Durban exploration

11 June 2012 § Leave a comment

8 June

(Most of this was written a few days ago . . . )

Today, after a bit of a slow morning, I walked to Wits to go to the historical papers room again.  I copied heaps of pages from a thesis about Cato Manor, a part of Durban that was Lewis’s home for a bit, but that definitely was not as fun as reading letters is.  The lovely part was the walk home; I scarcely noticed the cold, because the sun was setting and sending diffused beams up and up and making the clouds blush, and brilliant jagged lines of gold stretched along the horizon.  I made it home just as it was really turning duskish.  I do make efforts not to get mugged now and again.

This is a wonderland of archives in South Africa . . . cosy and perfect

It surprises me that I feel hardly whirlwindish at all.  After riding the sixteen hours to Cape Town in a car, renting a car there and driving an hour to Genadendal and an hour the next day to Stellenbosch and two hours the next day to Cape Town and then doing the five-hour cab-flight-cab process, my mind should be in a more ruffled state.  Or perhaps not.  After all, I’m back in the hostel . . . it is certainly some type of home (read: there is free tea and friends and I’m not cold at night, the only things I desire in a home).

Flying into Durban

And now for a bit of the Durban story.  Grace and I arrived in the evening, and Edith of our wonderful guest-house-on-a-hill enveloped us with much kindness.  In the morning, we had the delightful experience of discovering monkeys gamboling about on the neighbouring rooftops.  How funny they looked!  I suppose my camera must have been dead for the Durban jaunt, because I have very few photographs.

Good night, sun

I met up with a professor at the university in Durban and had the pleasant surprise of discovering that she was good friends with Lewis during the last tenish years of his life.  She pointed me towards a book shop and another professor and was kind in answering all of my fledgling interviewer questions.  It was my first interview ever!

I’m going to Durban again soon so I can take my own photograph of Ike’s

Off we went to Ike’s.  We discovered a cosy wonderland of old books of all sorts, and who knows what restrained us from taking half of them with us?  I bought a Drummy book and a collection of C S Lewis essays and a volume of Cowper.

A chapter about Lewis finally appeared about seven-eighths of the way through the book

The woman who worked there allowed me to interview her for a few minutes, and she sent some photos to me that she had of Lewis at one of his book launches there.  One of the walls in the entryway has heaps of signatures on it:

Lewis makes his appearance on the signature wall at Ike’s booksellers

Yet only Lewis was allowed to sign the outside wall on the balcony:

Welcome to the book shebeen

It’s difficult to read, but it says “Louis quatorze” and has his death-date and some signatures of friends and his daughters (who are Londoners) beneath it.  Then we hopped to the beach for Grace’s first time to see the Indian Ocean and had a lovely walk along it, although the water proved too cold to swim.  That did not stop me from accidentally soaking most of my clothes.  Our dinner was leisurely and lovely, and when we returned to the guest house, we snuggled into bed to read, but we fell asleep . . . it was about eight o’clock.  Oops.

We decided to run to the beach the next morning and then take a cab back so that we could just run downhill; the day before, running (climbing?) up the hills proved a bit of a challenge.  We ran out of time and did not reach the water, instead stopping in a telephone booth store/internet café/hair salon to call a cab.  It was an odd place.  A poster advertised some rather bold hair colours; I, for one, can’t wait to transform my tresses into a puff of passion plum.  After our breakfast, during which we surreptitiously made honey sandwiches and stored them away for lunch, we walked to the university again to meet the professor who started the bookshop.  He was an even closer friend of Lewis’s and is now, I discovered, an important banker in the midst of moving out of his office who was kind enough to let me interview him.  I really don’t know what makes these people agree to let some insignificant undergraduate girl ask them personal questions.

This photograph was taken in the Durban botanical gardens, but not by me

We wandered around after that and walked round the botanical gardens, which have the most glorious things: walking trees.  They move only a bit more slowly than Ents.  They are in the fig family (that’s just a figment of tangential information) and, after growing up from the trunk, grow back down from their main branches.  These branches plunge into the ground and make roots of themselves, making wondrous arches of thick vine-ish branches everywhere.

That night, we flew back to Joburg (colder, busier, dirtier, lacking monkeys and the sea) with sad faces.  I think I mixed up some things from those two days, but I never read over my journal until at least a few months after I have written in it, so I can’t consult that trusty log book.

I was just reading things about fig trees and discovered that the largest fig tree in the world is in Pretoria!  I was there two weeks ago and had no idea that I was so close to the Wonderboom (“wondertree” in Afrikaans).  I might have to go back.

Wonderboom: the sound one hears when all of the figs fall

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