Pix: Our children Joshua top, age 6. Gabriel below, age 7
Anyone who has lived in, or, I suppose, even visited Cairp Tahn in the good months of the year will know that promenading the beachfront in Seapoint is one of those things you have to do before you die.
The promenade is busy on good days. Joggers, those with good and those with indifferent bodies; walkers; strollers; amblers; beggars; parents kicking a football; children having a football kicked at them; dog walkers a-plenty; ice-cream eaters. There are a lot of people there, if the weather is good.
The actual beach should really only be looked at. It is completely shale, with jagged rocks and pools of slimy green, littered with a few plastic bags. But if you look beyond this – then, Ah! And if the sun happens to be going down, then double Ah.
For myself, I have these really strong and close to overwhelming feelings of childhood nostalgia, because as a child of (I suppose 6 or 7) my parents and I boarded a train and headed for Three Anchor Bay – which is right next to Seapoint. The 2 day train journey (I remember) seemed utterly interminable. We had lorry loads of boiled eggs and flasks of rapidly cooling coffee. On the second evening on the train, we went to the dining car for our meal. There was silverware service, involving waiters in crisp starched white jackets with shining metal buttons. The train seemed to stop endlessly and the Karoo stretched on for mile after never ending mile.
I remember my mother “writing away” to the owner of our intended lodgings in Three Anchor Bay. I remember the answer arriving saying that we were duly booked. My parents would only call Cape Town in the case of a death in the family and even then, the tension caused by what was the imagined cost of the call was unbearable. The conversation would be clipped, fulfilling of all the required sympathies and niceties, but the receiver replaced as soon as was decently possible.
My nostalgia began, I think, when I suddenly remembered some of the stories I had heard about that trip. Like being rescued from the sea at Three Anchor Bay, when I fell off the rocks. Like me vomiting on (and consequently completely ruining) the carefully prepared Christmas dinner my aunt had made for us. Like the trips I had on the little miniature Steam Train. Like the huge live crayfish I and my father went to fetch from the fishing boats early in the morning.
And I remember how unimpressed I was at my first sight of the sea, because from the road along the beachfront, all you can really see from the car is the line where the sea meets the sky.
That was then. And then some 45 or so years got in the way. And when Leon and I are promenading on the Seapoint Beachfront, I can’t help wondering what, if any, nostalgia my children will be having in the year 2049.