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Lansdowne Crescent: Chapter 14

Jean Day, in continuing her story of the people who lived in a Worcester crescent a hundred years ago, brings, by way of a letter, a glimpse of life as it was then in South Africa.

To read earlier chapters please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/lansdowne_crescent/

As usual, I like to include my annual letter from Muriel.

Christmas 1912

Dear Jessie,

We are so much enjoying our new life here in Cape Town. We had a short holiday earlier this year and went to a town which you will never guess the name of – Worcester. Worcester is the ‘capital’ of the Breede River Valley, a fertile inland area referred to locally as ‘over the mountains’. It produces a fifth of South Africa’s wine.

In the centre of the village, is a Kleinplasie (little farm) with weavers, candle makers and all sorts of traditional activities going on.

We also visited the Karoo National Botanical Garden, about two miles north of Worcester. In this 144 hectare semi-desert nature reserve one can find a whole spectrum of Karoo plants.

The wine we prefer, which we think is just wonderful is called Stellenbosch, and there is a town by that name too. It is the second-oldest permanent settlement in South Africa, and has the distinction of being the country’s oldest town. Bosch means forest. It was founded in 1679 by the Dutch East Indian Company.

There is another tin producing mine not too far from here, in Namibia and Harold has got to know some of the managers from that area. It would be interesting to visit as Uis is near the Brandberg Mountains which are home to the world famous White Lady rock painting, said by some to be over 20,000 years old.

Namibia is well known as a mineral rich country and geologists come from all over the world to study in Namibia because much of the interesting geology and rare rocks are situated at ground level rather than on top of mountains or deep underground.

There is a story of desert tragedy associated with the Uis area. At the beginning of this century, so the story goes, a group of travellers from the north were making their way thought the desert to the ocean. They were following game tracks for most of the way, but came to the main road to Swakopmund nearby where Uis is now located.

The travelers decided to stop for the night and being short of fuel on which to cook their evening meal, they collected the branches of dead euphorbia bushes in order to make their campfire. Euphorbia bushes are a very common in Damaraland and their spiky branches help make the scenery so unusual. However, most species of euphorbia are also highly toxic.

After cooking their meat over their makeshift campfire, they went to bed, early one would suppose in order to be ready for the long journey the next day but they never woke up. The toxic smoke from their campfire was so strong and the food so impregnated with poison, the whole group of 16 people died in their sleep. They were buried where they lay.
Jan is now quite a little boy and learning as fast as I can teach him. He speaks well and is curious about everything. Harold quite dotes on him, and he rushes home now to have some time with him before he needs to go to sleep.

We are expecting another baby in the new year and are very pleased about it.

Much love to all your family,

Muriel

George (Jimmy) Day has got a new job. He was at Northampton School, but is now at Bedford.

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