Why a book on Stanford? With its many well-preserved old cottages and Victorian houses, it is regarded as the second best preserved village by Dr Hans Fransen, architectural historian. It has a consistent, navigable river, sadly slightly polluted these days, meandering along a mountain range with waterfalls cascading down its fynbos-clad slopes; it is close to the sea, with clean, unpolluted fresh air; there is a serenity in it’s bucolic landscapes teeming with birdlife; a peace and quiet, only sometimes shattered by the high pitched whine of weedeaters, chain saws, buzz bikes and quad bikes. It is one of the few towns in South Africa that retained its village green which in Stanford forms the heart ot the village, neutral meeting place for its people. It is a place where children can still safely play and ride their bicycles in its streets that in the rainy season become more pothole than street.And it’s a place where one can sit on your stoep and watch the village comes alive in the early morning or late afternoon with people walking their dogs and lately also their pet pigs, greeting each other and often stopping for a chat.
Its population is growing. The sleepy little forgotten village has come alive. There are still a few “native” Stanfordians, those born and bred here; many “new-comers” who have retired here; and also those seeking an “alternative” lifestyle and wanting to raise their children in a rural atmosphere – hopefully far from the crime and pollution and “evils” of the big city life. People from all over South Africa and the rest of the world settle here – white, and not so white, coloured, yellow, black and mixed. There are the landowners and the landless, the troublemakers and the peacemakers, the workers and the loafers, the learned and the illiterate, old people and young people, saints and sinners, some winners and some losers. All with their numerous and various memories and stories, corporate and individual, that needed to be told.
In its humanity Stanford is an archetype of many other villages and small towns in the world – it even had a few suicides and murders; and there are many skeletons in cupboards which preferably should be left covered and locked up between the moth-eaten remnants of the past; also, undoubtedly much futile keeping up of appearances, because in Stanford nothing stays secret. Yet, there is an undefinable, tangible difference, an otherness, in Stanford. Some call it an electricity, a vibe, an atmosphere. It has been said that Stanford chooses you and not the other way round. Is it strange then that people feel they have been inexplicably drawn, called or sent here, and they either love or hate it here? It is this otherness of Stanford and the amazing diversity of its people that inspired this book and to whom it is dedicated – all the men, women and children of Stanford over all the ages and of all colours, races and creeds. After a visit to Stanford and her grandparents Jack and Jeannette Hutton in 2004, Frances Kershaw, then twelve years old, wrote and gave them the following poem:
a heart without memories is a cold heart
a heart without love is a stone
a heart that carries selfishness only
is a heart that has no home
a heart that carries memories
that carries love alone
a heart that possesses love for another
is a heart that has many homes
This is Stanford, the place where donkeys become human, as the old people used to say. A village and its people, one big heart that is home to many, a huge bosom nursing its people unto maturity.
A special word of thanks to everyone who has welcomed me into their hearts and homes, has given of their time, assistance and money, and in any way have helped towards the realization of this book.
And a very special thank you to my husband, co-author, editor and designer, Maré Mouton. Without you this project and book would not have been possible.
First Chapter: Early Travellers & Farmers