there is one other thing.

Pinboard. I always wanted one, so I made one. The front is a painted canvas with the back built up with material covered styrofoam. At the end of each round of heavy duty writing, I either binge read or I make something and I always update my notebooks - mind maps that's coloured in and the pages look like mandalas. (Picture: Bronwyn Davids.)

The reviewer in the review you mention in your next question picked up on it right at the end, but did not realise that it was a character right from the first chapter. Its fate is the very last line in the book. All the way through the book, I mention this object, and people don’t realise that it is one of the main characters and commentators, speaking in quotes and parables.

I read the following paragraph, summarising the book: “There has been much contestation over the definition and identity of the South African coloured community. Bronwyn Davids brings her idiosyncratic view to bear in Lansdowne dearest, underlining the futility of any attempt to generalise the past.” You have a unique story to tell. When you were a child, your family was uprooted and forcefully removed, but you still had access to your old life via your school. How did this impact on your life in general? Did you always feel a bit like an outsider?

I’ve always been an outsider. Wherever I go, I will stand in the doorway and only go in if I can see a way out – spot the clearly marked exit signs. See where the fire extinguisher is. See where the panic button is. Are the dome cameras facing in the direction of all the danger areas? Is there a fire panel, and is it working? A cautious outsider – that is what my early years made me. In my later years, life and career sorely tested that persona, and I survived those tests. And I could never understand precisely why I survived so many rounds of hardship and loss. In the past three years, I have been thinking that I survived the extremes because what I had to write about made me be this life-long outsider.

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I still live near my past, where I went to school, the two Catholic churches I attended, where my granny lived and where my father grew up. When I walk to the shopping centre, I pass the house where my Portuguese great-grandfather and great-grandmother lived and where she died.
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I still live near my past, where I went to school, the two Catholic churches I attended, where my granny lived and where my father grew up. When I walk to the shopping centre, I pass the house where my Portuguese great-grandfather and great-grandmother lived and where she died. When I get on the bus in Claremont on Main Road, heading toward the city, I see the house where my maternal grandmother grew up, near Newlands Swimming Pool.

I see the block of flats where my mom died and where I eventually lost property and everything my family had ever built up. When I go over the M5 bridge, I pass the Catholic church where my mom’s and my aunt’s ashes are buried. When I go to Kalk Bay and I see the harbour wall all changed since 1993, I know more or less the spot where I put my father’s ashes to sea. When I go to the doctor, I see where my home once was. My past has always been a part of my life. It is, in fact, the fact of my life.

But, by facing the fears, there is a lessening of the hold it has to destroy one completely.

Your book is a memoir. What are your thoughts on writing down something, and the fact that this immediately becomes fiction, as well? Can we trust our memories? Is this all-important, though, in a memoir? Or is it more important that the feelings in the book are real and true?

The way I wrote the book, it falls into the category narrative non-fiction. I remembered what my six- to 18-year-old self remembered. Na’eemah was quick to reassure me that it is “what you remembered and how you remembered”, and no one can sue you for it – or something to that effect.

I suppose we remember things from our own perspectives, how we view life. As children, we observe things as audience to the adult world. Children don’t dominate. They don’t control the game. The drama, the big emotions, aren’t in the child’s domain. Adult drama and emotions – they’re heavy from a young person’s perspective. It is as oppressive as the bullies on the block. And Lansdowne dearest belongs to a child’s world, with many bullies on the block.

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I suppose we remember things from our own perspectives, how we view life. As children, we observe things as audience to the adult world. Children don’t dominate. They don’t control the game. The drama, the big emotions, aren’t in the child’s domain. Adult drama and emotions – they’re heavy from a young person’s perspective. It is as oppressive as the bullies on the block. And Lansdowne dearest belongs to a child’s world, with many bullies on the block.
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I think the memories that you have, where you actually saw stuff – those are trustworthy. It is the memories where you heard stuff that may be inaccurate. Feelings, I have a problem with. For me, they are ephemera. I question feelings and where they come from. I will not easily hand over power to feelings. And that perspective comes from my adult self, the daily newspaper reporter, who on a daily basis has witnessed the destruction that feelings cause.

When you look at the book now, what do you feel and what do you think?

I don’t look at my book. It’s in a trolley backpack with my other books. I don’t have a lot of space for bookshelves where I stay now. So, I read and pass on, or I donate the books back to Oasis Charity Bookshop, where I usually buy books. I have about 30 books that I hope to keep for one day when I do move and have ample space to put my books out, and Lansdowne is one of those books. I see it when I repack the trolley backpack and add new “to keep” books. I page through it and look at the pictures, and the eyes tear up. I don’t think you ever get over the loss of family.

“I went away so that I could learn to write an epitaph for a time and a place that no longer exists.” And so you did. a) How does the going away influence the closeness of the remembering?

It was being in a place that was straight out of an earlier time in Cape Town, a slower time. It was very visually evocative, going away, especially in Somerset East.

b) Also, was it possible? To go away?

Oh, yes, it was the best feeling knowing that soon we would be going away again. We all looked forward to seeing each other. We still have a WhatsApp group. Shana still sends me chapters to read. I read Ougat in the making, and afterwards for review. I am the only non-NB person to have read her novel which she isn’t going to publish. Sharon still sends me her short stories from time to time. Once, Francois heard Shana and I were going to brunch in my area and he invited himself, coming all the way from Durbanville to a place he had never been before. We spent nearly three hours sitting outside at Starlings in Claremont. It felt like being back in Somerset East with the two of them, eating under the trees. So, that’s the magic of Paulet.

You have ancestors from everywhere in the world, it seems. To start: Scotland and Portugal. Two questions: how strange the apartheid system was, in all respects – have you ever thought about the fact that your family has been discriminated against, with so much so-called European blood in their veins, so to speak? But another more practical question: how did you do your research, about relatives from previous centuries, for example?

My aunties and uncles on my mom’s side, especially Dor, always told me stories about the McBains, the great-grandpa’s sisters, and who lived where. Always in the Claremont or Newlands area. My mom was my Portuguese story link, and Dor also told me his stories, especially the gardening story, and I remember precisely where she told me about him and the persimmons – outside Access Park Fruit and Veg in the 1990s. From my dad’s side, my gran told me stories here and there, and my aunts and uncles did, too. When my dad died, I came across names he had jotted down. He was trying to research ancestry. His sister, Doreen, always wanted me to research the family history. I didn’t want to do it then – or now. I wrote what they told me, and what I remembered, and the documents I saw when Dor was packing up and moving. And afterwards, I kept it all in mind. I do know one of my Davids cousins is researching the family tree, but I didn’t contact him. The story was about Lansdowne and the maternal line and what I witnessed. And I was sticking to that.

Your book reads like a story – with your real-life family feeling like characters in a wonderful storybook. At times, it even feels like a magical fairytale: “They may have been the owners of their land, but my family was not rich in money. What it was rich in was creating magic, from the quaintness of the house’s layout to the sprawling garden with all its interesting nooks and crannies.” Funny, tragic, very human. The worst part is that we, as readers, know what is going to happen to this community before it happens. I read with morbid fascination. Yet you have an enjoyable way of telling the story (especially the first half of the book, when it becomes darker, and the problem is that by then, one finds it impossible to stop reading). Did you, in fact, like writing it down?

It felt as if it had to come out. I was giving it all wings, once I got used to the idea. It would take me a long time to settle down to write. I’d walk around my area, maybe read a book. I’d actually see those places from way back when, in my head, playing like a movie, almost like I was back there and walking those routes. I’d been having those kinds of experiences for years, flashing back to the 1970s or 1960s, ever since I took to listening to CapeTalk on Saturdays and Sundays and hearing the music. But I no longer experience that, now that I have written it all down.

It most certainly reads like an absorbing story, as if you did like writing it down! I couldn’t put it down. You really did travel down Memory Lane, and it feels like a real destination where you took me, your reader. The Catholic school is a place you visited, and again I was fascinated by the combination of all the various traditions from your background – Easter food, the importance of diverse traditions. Do you now, today, know where all your various family members live – years after you were all removed?

I got many friend requests when the book came out, and one was from one of my Bridgetown cousin’s daughters. I didn’t know that she was related to me. I just accepted her friend request. But when her aunt brought the book to her older sisters, who still live in the house that their parents moved to in the 1950s, she said she is my friend, so she messaged me to contact them. And I did, and we have a WhatsApp group. They used to come and look after me when I was little. Some of my cousins have passed on, but their children are still around. One of the cousins’ sons, who I thought wouldn’t like the book, loves it. Aunty Dorothy died in 2020 and, earlier this year, Jo gave me her rosary. I worked it into one of my collages, which also contains Mavie’s locket that Ivan gave her when they were still at school. I must take a pic and send it to you. (See images above.)

Oh, yes, that’s my main process – I do arts and crafts. My entire process is based on the visual and using my hands. In 2020, Theo asked us to send him videos speaking about our writing processes. And I struggled, because how do you tell people who want to hear about writing processes, that what you do is make visual art. It was so futile, so I didn’t send in the video.

Great-grandmother Sophie from Somerset West – the only Afrikaans speaker in my quota of eight great-grandparents, as far as I know, that is – her sisters’ grandchildren have been in contact with me. And I went back with three of them last year. The place has changed and also not changed. The houses and gardens have changed, but the layout of the streets is like the Somerset East streets. There were so many similarities between the two Somersets. I like Somerset East better, though.

There is so much social commentary in your book: “Apartheid had many layers and each layer had points of attack and counterattack. Some of those points were considered soft or ongoing low impact conflict, like the slow dripping of a faulty tap, an irritant. We lived in a country at war, a country that did not acknowledge the majority as citizens – just incidentals with the potential to be enemies. So was it our war too, or were we just part of the irritant droplets coming out of the faulty tap in the backyard?” And so many complex issues to consider. I kept thinking, while reading your book: your story started a bit like a magical and happy and warm story, but after the forced removals, no one was able to put everything back again. Do you still feel this way: uprooted, if you will?

I am secure in myself. So long as I have books and art, that’s my home. But I have never been settled about a physical home. Other people say they want to live here or there. I just know that I can’t live far from the sea. I noticed that after I wrote everything down, I found a sense of peace, a sense of closure.

And the rest of your family members, the people you can talk to about history and the past? (I found my answer in this paragraph, close to the end, when you discuss your journalist experience: “After all the chaos and noise, all that was left was an overwhelming sense of absence and silence. A deafening silence. In my mind, it became a metaphor for the apartheid era’s lingering death. It was much like the deafening silence of the forced removals – the silence that descended when all that was left of my home, and other people’s homes throughout the country, was the land on which a beloved house had once stood.”) It never leaves, does it? And the end of your book – it is extremely difficult to read. Well done for writing your story, Bronwyn!

I didn’t talk to family about history in the writing phase; I spoke to neighbours. Elsa from St Helena (real name Joan Kruger) was at school with Mavie and Ivan, and I used to go and bounce memories off her and seek confirmation. She was looking forward to reading because she just didn’t have a clue about where I was heading with the story. I offered to bring over my laptop, but she wanted to hold the book in her hands. Sadly, she passed away in February 2020. So, too, another neighbour who had also endured removals from Tamboerskloof, died before the book was released, and he, too, had been waiting to read it because he just didn’t get what I was doing with the writing and the Somerset East experience. Another friend, Clyde, from one of my jobs, in 2015 – when he discovered that I came from Lansdowne and he from “white” Crawford, just down our road – same church and the same day mixed-colours confirmation, and he knew Dor – every morning, he would come and say, do you remember this or that, so I suppose it was his evoking memory that brought everything to the surface. And that inevitably led to the bursting of the banks two years later, after I’d been back to another part of my past, Newspaper House, and back to being a newspaper reporter and having that come to an end, and being at another period of starting over again.

But I think everybody thought it was another of my mad life experiences that would just fritter away to nothing. Well, it didn’t go away. It’s still very much here. Visi asked me to write a story about home in 2020.

You will be discussing your story at the Suidoosterfees on Thursday the 28th. The Suidoosterfees does not shy away from topics which make people uncomfortable – as Theo Kemp pointed out in his interview on LitNet: certain matters have to be discussed, he says. What do you think?

Having worked as a journalist during the apartheid era when news reportage was limited by state of emergency laws, and having experienced the psychological damage of not being able to report all that you saw and heard from people, I’m all for individuals telling the five Ws and one H of their witnessing or experiencing of their part of the world. As Elizabeth Gilbert says at the start of Eat pray love: “Tell the truth. Tell the truth. Tell the truth.”

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Having worked as a journalist during the apartheid era when news reportage was limited by state of emergency laws, and having experienced the psychological damage of not being able to report all that you saw and heard from people, I’m all for individuals telling the five Ws and one H of their witnessing or experiencing of their part of the world. As Elizabeth Gilbert says at the start of Eat pray love: “Tell the truth. Tell the truth. Tell the truth.”
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I have come to believe that it doesn’t matter whether people question what you say, just as long as you say it and aren’t intimidated into not saying it. If it is the truth and it has meaning and “produces the least amount of harm”, and what you’ve said is meant to last, it will last. If it is zeitgeist, it will remain in the time it belongs in.

At Suidoosterfees, Shana Fife, Francois Bloemhof and I will be tackling memory and psychology, because those two go together like a bad marriage – pure Kramer vs Kramer or The war of the roses scenarios, with the writer choosing a side and how to play out the arguments. I think with memoir you have to choose sides, you can’t flip-flop. Flip-flopping makes for a yawn-worthy story.

(Picture: Bronwyn Davids.)

You spent some time at Paulet House in Somerset East to write this book. Maybe you could discuss your writing experience at this house.

I didn’t write my book at Paulet House; I wrote at home, using the ironing board as a desk because it just felt more comfortable to sit on the bed. And when I needed to knock my head on something out of fear or frustration, the ironing board was a much softer option and hopefully wouldn’t cause long-term damage.

At Paulet House, I went to learn how to write a book while writing a book.

I was in the writers’ mentorship programme, and this is how it works. You fly out to PE airport on a Thursday, and land around 1:00 pm; you road-trip for two and a half hours with a great shuttle guy. You get to Paulet, are welcomed like prodigals, rush up to the same room you stay in the four times you go throughout the year, at the end of every season – summer, autumn, winter, spring. You dump your bags and rush back downstairs to hang out with everyone at the table in the courtyard and for afternoon teatime. Then everyone goes their own way, some to their rooms or into town. It’s a sort of “do your own thing” time. We have dinner together and sit a long time at table, talking books and movies mostly.

By 10:00 pm, everyone is ready to head off into their own space. The next morning, there is consultation about who is going to the first two hours of tuition. Each mentor has two writers. The mentor takes the one who is due to work on their own, and sets out what aspects they need to work on. It isn’t free-flow writing at Paulet for those in mentorship. It is learning/discussion, a lot like analysing literature at university with your tutor, only it is your own story.

You’re writing at home, free-flowing out of your subconscious mind. At Paulet, you enter your conscious mind, becoming editor in partnership with your mentor, deciding what stays and what goes. In total, over two days, each mentee spends eight hours working with their mentor and eight working on their own, making changes, exploring new options, doing research and such. It is pretty intense.

On the fourth day, you travel back. The travelling, the eating and the walking to town together are all part of the learning process, because often the talk would come back to the finer points of language and writing. When you get home, you spend an entire week recovering, completely blown away by the intensity of the experience.

While writing Lansdowne dearest, I was very interested in the process while I was writing. Seeing the making of a book from the other side. While writing the book, I in fact wrote a personal booklet about writing Lansdowne dearest . I called it "Finding Lansdowne". "Finding Lansdowne" was just something I wrote to tell people that you can be going through bad times, but if you get your call up to write that book, you just do and it all somehow falls into place.

Finally, could you elaborate on your current workings at Paulet House? And do share some facts about the house, the town and its history.

For the next few months, I’m helping Jakes Gerwel Foundation executive director and award-winning author Theo Kemp reach out to the English media, mostly – editors and individual journalists. He has most of the Afrikaans media covered. But some of my contacts spill over into Afrikaans as well.

About 15 days in, and I’m helping with press releases, working on building contacts, networking beyond media to language departments at universities and city libraries and with librarians, and contributing marketing ideas.

I’m not working at Paulet, I’m working for Paulet, to help make her a brand in her own right, so that in public consciousness she is always known as the house for writers – the house that the Gerwel family gave to the Jakes Gerwel Foundation to support writers and, through that, to grow South African language and literature, which was the late Professor Jakes’s field of expertise, his speciality being Afrikaans and Low Countries languages and literature. English writers are fortunate that we are also welcomed with open arms and minds.

There are also other plans in the pipeline that involve past and present writers and mentors who once wrote and thought and were enveloped by the ever-comfy Paulet.

Paulet House is very much a part of the old part of town, and was built in 1825, the year Lord Charles Somerset sold off the Somerset Farm as erven and declared the area a town. The land in the old part of town was part of the supply farm for troops fighting in the Frontier War.

Paulet Street lies just below the Boschberg, or Bosberg, a 40-kilometre stretch of mountain ridge and a nature reserve that stretches from Antoniekop near the Little Fish River in the west, to Slagtersnek near Cookhouse. As an oasis town in the Karoo, Somerset East is lush and green, as are the sweeping gardens at Paulet House.

One of the neighbouring heritage properties is the Old English Officers’ Mess, which was built in 1818. The building has been home to the Walter Battiss Museum since 1981, which houses a precious collection of 70 pieces of Battiss’s abstract pieces, drawings and watercolours, as well as Fook Island memorabilia and furnishings, and other personal items from his studio that he donated to the town, just a year before he died. He was born and raised in the town.

If you’re visiting the town, it is worth popping in at the museum, because there you’ll find Ros Turner, who is passionate not only about the precious collection that she is curator of, but about the entire region. She has great stories to share and views Paulet House and her writers as a beacon of hope for the town.

Also read:

Persverklaring: Suidoosterfees se 2022-program propvol hoogtepunte

As die katjiepiering blom: ’n onderhoud met Audrey Jantjies

Hier is jou naaste tak van Bargain Books

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