Henley – the first few days
End October 2017
It’s happening. We’ve landed in Henley. Actually, I’m not quite sure where we’ve landed. Do I go by stand number or street number? Which one do I put on the gate if I want my Joburg deliveries to find me? It’s very confusing. I’m only glad we didn’t buy on The Avenue/The Drive. We’re still trying to figure that one out.
No matter. It was a joy to sit on our new patio, sip warm sundowners (the fridge hadn’t arrived) and watch the birds – we saw ten species in ten minutes, not counting the chicken. It was even a joy to be woken at 3am by an over-zealous cock, who was quickly joined by his rival across the village. It beats the night-shift worker banging the gate across the road at 3am to rouse his housemate. Dear soon-to-be-ex-neighbour, have you ever heard of a doorbell?
Even the strange screeches could not upset us – a baby owl, my daughter concluded. I have a tree perfect for owl boxes. If I put one up, will someone move in?
Meanwhile we’ve been getting to know the village. We’ve had a private tour of The Makery, scouted the prices at Serendipity (Joburg, eat your heart out), walked the Oval and saluted the girls from Oprah Winfrey School who were collecting rubbish there.
We’ve taken boerewors home to the Big City and I’ve been told I must be sure to balance my buying between the two rival butchers.
We’ve even met the catnip cat at the Little Austria Nursery just around the corner (in Henley, everything is just around the corner). He was lying, stoned, under a row of catnip plants. Our cats are coming, so I hope he hasn’t eaten them all. I have a garden to fill, so I’ll be back. Meanwhile I’ve been gifted with my first Iceberg rose, so now I’ll fit right in. Where else do you enter a village through an avenue of Iceberg roses?
One Sunday we tried to find the Country Kitchen, prowling up and down Regatta road and enlisting the help of an equally bemused driver in a passing patrol van. No joy. Silly us, it was Sunday. The next Saturday we spotted the sign and were given a warm welcome, coming away with a basket of goodies, including some superb biscotti.
We dived in and out of the Evening Star market (we were on a deadline), but explored the Walkerville markets more slowly – three of them, all within a kilometre – leaving with a box of home-made biscuits that was supposed to last a month, but only survived a week. Next up is the De Deur Fleamarket, all three kilometres of it.
Otherwise, I’ve met basset hounds, lots of basset hounds, more in two months than in the last 20 years. I’ve also been greeted by several dachshunds, flying to the gate to say hello, their ears flapping. I adore dachshunds. Anywhere with plenty of dachshunds is the place for me.
Meanwhile, we’re settling in, alarm checked, radio linked, signed and sealed. Henley is Watching over us. It’s a comforting feeling.
The other night we saw small town action. A frantic driver was perched precariously on the wrong side of the barrier on the on-ramp to the R59. We stopped. A police reservist stopped. A cyclist stopped, then pedalled off to fetch a tow truck. A massive 4×4 stopped, volunteering pa, three strapping sons and ‘ma se kombuis’, an entire camping shop in the back. With their ropes, chains, and manpower, the car and driver were delivered intact long before the police arrived. Wow! In the Big City would anyone have stopped? You’ve got to be kidding!
In the words of Annie, from the film and musical, “I think I’m gonna like it here.”
Off the Rails: Henley’s haunted house
It was once a prefab hut for the British army, perhaps used for officers’ billets or a hospital annex, then, shipped to South Africa in 1904, it was one of Henley on Klip’s first family homes and a church.
If you can’t spell a street name, blame the Kents
Triumph and Disaster – The True Story of Horace Kent.