Bright sunshine glints on the water of the swimming pool, which is still slightly murky after its winter rest despite a week’s machinations of chemical cocktails to clear it. Yellow leaves from the karee willow float here and there on the surface, bound to clog the filter, but the tree lives on to dapple us with its shade, fiercely defended by the romantic among us versus the practical ones, who would replace it with a less shedding sort of a tree. Three children shriek with laughter as they create choppy seas with their boogy boards, eventually slopping water over the sides of the pool, until Youngest reprimands them for wasting water. The sprinkler is industriously turning in a desperate attempt to return the grass to some semblance of lawnhood – dry now after a crop of wild daisies clothed it in early spring, it is sparse and stubbly, slightly greener than the surrounding straw-coloured fields but not by much. Spring has finally uttered its last breath - the summer landscape of grey-blue mountains and yellow-brown fields is back.
We are in a celebratory mood – our new summer house by the pool is finished, but for a few trifles. What last year was a tin-roofed shelter, with stick walls that allowed the south-easter to whistle through, now has solid plank walls, lined with plasterboard and painted a sophisticated cool grey –‘like concrete’ was our builder’s disapproving comment, as we insisted that was the colour we wanted! We are having a family braai to christen our new space, lounging on the low walls that enclose the front, enjoying the respite inside from the ever-blowing wind. Wafts of smoke fragrant with braaiing meat drift over. Several conversations eddy backwards and forwards, voices weaving and intertwining in a family that all talks at once. Braai tongs in hand our braai-master admires the growth of the wattle tree, now taller and spreading, after a good winter of endless rain. A discussion on what plants to put in the beds, devastated by the building work, melds with some commentary on the latest springbok rugby match.
Screeches erupt from the braai, as a length of boerewors has fallen in the fire – conflicting advice fires in all directions – put it back on,! it’ll be fine – wash it! – not in the pool, in the sprinkler, I don’t like chlorine on my sausage! Order is eventually restored and the conversation tempo returns to its normal animated hum.
The children emerge from the pool shivering in the wind and dress in the dappled shade of the tree, shouting at Amy, the Jack Russell – a total princess who would like a silken cushion to be carried about for her to lie on, but in the absence of such refinements has at last found a comfortable place to curl up - on the children’s clothes.
Hands cold from the pool embrace my warm bare shoulders, wet hair drips down my T-shirt as Youngest smiles affectionately into my face.
‘Lunch is ready’ announces the braai-master in triumph, bearing aloft a pot of sausage and one of spicy chicken wings, as she comes in out of the heat of sunshine and fire. Calm and silence descends as everyone makes headway into paper platefuls of sausage, wings, salad, foil baked butternut and potatoes.
“A braai is the most satisfying meal there is," announces my braai-maaster sister-in-law at last, as we heave contented sighs of repletion.
“It’s because it’s all about community, we all take part in the preparation and are together as we put it together,’ answers her sister.
“It’s the primitive satisfaction of cooking over a fire” suggests her husband.
The summer house is well christened. We finish off with apple cake and meringues and milk tart, until we are totally stuffed rather than elegantly replete. More plans are made – electricity is the next thing, so we can have a kettle for tea and coffee. Cupboards so we don’t have to carry all the cutlery and crockery down from the house each time. Nets on the ceiling to dissuade the birds from nesting and adding ‘texture' to the floor – once the present brood of starlings has flown the nest, of course. They are cheeping protestingly now, as our presence has kept the parents away too long and they are hungry. It is time to clear away our feast and leave them to theirs.