Tag Archives: fate

Searching trough Yesterday

Meandering tracts through Baviaanskloof. Like Life, best viewed from a distance...

Meandering tracts through Baviaanskloof. Like Life, best viewed from a distance…

“Life,” Getruida says to nobody in particular, “is the eternal search through the past. It’s the only way to find your destiny.”

When she says something like this – and she’s quite famous for such thoughts – the patrons at the bar will fall silent or start talking about the drought. Trying to follow the creative meanderings of Gertruida’s formidable mind is like swimming in molasses – the more you try, the less you progress. Better then, to avoid the subject and remain on solid ground.

Gertruida’s statement follows one of her sleepless nights, in which she was forced to look back at her life in a strange and peculiar way…


Diana_(song)The knock at her door came after midnight, long after the fire in her hearth had burnt itself to ashes. The single candle on the coffee table still supported a spluttering little flame, the short wick drifting about in the last bit of molten wax. She’d been listening to one of her favourite artists of all time – Paul Anka – whose velvety voice and sad songs always carried her back to her youth. He wrote so many hits, including Frank Sinatra’s My way, Tom Jones’s  She’s a Lady and the theme from  The Longest Day, that it was difficult to silence the old record player. She simply relaxed and allowed the music to soothe her troubled mind.

And indeed, troubled she was. It had been a difficult year. A harsh year. A year filled with challenges and more disappointments than successes. Maybe it’s true to say this is typical of all years for all people; but like it happens with all people, Gertruida needed to revisit these events and situations from time to time. She believed – and still does – that such memories should not be buried amongst the chaos of everyday life, but that one should evaluate them carefully, be brutally honest and critically analytical before filing them away under the heading of ‘History’.


Nobody knocks on doors after midnight in Rolbos.

0494Gertruida got up carefully and moved the chintz curtain aside to peek at her porch. An older woman stood there, wearing a long, black dress and an old-fashioned kappie. It had been years and years since last Gertruida had seen such a bonnet and she stood riveted to the spot for a long minute. Who…? Why…? The questions flooded her mind.

“Are you going to stand there, gaping at me, all night? Open the door, woman!” The gravelly voice was feminine, indeed, but sounded ancient.

Gertruida turned the key to open the door.Even the dim light from the candle couldn’t hide the wrinkles and lines on her visitor’s face.

“Oh, step aside and stop gawking!!” An impatient and withered had pushed Gertruida aside and the old woman swept past her to sit down next to the candle. “And not a word from your clever tongue, young lady. I’ll do the talking tonight.” Seeing the blank expression on Gertruida’s face, the woman softened a little bit. “Oh, and sit down, will you?”

“Who…who are you…?”

The old woman sighed. “I told you to be quiet!” She wagged a stern finger at Gertruida. “But I suppose an introduction is in order.” She sat up a bit straighter. “I am Destiny. You know me well, Gertruida. Oh, we’re not blood-family or anything like that – we are much more closely involved with each other than with mere family ties.”

Gertruida’s hand flew to her mouth. “D-Destiny?”

“Yes, that’s me. And I don’t have time to waste.Places to go, people to see. Understand?” Despite not doing so, Gertruida managed to nod. “I’m here to steer your past. It’s important.”

The old woman – Destiny – relaxed a bit and leant back with a contented sigh.

“You tend to dwell on the impossible, Gertruida. That’s wrong. I have plans for you, but they won’t happen if you keep on drudging up the past. Sure, you had heartaches and failures and disappointments. There was this guy – Ferdinand – a love that ended so suddenly, so tragically, that you still can’t quite get over it. And you long back to your days in the city, where you were an important person and everybody sought your advice. And then, worst of all, you have evenings like these  where you sit and ponder the unanswerable questions, all of them starting with  ‘What if…?’.

This time, Gertruida’s nod was more convincing.

“Well, to get to the point: those thoughts are as important as they are useless. Yes, be honest in your thinking. Your history is, after all, the sum total of everything that happened to you. But so is your present. Every single thing that occurred in your life, had been extremely important. Not a second was wasted in your journey to the present.”

Destiny furrowed the already-wrinkled brow even more. “But I can’t understand this tendency of people to camp down when they go through a bad patch. Why on earth keep on returning to the broken souvenirs of your past? That, my dear, is such a waste of time.” She made to get up, but Gertruida held up a restraining hand.

“Madam…Destiny…is the past then so negligibly unimportant, even forgettable? Of no significance ?”

Another sigh, longer this time. Impatient. “Oh, you of feeble minds! Didn’t you listen? Your past – so beautifully intricate – had to have multiple elements to form your current state of life. Some of them – admittedly –  might have been painful, but that is what pruning is all about, isn’t it? You leave that tree to grow just the way it wants, and your harvest will shrink every year. But cut away the unnecessary bits, and the tree thanks you by bearing more in the following season. You should be doing the same…”

Gertruida  shook her head. “It’s not easy…”

“Look,” the old woman said as she got up, “nobody said it would be. Let me put it to you simply: there are two main types of setbacks in your life: some are of your own doing, some not.

“For the first type, you insist on becoming something you weren’t designed to be. You become a hybrid of your own making. That’s when pruning is most important – those situations are life lessons. To guide you to unbecome what you’re not and develop into who you were supposed to be.

“And the second type you have no control over. People die. People walk away. Sometimes they are making their own mistakes but often they’re not. You see, there is an inevitability to Life you have no control over. These events are the fertilizer Life adds to make you grow. To strengthen you. To increase your harvest. You have to work through such times and come out the better for it.”

Gertruida brightened a bit, finally grasping the essence of the visit.

“And…that is….destiny?”

The old woman laughed for the first time. “Yes, my dear. I told you: that’s me.”


“One should welcome a visit by Destiny,” Gertruida remarks as Boggel slides over a new beer. “It helps us to understand Life.”

Vetfaan eyes her critically before staring out of the window. “It’s going to be another harsh year,” he says as he watches a dust devil march down Voortrekker Weg. “Dry and challenging.”

“Ferilizer, Vetfaan, fertilizer.”


It’s true to say that we don’t always hear what others are telling us. Oh, we hear the words, all right, but the message is lost because we don’t understand the context. That’s why Vetfaan turns to Servaas, circling a calloused finger next to his head. Servaas shares a conspirational smile with his friend. Fertilizer? In the Kalahari?

Oh, come on!

For Gertruida, however, a new realisation dawned that night. She woke up refreshed and would have discarded  the night’s occurrences as a dream – except for one thing: the kappie Destiny had left on the chair. Like so many things in Life, that was no accident. Destiny has a way of convincing each of us of her presence during our lifetimes. It just takes longer for some…

Fanny’s Surprise (# 25)

hemophilia2It’s the day after Henry Hartford left, and Rolbos is searching for the old, comfortable routine of waking up and finding an excuse to gravitate towards Boggel’s Place. Somehow the events of recent times seem to have put a damper on the usual atmosphere of casual coexistence, forcing the townsfolk to talk softer and choose their words carefully.  Why, after all, did these events occur? What does it mean to each of them? What is the reason…? It’s as if a deeper level of introspection and respect settled amongst them

Fanny, on the other hand, struggles with a completely different situation. While the prospect of a relationship with Henry Hartford held the solution to a potential problem, the possibility of a liaison with Vetfaan – her Fanie – is much more problematic. If anything, the recent events brought that into sharp focus.

The problem is her mother.

And Fanie…

It started with Princess Henry of Battenberg, the ninth and last child of Queen Victoria: who passed on the gene to four of her children. One of them – forever to be unnamed – had an illegitimate child. The mother; a barmaid and later a woman of considerable influence due to a rather generous stipend from the royal house; married an out-of-luck trader. As a result of her entrepreneurial skills, she started what would eventually be the Featherbosom empire, when one of her daughters married into the Featherbosom family.

Scientists still argue about where (and how, exactly) Queen Victoria pciked up the gene that caused the problem. Was it a spontaneous mutation, or something more scandalous: could it be that some infidelity amongst her forebears resulted in her carrying the gene that killed off the males at a young age? We’ll never know…

But… It is in this intricate family tree – which combined the lost boy of the Kalahari, the royalty of England, and the eventual connection with the Featherbosoms – that the gene was carried over from one generation to the next. Invariably, the women lived to a ripe old age. It was the men who didn’t have that privilege  Half of them never made it past the age of twenty. When science finally brought answers, the news was devastating – the family was trapped in a never-ending tragedy.

Fanny’s father wasn’t the problem. The woman he married – Fanny’s mother – carried the gene. The only son born to their union died during a simple operation for his chronic tonsillitis. That’s when they decided never to have any more children, which left Fanny as the sole heir. Fanny was later tested for – and found to have – the potential to convey the gene that’ll cause misery to her sons: the male descendants had a 50:50 chance of inheriting the disease we know as haemophilia.

Henry – the shy financial genius – had a different problem. At the age of five, he contracted mumps. A rather severe form of the disease not only affected his salivary glands (giving him the typical Bugs Bunny appearance for a while) – it also caused pancreatitis and severe orchitis.  Henry Hartford would never have any children – he was infertile.

Of course, this explains many things. The delayed puberty, the lack of sexuality, the feeling of inadequacy. It also explains the compulsive drive by his father to make him a ‘man‘.

It seemed a good idea if an infertile male and a woman carrying the fatal gene, matched up in marriage. The parents, at least thought so. Why, they could adopt – if they wanted to – couldn’t they? Maybe, Henry Hartford II thought, this was their destiny and a perfect solution?

That’s why Fanny Featherbosom sits at the end of the bar today, watching the men discuss politics. Vetfaan – virile, manly, the epitome of what it means to be male – is busy criticising the government’s management of the Gupta marriage. He is gently forceful in his arguments, determined and convinced that the rifts within the ANC will cause it’s ultimate demise. A man’s man… In her mind’s eye. she can see him with a rugby ball in hand, telling his son to catch, chip-and-chase, and fool the defence of the opponents.

How can she tell him that boys with this bleeding disorder cannot stay on a farm – far away from medical care? Indeed: that children with haemophilia should plan office-bound careers and not become farmers? And that those boys will inadvertently have sons with the disease?

Vetfaan, after convincing everybody that South Africa’s government deserves to be labelled the most corrupt on a corrupt continent, does a moonwalk towards her. It’s been a quiet morning, but not without adequate amounts of Cactus,

“Hey Fanny…I’m so sorry.” He looks like Vrede when somebody takes away his biltong. “And you seem awfully quiet?”

“I am a bit quiet today, Fanie.” The question in her eyes grow larger. “What are you sorry about, anyway?”

“I wanted to tell everybody here I love you.” Even his tan can’t hide the blush. “But that old Hartford and his speech sort of stopped me in my tracks, see? And I wanted to ask you the most important question, there, in front of everybody.”

Fenny’s eyes are suddenly moist. She drops her gaze to stare at Vetfaan’s well-worn boots. How must she respond? How can she manage this? Vetfaan is a farmer with a dream. He’s built up the farm through hard work and lots of dedication – and will certainly dream of having a son to continue his labour?

A son…

With haemophilia?

“Fanie….” Must she tell him now? Here? Noooo! “You are the sweetest, most endearing man I’ve ever met. We’ve been through quite a lot in such a short time.” She swallows hard before going on. “But we need more time, dearest. You must meet my father. And I need time on the farm, to see how I manage. It’s not that I don’t love you, Fanie… It’s just… I thnk we must take it slow, that’s all.”  She has to admit it doesn’t sound convincing at all; rather lame, at best.

“What’s wrong, Fanny?” Vetfaan sits down next to her, concern written all over his face.

“There are things I haven’t told you…” She chooses her words carefully. “Important things. Things you should know. But…I’m not sure I can. Oh, Fanie, Life is so cruel! I don’t know what to do!”

When his tractor breaks down, Vetfaan has the same experience: a feeling of exasperation, frustration and desperation rolled into one single emotion. What is this? What in her past can be so important that she cannot share it with him? An illegitimate child? Some scandal she doesn’t want to talk about? An affair with some politician?

The moment next to the tractor is easier: Vetfaan will give vent to his rolled-up emotion by kicking the big tyres or saying things that’ll make Oudoom cringe. But now, here in Boggel’s Place, there are no wheels and too many ears. He straightens his back, takes a deep breath and starts to turn.

“Oh well, whenever you’re ready,” he says over his shoulder. “I’ll join Kleinpiet for another Cactus in the meantime.”

Fanny stares at the broad shoulders and the muscled arms as he walks away. That’s what a man should look like, she thinks. Healthy and strong. He should have children like that.

When Gertruida asks her a few minutes later if she’d been crying, Fanny tells the oldest lie, saying nothing is wrong, thank you.