Red and yellow and pink and green
Purple and orange and blue,
I can sing a rainbow,
Sing a rainbow,
Sing a rainbow too.
Listen with your ears,
Listen with your eyes,
And sing everything you see!
I can sing a rainbow,
Sing a rainbow,
Sing along with me…

This song learnt at nursery school, played through my mind constantly when I recently viewed the flowers in the West Coast National Park.
B and her husband, John who are ‘swallows’ spending five months of the year in England, were actually caught here when South Africa’s lockdown was declared. As B said: “I would far rather be in George than in England during this COVID time.”

Secretly I gave a silent cheer when they were trapped in SA. B and John had often bewailed the fact that they were on the wrong continent when the West Coast flowers bloomed. So B, John, a dear friend, Christine and I set off for Riebeek Kasteel, where we were to spend one night before heading for a two night stop in the queen of all flower spots, Darling.

Travelling with Christine was a hoot. She is the Secretary of the Eden branch of WESSA (Wildlife & Environment Society of South Africa) and her knowledge of plants and natural history is vast. We would see fields that were beautifully patchworked with vibrant purple succulents. The squeal of delight from Christine at the colourful mass of flowers, made me very glad that B, who is a responsible driver was at the wheel!

We arrived safely in Riebeek Kasteel late in the day. We were very nervous about staying in hotels because of COVID. However, a friend of ours had just recently returned and told us which hotels to stay in.
“They observe the COVID regulations perfectly.”
And indeed, we never saw the hotel owners without their masks and our rooms were wonderfully sterile and clean. 

I flopped onto my gorgeous four poster bed, glad to have a few moments of quiet before dinner. At six thirty, B put her head around the door and with a sparkle in her eye, said: “Gaye, you’ve got a visitor!”
“Visitor? I don’t know anyone from here,” I said getting up. And that was when a well loved face from my Durban past, peered around the door.
“Drews!” I exclaimed.
I met Heidi Drew in church in Durban about eighteen years ago. As the congregants led out, I saw one woman remain seated. She was crying. I couldn’t bear to simply walk away, so I quietly went and sat down next to her and put my hand on hers. I am so grateful for that hand clasp for on that day a strong friendship was born. When last I had contact with Drews, she was living in Cape Town.
“What are you doing here?” I asked in amazement. 
“I moved here a few months ago.  B noticed this on Facebook and contacted me.”
B had met Drews through me and they were firm friends.
Conversation sparkled and flowed between us and we ended up at her house sampling dessert wine and blueberry flavoured olives!

I lay in my fourposter bed that night and gave thanks for the friendship that had begun eighteen years ago through the touching of hands in church.
“And while I am speaking of friendship, dear Lord, every night I speak about the same thing. I am aware that it must get very boring for you but I’m sorry, Lord, you’re stuck with it – my special friend – Daves.”

Daves and I became close friends after he introduced himself outside the restaurant, Travelbugs, in George. He explained that he and his wife had recently moved to George and that his best friend was my acting buddy, Peter Terry. I looked into his mischievous, smiling eyes and our friendship began to blossom and grow.

About fourteen months prior to our flower expedition, Dave (Daves to me!) was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. I went to stay with B and John during the first five months of lockdown. Daves and his wife, Sue, lived virtually next door. 

Daves and I would meet outside his house at 7.45 in the morning and go for delightful walks around the golf estate. I walked carefully because of my brace and Daves also walked at a medium pace. We chatted nonstop. And it wasn’t just normal chit chat. We shared deep things that meant a lot to us. At the end of each walk, he would look at this little machine he carried and say: “We walked 2,7 kms today. Not as good as yesterday when we did 3 kms.”
It broke my heart when finally he couldn’t manage our walks anymore.
“I’m sorry, Gaye-Girl, I’m gonna have to give these walks a break for a moment.”

As the months passed Daves became more frail. And yet, do you know what blows my mind? Not once did I ever hear Daves complain. Not once!

When we decided to go and see the flowers, Daves exclaimed: “You’ve never seen the flowers? Oh, Gaye-Girl, you will absolutely love them. Take lots of pictures so I can see what you see. Sue and I visited them several years ago but I believe that this year they are outstanding.”

How right Daves was. I have no words to describe the wonderful sights that greeted me each day. Fields and fields of  incredible jewels of flowers. Sparkling upwards they seemed to open in this wonderful harmony that filled the air with a chorus of joy.

I laughed at Christine. She spent much of her time, bum in the air, as she inspected the unusual botanical treasures that caught her interest. A shout from her, and the rest of us would charge across to inspect and discuss her amazing discoveries.

I received a message from Daves giving me a short history of Riebeek Kasteel that he had found on the internet. I loved the way that he was making sure he was sharing this experience with me. In Darling, Christine and I shared a room. The wonderful thing about being deaf is that it doesn’t matter if the other person snores up a storm. I always have blissfully soundless nights! 

Early the next morning, I was sitting on a rock surveying the most extraordinary scene. There was the blue of the ocean that shimmered it’s ballad to the skies. And surrounding me a chorus was being raised to the world in their flowering millions.
‘How can I possibly do justice to this with a mere photo for Daves?’ I wondered.
My phone suddenly gave a ‘ping’. Drawing my eyes away from the glory surrounding me in every direction, I saw it was a message from Sue. I went cold all over and the glory before me seemed to shiver in it’s soundless beauty. The night before, Daves had a stroke and was now in hospital. He was paralysed and couldn’t speak. The glittering blooms surrounding me glistened upwards.

Life is such an inexplicably strange yet alluringly wonderful thing. It has moments of incredible joy and beauty and also tragedy and heartache. My heart hurts that Daves never saw my pictures of those beautiful emeralds, pearls, sapphires and ruby-like flowers spread out before me. Yet I think of the multitude of jewels he bought into my life with that first greeting outside Travelbugs. I often hear Daves’s voice when I open my curtains in the morning saying: “Gaye-Girl, it’s a beautiful day. Go out and soak it up!”

Next year I would love to take Sue to ‘Daves Place’. I know he will be smiling down from on high at all the treasures laid out for us. 

“My Sue and Gaye-Girl,” I can hear him say, “isn’t life beautiful?
Savour and remember!”

I can sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow too.