Friday, July 20, 2007

Winter Holiday

Winter in London is a long drawn out affair of short dull days and chill, damp weather enlivened by mild, muggy weather with the occasional crisp, frosty day. Snow always a rarity in a city warmed several degrees by the exhaust fumes and central heating systems of its seething masses! The twinkling festivities of Christmas lights give way to the endurance of January and February before brave spring flowers raise hopes of warmer days and sunshine. It is about survival, SAD and battening down the hatches.

Here in the Western Cape of South Africa winter is a more light-hearted affair. The days never get as short as they do in Europe. In between the periods of winter rainfall, (which we welcome as a blessing and insurance against summer drought) we get days of bright sunshine - cold nights and foggy mornings, but then the sun breaks through to tease off our layers of warm clothing, until the children return from school in T-shirts, laden with armfuls of shed clothes.

The Breede River

For some reason we seem more likely to go on holiday in the winter holidays than in the summer. We go to the Breede River with friends and just chill for a few days, pooling the children and the cooking duties, so that everyone gets plenty of time to lie around reading books, fish, eat rock buns and braai. The chill is actually a night time thing, when we huddle in the rather hard beds of a rental house, while the day's warmth exits through the minimally insulated roof until our breath mists. In the morning we stay in bed, with tea, rock bun and book, until the sun penetrates the mist and its warming rays thaw us until we are mellow again.

Fishing rods, rock buns and coffee

The children kept each other busy for hours. The first project they set themselves was to build a house in the reeds, working hard to clear out some dead brush that filled a natural hollow in the reed bed, then forming a cooperative chain gang to cut and stack reeds with which to build extra walls and roof. Our son was in his element, having recently saved up enough money to buy himself a Swiss Army penknife, here was the perfect use for it. Youngest took on the important job of receiving the cut reeds and stacking them neatly, while the others formed the middle of the chain ferrying them from cutter to stacker.

Elaborate 'experiments' with river mud, employed most of the plastic cups in the house.

Fishing with river prawns as bait from the boat and the jetty brought in large quantities of river weed. Luckily the cooks weren't relying on the catch to provide supper.

The river was still and smooth on a winter afternoon, ours the only boat to ruffle its surface. In summer we would have been on a major boat highway, with motorboats and waterskiiers hurtling past and a summer afternoon wind competing for attention. Today it was us disturbing the water birds and the peace of the still winter afternoon.

The background narrative to our four days at the river was Catweazle. I took it along and our friend nobly took it upon himself to read aloud to the children at any time that they needed a little quiet time... or we did. Gales of giggles ripped around the house at Catweazle's confused grappling with the 20th century and a few chuckles emerged from bedrooms where the other adults were pretending to be still asleep. Probably Catweazle was the reason that we didn't catch any fish - a chapter in the boat caused enough uproar to send them fleeing down to the river mouth!

This is the colour of winter at the Breede River - bright aloes set the stony, dry hillsides on fire.


  1. Oh, such gorgeous pictures. How I envy you.

  2. Looks like a beautiful holiday. Thanks, Kit, for waiting for the sun to come out in Germany before posting your beautiful South African pictures!

  3. Looks lovely. I know it has been particularly cold this year - my folks have been moaning up in Pretoria. My mom doesn't log on to Skype because it is too cold in my brother's old bedroom!
    Your holiday looks great though. Wonderful to have friends with whom to share a holiday. We got to Harvey Cedars Bible Conference on the New Jersey shore each summer -
    We'll be in Pretoria at the end of November and will hurry down to PE before the schools close on November 30th.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences.
    God bless, Bridget

  4. Beautiful pics Kit! Looks very peaceful and COOL! Drifting on a still river is relaxing. Your winter looks like our late fall here. You still have plant life and flowers! I will gladly trade you places now as our AC is barely keeping up with the humidity and the over 100 F heat. Does London get snow in winter? xxxooo

  5. There is nothing like a boat ride in paradise.

  6. Hi've been on my mind the last few days. Hope all is well. Spring will be coming soon and warmth and those beautiful flowers you photograph! Miss you. Love, Jenny


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