An autumn day in the Overberg. I’m off to Kleinmond and Betty’s Bay to draw, but, despite the sunlight, things are hazy and I decide instead to go inland. I take the road up the Hemel en Aarde Valley. We wind gently upwards past fabled wine estates. I have my sketching stuff with me, and of course the company of the intrepid Africanis, ears straight up, watching for baboons and guinea- fowl. At the top of the valley there’s a dirt road with a sign saying Karwyderskraal. I take a left there. I noodle on down the road, eating the dust of urgent Toyota bakkies. Where are they going in such a rush? They have business on those wine estates. Or maybe they’re Karwydering things. I take a right up a pine tree avenue, the De Bos dam down below. I’m seeing a lot of stuff, but its just not composing itself. Out of the car, there’s a chill wind, and I can’t get the car facing the right direction. I close the door on my thumb. I feel badly dressed, cranky, and out of sorts. I need new shoes. The clock is ticking.

Back on the dam wall, I pull up alongside a large SUV, and we peek over the edge. Two men and a woman. Swimmers, one in a wet suit and two soaking in the morning light. Snatches of talk drift up, and there are tales of Iron Men and other endurances. I confess, dear reader, that for a moment, I envy their youth and their strength.

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After a while the woman comes up the embankment and she pats Lulu and tells me, by way of explanation, that they are Training. Three people in their productive prime whiling away a Tuesday morning sloshing around the De Bos dam. Training,eh? No wonder the economy’s gone to pot. Straightening my shoulders, I said to her “I am doing Aesthetic Research.” Nah, I didn’t say that. “I’m just knocking around” is what I told her.

We dawdle up the valley until we get to the Teslaarsdal road. At last, the dirt road I’m looking for! A kilometer down the road, I pull up and start a drawing. It is noon now and warming, and I’ve stopped the nonsense of looking for picturesque things to draw. There’s a craggy outcrop to my left, but I’m looking instead at some bland fields and a grey nondescript hill. After a while a car pulls up next to me, and dispenses a man and woman, who thank the driver for the lift. They wander off towards Teslaarsdal with nothing on the horizon. The man in the car next to me struggles for a while to start the engine, and I ignore him steadfastly. Eventually it splutters to life, and away he goes. It’s hot now and I need suntan lotion. I find some in the console of the car. It is cheap green allegedly zinc -based stuff targeted at surfers. Why did I buy it? I apply it first to the back of my neck, then to my arm. My forearm is now bright green and sticky as if dipped in nuclear slime. Yay!

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A few kilometres towards Teslaarsdal I see the man and woman trundling along the road. I stop to give them a ride. “Muli bwanji!” I say as they get into the car. The Malawian greeting is met with great surprise and mirth. Perhaps its just my bad pronounciation. I drop them at a farm gate further on down the road. Eventually I get to the metropolis of Teslaarsdal. Nothing more, perhaps, than a gradual expansion of smallholdings and two new (and ugly) facebrick shops. It merits another visit but for now I have one more drawing to do, so we get back onto the dirt, trustfully following signposts that give no indication of distance.

I go on through the agricultural wasteland. It is difficult to think of it as anything else. Rather like the world evoked by Andrew Wyeth’s great painting ” Christina’s world,” except more so.

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This is the world us bread -eaters have made. Scrubland – once the home of many small mammals and the raptors that lived off them –  makes way for wheat; our carb-craving knows no end. Outside of the odd sheep, there really is very little life here, although farmers are encouraging the blue cranes endemic to the area. And I saw a heron. And five egrets.

Its getting on, shadows are lengthening and the light yellowing. Despite these morbid thoughts, it looks beautiful. I stop the car on a hill and do my last drawing of the day, overlooking a cluster of bluegums and gentle hills marked through with giant scribbles and scrawls. And then its back around the Kleinrivier mountains to the suburban seaside.

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