Sunday, July 3, 2016

Report Back #41

1. Olive Nieuwoudt

2. A few memories of Kromrivier

3. The Sneeuberg Hut: where was it once?

4. Dawie and Lizette: congatulations

1. Olive Nieuwoudt

On 24 June I received this message from Susan de la Bat, the daughter of Olive and Rens:
“In case you haven’t heard yet, my mom, Olive Nieuwoudt, passed away yesterday... We’ll miss her dearly.”

This morning I received this tribute from Elna van der Merwe, recalling her childhood memories of Olive (my translation below):– 

Met tannie Olive se dood is dit die einde van ’n era vir ons Van der Merwe-kinders wat die eerste keer in die laat sestigerjare deur ons ouers Kromriver toe geneem is. Hier het ons Desembers ’n paradys betree waarvan tannie Olive die middelpunt was. Ons pa het haar stilletjies voor ons ses kinders tannie Vy genoem na aanleiding van die Bybelse vye en olywe! In die koel, donker plaashuis het ons haar suurlemoensap gedrink en soos Kersdag nadergekom het, het die woeligheid toegeneem. Almal moes ’n present kry – van die plaaskinders tot die vakansiekinders. Uit daardie klein plaaswinkeltjie het die wonderlikste goed gekom. Ek onthou een jaar se plastiekpoppe. En hoe oom Rens om die hoek kom met sy Kersvader-pak en die plaaskinders skree van banggeit. Eers is daar gebid en gesing en dan is die presente en eetgoed uitgedeel. 
Ek kon my as kind verkyk aan tannie Olive wat van alles weet wat op die plaas aangaan en links en regs opdragte uitdeel in daardie lieflike aksent van haar; die tikkie Engels wat sy nooit verloor het nie, selfs wanneer sy perfek Afrikaans gepraat het. Ek het as ouer tiener bewus geword daarvan dat sy haar land verlaat het en ’n nuwe lewe kom maak het in ’n toe nog baie onherbergsame kontrei. 
Al het ek haar net een maal per jaar gesien, het tannie Olive ’n onuitwisbare indruk op my gemaak as iemand wat doen wat haar hand vind om te doen en dit met soveel uitnemendheid. Ek eer haar nagedagtenis. (En ek hoor haar stem elke keer wanneer ek weer op Kromrivier kom: “Pasop vir die slange voor jul voete!”)

The passing of tannie Olive is the end of an era for the Van der Merwe children, who were first taken to Kromrivier by our parents in the late sixties. Here we entered a December paradise, with tannie Olive in the centre. Our father quietly referred to her, to the six of us children, as ‘tannie Fig’, after the Biblical ‘figs and olives’! In the cool, dark farmhouse we drank her lemonade, and as Christmas Day approached the busy bustle began. Everyone had to get a present – from the farm children to the visitors. Out of that tiny farm shop came the most wonderful things. I remember that one year there were plastic dolls. And how uncle Rens came around the corner in his Father Christmas outfit, and the farm children screamed in fright! First we prayed and sang, and then the presents and the food were handed around.
As a child I watched how tannie Olive, who knew everything that was going on on the farm, would give instructions left and right in that delightful accent of hers; the touch of English that she never lost, even when she spoke perfect Afrikaans. As an older teenager I became aware that she had left her homeland and made a new life in what was then still a very inhospitable place.
Although I only saw her just once a year, tannie Olive made an indelible impression upon me; she could do anything she put her hand to with such complete competence. I honour her memory (and I hear her voice every time I return to Kromrivier: “Mind you don’t step on a snake!”
- Elna

I first met Olive and Rens on a schoolboy trip to the Cederberg in about 1959. Much later we got to know them much better, when Olive asked me to make a map of the farm and its walks, for her visitors. She had an uncanny ability to remember names and faces, a sure sign of her interest in and care for people; the Cederberg has felt emptier ever since she moved into Clanwilliam several years ago. She will be greatly missed and fondly remembered by ourselves and many, many others. Our personal condolences to Susan and Pip: you were privileged to have had a truly great mama.

Olive, Rens, and ?Pip with a party of climbers at Algeria,
in 1959: photo by Howes-Howell

2. A few memories of Kromrivier

For many years Kromrivier was synonymous with the Cederberg for us, as it was for so many others. In later years we became more attached to the Agter-Pakhuis, but that was more to do with better roads and spring flowers than anything else, and we still visit Kromrivier with our sense of familiar affection as strong as ever. It’s one of those places that harbours very strong memories – here are but a few.
* The April school holidays sometime in the late seventies, when our children were but babies. With friends we had the campsite below Suringkop. It was a great week, with the farm almost to ourselves and, reluctant to leave, we asked Olive if we could extend our stay to the Friday – Good Friday, as it happens. “You don’t want to be here,” Olive said wisely, but we insisted we’d give it a try. We were about to turn in on the Thursday evening when all hell broke loose. It was nearly ten pm when car after car started rolling in across the low bridge. Within minutes the air was rent with the cries of overtired children. Nearby a husband and wife were throwing deck chairs at each other; someone had forgotten the tent pegs. Over there a tent went up, with a bright lamp inside. Husband and wife proceeded to disrobe, blissfully unaware of the silhouette-show sharply projected by their lamp onto the bright canvas of their tent. The racket of tired campers arriving from their long trek went on until after midnight; in the morning we hit the road as quickly and as quietly as we could.
* The trip when we and a few other families were marooned on the wrong side of the river by floodwaters. Rens and Olive sent bread and meat across the river in a bucket on a wire. There was no charge for the extra nights we spent!
* Dogs were not allowed, but that did not deter us from taking Mango the cat to Kromrivier. Mango had been to the top of the Drakensberg and done two trips down the Witels – Kromrivier was small beer for her. However, when leaving time came there was no sign of Mango. She was a cat, after all. “Don’t worry,” Olive said. “I’ll ask the farm people to look out for her.” Olive phoned on the next Thursday. “Your cat is here,” she said. “She’s moved in with some visitors in one of the cottages.” When we got back to the farm Olive told us how she had identified our cat. All week the farm kids – duly instructed by Olive – had brought in a stream of black and white cats that were then placed on the kitchen table. If they were farm cats Olive’s own pussies stayed asleep on a sunny window ledge. However, when Mango arrived there was an instant bristling, hissing, and, in no time, cats on the attack. Mango survived three trips to Olive’s kitchen before she was safely holed up with Olive’s visitors.
* In 1976 we visited the farm to make a map for Olive’s visitors. Rens showed us every nook and every cranny on the farm, mostly at hair-raising speeds straight through the veld in his old brown Peugeot bakkie. “There’s only a problem,” Rens insisted, “if we hit a termite hill!”

3. The Sneeuberg hut

Charles Merry sent me these three photos. The first two show the old Sneeuberg hut; the third the present hut. Does anyone know why and when the old hut was broken down, where it was situated, and why a new one was built in the present location?

Sneeuberg Hut: 1960s
The same hut in 1976
The present Sneeuberg Hut: May 2016

4. Dawie and Lizette Burger of Driehoek 

... and of course our congrats to Dawie and Lizette of Driehoek on the birth of their second child, a son, earlier in June!

Kaartman, July 2016

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