Today I had a few things to do in the village – fetch our bread, take a photo of the Morris Minor pledged to the Hopeland auction, take a photo of Queen Victoria Street from what used to be Stanford House, as well as take a photo for someone showing the neglect in Hopland, Stanford’s low cost housing scheme.
As usual I parked my car at the local Spar and took my camera and started walking. After a short chat with the baker of our bread, John Williams, I crossed the street to where the Morris Minor was parked in front of our Tourism Info offices. A group of “Stanford girls” were hanging out around it: Caro Krüger, who owns Morris Minors herself, Karen McKee, artist Niki Miles and hairdresser Jeanne Retief and all her doggies! In the next couple of minutes we ladies decided to have a tea party sometime within the next two weeks on the village green that now looks like a scene from Namaqualand in flower-time! Caro has recently bought a house in Calvinia and will soon move there. I cannot imagine Stanford without Caro.
While Jeanne was cutting Niki’s hair, the rest of us had a long chat about God, seeing Him in others and treating them accordingly, and life in a small village. And how unimportant certain things that most people spend their whole lives pursuing, become here. Life tends to be much simpler here.
When I eventually left the girls to continue on my own mission, I was called back by Hansie, Caro’s “protegé”. “Mevrou, mevrou! Take a photo of me standing here with Caro’s car!”
A little further down the road I passed Lionel’s junk cum car cum flower shop. The green Morris he”s selling, once belonged to my elder son Thys, who in turn sold it to Caro who now gave it to Lionel.
Baker John Williams in front of their Mokoro Shop
Some Stanford Girls hanging out.
Lower down in Queen Vic street, opposite the stoep of the Stanford Hotel on which the Saturday morning market is held, is a building housing amongst others Stanford Trading Store and Graze Slow Food Café. Its long, wide stoep is the ideal spot for friends to meet for coffee, breakfast or lunch, chat to passersby or just to quietly sit and watch life goes by.
Stoep of Stanford Trading Store and Graze Slow Food Café
Brydon Havercroft at his stall at the Saturday Market
In front of Don Gelato’s, our local proper Italian Gelato and patisserie, Michelle Hoffmann and her Cocker Spaniel, Marcello (pronounced “mahr-CHEL-lo”), was waiting for a friend. “There’s no place like home,” says Michelle, who is “just back from Germany after what felt like 10 years, but was in fact only 10 months!” After a couple of minutes her friend arrived, our “one and only” Janet Marshall, Presenter and Co-Host of The Breakfast Show on Whale Coast FM 96.
Michelle Hoffmann and Marcello, the Cocker Spaniel, waiting for her friend in front of Don Gelato’s
Michelle Hoffmann and friend, Janet Marshall
Michelle, Janet, Marcello & more Cocker Spaniels
My shopping done and after taking some more pictures of street scenes, I left the village proper for Hopland. Yes, there is rubbish lying around in the streets, in the yards, and yes, there are signs of extreme poverty, neglect of not only children, but cats and dogs, too. I also know that there is crime, gangsterism, alcohol and other substance abuse. But, there are so many houses and yards where one can see the pride they take in their homes and gardens. A visit to Hopland will either steal your heart or break it. Often there is a bit of both. Like what photographer Chris Bickford said about Haiti: “If it steals your heart, you may find yourself trying to figure out ways to get back to find it again. You’ll keep remembering moments of magic among the madness, beauty amidst the squalor, and smiles in spite of great sadness; and it will haunt your thoughts and dreams. If it breaks your heart, you will either return home and try to forget about the whole thing, hoping that eventually you can go about your life like everything is still the same; or you will find yourself trying to figure out ways to get back, and hope that you can do something to assist in the healing, thereby healing your own heart. If your heart is already broken, you have nothing to fear. No one wants to steal a broken heart anyway, and you will be right at home in a nation full of broken hearts, broken promises, broken buildings, a broken government, and a broken economic system… There is laughter and dancing amidst the painful memories and ubiquitous reminders… There is dignity, there is faith, and there is a getting on with things. …Haiti is a country of survivors, surviving.” And that in a nutshell is Hopland and so many townships in South Africa – communities of survivors surviving, getting on with life.
I love the crowded streets with its many colourful houses, children running around playing, mommas carrying their babies, women doing their washing, small groups of people congregating, all the friendly faces, the warm welcoming, “Hello Mama”, the jibes and witty remarks. I am always amazed that in the face of often abject poverty, most of these women still manage to dress themselves and their children well, and even if they have to wash and scrub the little ones in a zinc tub on the pavement, they somehow get them clean. From the washing drying on lines and over fences it is plain that today, especially with the sun shining, is a day for most of the women to get their own laundry done – and most of them are still doing it by hand.
To even the casual passerby it is obvious that life in Hopland and even Stanford, is not always easy. It is sometimes extremely hard. There are many social problems and equally many challenges facing every person and the community as a whole. Yet, it is still home. When I asked Liesbet Booysens about life in Hopland, she said, “I am satisfied. I love my people and living here.” She interrupted our conversation to pick up a toddler who just then fell in the street and was lying there crying his little heart out. I have known Liesbet and her family for many years. I know the hardships she had to endure in her own life, the abuse, problems with some of her children who sometimes struggle to find work, while her other children have good positions and live respected lives. I know her concern and prayers for the one girl who still at times drinks far too much. But, Liesbet is always positive and full of smiles. “We can only pray for our children, Mevrou. The Lord is good.” And despite the little she and her family have, there is somehow always something to share with another hungry friend or child, and even a place to sleep in her already filled-to-the-max small and much neglected RDP house…
This is Stanford. Home. A home with a very big heart. Also a place where many are reaching out to the less fortunate and really trying to make a difference, “assisting in the healing”, giving not only money, but food, clothes, furniture, their time and skills.
Man and dog basking in the sun in front of his house
Liesbet Booysens in front of her house
Joe October in front of his and his son’s “long” house in Hopland
Clive and a friend at their house
Hopland street scene
Hopland street scene
Nole cooking lunch