I have always believed and still do that as a writer, I have to live surrounded by people and their stories. I have always been the observer, standing on the side lines watching the stories unfold around me. I never felt that I was part of the crowd.

After many years in the city, we sold our house in the city and moved to a little farm on top of a rocky hill, where the closest neighbour’s house is about a kilometre away. In the quiet isolation and not having to work for a living, I was able to write full-time. What bliss and what an education it was.

The community we found ourselves in is both supportive and sympathetic, but also very critical, judgmental and ready to fight with each other, conducting their battles on the community WhatsApp groups. Old people are taken care off. Needy old folks, those without work or single mothers get weekly food parcels from the community.

And if anyone in the community has a home or farm invasion, which are regular occurrences, a call on the radio network brings help within minutes in the form of armed, strong, young men. Livestock is stolen regularly, fence wires are cut routinely, borehole pumps change ownership and leaving your washing on the line is sure to invite online shopping, as it is called here and, if you are the victim, you have to invest in a new wardrobe.

The saying “dogs are a man’s best friend” has meaning here. Everybody has more than one dog, some even as many as twenty or more. They are not only pets, but guards and protectors and are hated by those who visit uninvited at night. It is not uncommon for the dogs to be poisoned by something called Two Step, which is put into some meat, often the heads of slaughtered chickens. One of our neighbors woke up to find all seven of his dogs dead on the front veranda. Only dog lovers understand the heartache and sense of loss the bereaved feel. As soon as darkness descends on the bushveld, our two dogs are taken into the house only to be let out again with the early light of dawn.

So the small holders of our area survive, despite invasions, theft, load shedding and other annoyances. The sunsets are still wonderful and the peace of those bushveld nights, when the only invaders are the small creatures of the region, is unsurpassable. The cry of a jackal, the wide-eyed dash through the trees of nagapies and vervet monkeys, the scrambling in the undergrowth of a hedgehog or the sudden call of a crested lourie: you do not get them in the suburbs. No wonder people flee the cities every time they have the smallest opportunity.

If you are interested you can read about our very own bush fires here –

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A Lifestyle Change
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