Earth Water and Fire

©2012 Edward C. Lunnon

Tuesday 13 November 2012: 6 years 2 months on …

Physically: Advantage CBD / Mentally: Deuce


It was twenty eight years ago, in 1984, that I first visited St Francis Bay. A lot of it was just sand dunes then and a gravel road connected Humansdorp to the village and Cape St Francis. Indeed, most of the village roads then were also just gravel.

I had been invited to a “shack” at the river. Even then, the “shacks” were substantially more than “shacks” that I knew – not that I had grown up with much knowledge of holiday homes and homes at the coast. But, indeed, my idea of a “shack” was very different to what I saw there!

That was the beginning of my love affair with the Greater St Francis area.

 After we got married, we often went to St Francis for a “Sunday drive”. We looked at houses and dreamed of the day when one day we would also be able to afford a place – a very small one – there!

Then, we bought our first fractional title (timeshare) cottage at Royal Wharf and later our very own house in the complex. The boys got Rusk and learned to fish on the river and in the canals – later we got Rolls and learned to ski and wakeboard. We made so many lovely friends and neighbours – the Nortje’s, the Fouche’s, the MacAleenans, the Fishers, the Rishworths, the Kemps, the Finnemores, and the list goes on …

Over the years, the gravel turned to tar (alas, lately, as the potholes got bigger, the tar almost back to gravel!); the numbers increased; the waterways got longer; the “village” got bigger – almost a town, but we still called it “The Village”; the cars and the boats got bigger; the toys evolved from canoes to jet-propelled craft; the tin shacks that I knew increased greatly in number; and the black and white “shacks” got bigger and bigger and fancier and fancier!

Who can forget those lovely calm wind-still nights after a busy day in the sun and the water? The walking, the chatting, the tanning, the touch rugby, the beach cricket, the fishing, the swimming, the skiing, the surfing …

The smell of suntan lotion and the inevitable braai …

And what is St Francis without a braai!

As the sun set in the west, the fires were lit, the friends arrived and the beers were opened.  The sunburn in your skin glowed as much as the setting sun and the coals of the fire. The conversation lasted deep into the night …

“Braaivleis, rugby, sunny skies and Chevrolet” * … or Fortunas, Mercs, BMW, 4 x 4’s, Seadoos, Evinrude, Mariner, Honda or Mercury!

 I have written a number of blogs about my memories of St Francis – see Packing Up, The Bridge Over the River Kromme, Who painted the Moon Black.

We all know that for good steaks you need a good, hot fire.

Some of us don’t even refer to a braai any more – we invite the crowds over and say “Come for a fire tonight, or, let’s make a fire!” – we all know that means a braai for supper!

 And to build that fire, you need good kindling wood, good “doringhout”, good firelighters, good matches, good bricketts, and a good puff and a blow ( and, of course, the one cardinal rule of fire-making, the person to over-see the fire). Also needed, a bit of water or a drop of beer in case the flames got out of hand!

I guess ninety percent of a good braai meal lies in the effectivenss of a well-prepared fire.

And, all this time, knowingly or unknowingly, and with the benefit of hindsight, we have been building our very own St Francis “fire” there.

“Let’s make a fire!”

Just like we painstakingly build our very own home fires for a “good” braai, over the years we have built our St Francis fire in waiting.

Kilometres of dry thatch kindling, hundreds and thousands of wooden beams, hundreds of gas tanks for fire lighters and bricketts, a healthy strong westerly wind for a good puff and a blow and all just waiting for that good spark and match to set it all ablaze. (Of course, we neglected the cardinal rule of fire-making – at this time of the year, very few people to oversee the fire, and since the New South Africa, not even a properly-equipped fire-station or a supply of water with decent pressure to douse the flames!).

And so it was that on Remembrance Day, Sunday 11 November 2012, the “match was struck” and the fire took, and the fire took … a hundred homes, a thousand trappings and a million memories.

Yesterday, since selling our home there last year, I emotionally returned to Royal Wharf for the first time – where it all started.

The pictures tell it all.

No they don’t.

They never can tell it all, because we have so much tucked away in our earthly memories that only that “Last Fire” will be able to take from us. We will share those memories with our St Francis friends and our families, who, too, were lovingly and fortunately privileged to be forged around the fires of St Francis.

May I long be spared to see the New St Francis Marina arise from the ashes of the Old.

©Heres  to the New St Francis Marina – may long and hard thought go into its restoration and prevent it from being another fire place.

May I suggest a slogan and song for the rebuilding of St Francis” (and with apologies):

 “Braaivleis, rugby, sunny skies and St Francis Bay”

(This blog is dedicated to all who have lost so much material belongings in St Francis, but especially to our very special friends, Charles and Julie Nortje. We were the last guests to spend a night in your beautiful guest room and home. I look forward to being the first visitor at the housewarming of your new house!)

* See that nostalgic ad by clicking the link below!

Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

or, in the words of Nici Lovemore, especially for St Francis Marina:

Lord, make me a canal of Thy Peace … 

4 comments on “Earth Water and Fire

  1. Ed that is so beautiful. The time that you, Roy and I spent there the morning after the fire was emotional and traumatic. Thank you for verbalising what I am sure a lot of us felt.

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