I am in love with George.
I have been for quite a few years. I will tell you about this love affair – in depth.

“Why don’t you come and live in George?” Mums asked.
“Live in George? Are you mad? George is for old people!” was my retort.
Mums took me for a long drive around George, pointing out items of interest. And the rest is history. I have now been living in George for eleven years.
And I am not all that old! (Laugh – I am ‘neither Gay nor Young!’)

I always dreamed of one day living in Cape Town. Having a little house in Harfield Village would be magical, I thought. Recently I went to Cape Town for The Cape Cycle Tour. It broke my heart seeing that water starved city. But the water aside, I was able to look at Cape Town in a realistic manner. It would not be a sensible place for me to live. I am now unable to drive because of my eyesight. To get to a shopping centre would be a mammoth task for me, walking kilometres. Imagine walking those kilometres clasping bags of shopping! To buy a cottage near to Cavendish Square would be completely out of my price range. Also, Cape Town is so incredibly busy. The traffic screams past you at this unbelievable rate. Or perhaps this is a sign that I am getting old, after all!

I sit on my veranda in George, sipping my morning coffee and drink in my surroundings. My eyes drift upwards to the Outeniqua Mountains. How I love those enormous, undulating and rolling folds of rock that peer majestically down on me. In 1987, when we had finished our performance in Othello, a couple of us took off for the weekend and headed for the Magaliesberg mountains. I sat on a rocky crag next to a waterfall that seemed to cascade downwards with joy and exultation. I am so glad that I had that experience. I know what it is like to clamber up a mountain and then on reaching the top, sag down with breathless joy. Clambering and climbing are now out of my radar. Today I am able to look out at ‘my’ awe inspiring mountains of George and simply glory in them.

I adore the George temperatures. It has a temperate climate with warm summers and mild to chilly winters. After living in Durban for fourteen years, experiencing Autumn in George is entrancing. In Durban, it is summer – permanently! I had forgotten the joy of seeing rows of Oak and Maple trees, blushing as they undress their leaves onto the ground. The summers are blissfully warm. On those hot nights, I lie in bed beautifully cooled by a fan whirring gently beside me.
“Doesn’t your fan make a lot of noise?” Mums inquired.
“It probably does, but I don’t hear it,” I laughed pointing to my Cochlear Implants. “I take these off when I sleep.”
Admit, there are certain advantages to being deaf!

The Garden Route Dam – photo: Andre Roux

The winters are cold.
“Cold, pah!” scoffed my English friend. “Your winters are almost like our summers.”
“One winter the temperature went down to 8 degrees,” I retorted
“Exactly, that’s what I’m saying. Almost like our summers!”
George lies between the sea and the mountains and this somehow promotes rain. Yesterday friends of mine walked past the dam. Apparently it is actually overflowing! This week, the George Herald tells us that the Municipality are planning on significantly raising the dam wall.

I love public speaking and I give Motivational Talks to companies all over South Africa. I am often catching planes to and from different destinations. The airport is a mere ten minute drive away from my apartment. When I think of what a rigmarole it is catching a plane from Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, I want to give a little jig in sheer delight at my lucky situation! I also want to cheer at the fact that George Airport has come out top as Africa’s best airport catering for under two million passengers per year. That is quite something!

George is a golfers paradise! There are actually 5 championship courses in George itself. I recently accompanied two friends as they played a game at George Golf Course. I had an utterly entrancing time. I wasn’t blown away by the golf I witnessed. I have no memory of their game whatsoever. I was mind boggled by the beauty surrounding me. The incredible vistas. The gorgeous brown buck wandering across the fairways chased by playful monkeys of all shapes and sizes! Trees that stretched up and out, clusters of ferns at their base, the smooth, rolling greens, the gnarled bench placed for golfers to rest their weary limbs. I wasn’t a golfer yet I climbed onto the bench, my arms around my knees, my chin resting there and surveyed the beauty around me and dreamed.
“C’mon, Gaynor, we’re moving to the next hole…”

In George we have our own Arts Theatre. It has just been gloriously refurbished. I recently watched Pieter Dirk Uys perform, and the following week enjoyed the enchanting Snow Goose. The shows were marvellous, but our theatre is also brilliant. The beautifully painted walls, the seats, the stage – it all looks magnificent. ‘Maybe you should have got involved in theatre after your accident!’ whispered a voice in my mind. And then I silently laughed at myself. Sitting in a beautiful theatre does that to me. It causes ‘what ifs’ to tumble around my brain. No, Gaynor, you are finished in theatre for the time being! You are now a writer! And this ‘writer’ sat in her beautiful theatre and was utterly entranced!

B, Jans, Ingrid, our ‘children’ and I do the Park Run every Saturday. It starts in the Botanical Gardens and then meanders through the forest which I love. Jans and Ingrid disappear to do the full five kilometre run. B, Perdita and I begin with everybody but B knows short cuts! I do a limping whizz along these wonderful shortened routes. It is amusing because I see the faces of the other people who walk the Park Run with me as we approach the finish. One man said: “Wow, I thought that I’d be much faster than you. And here we are, finishing together!”
I didn’t enlighten him!

The thing that I love about George is that people are so friendly. I walk everywhere accompanied by my marvellous stick covered in ladybirds. Not real ladybirds. Pictures of ladybirds crawling all over the stick. My stick, Perdita and I are now well known figures in George and constantly get well meaning hoots of recognition from cars passing by. I am able to walk to Woolworths, the Post Office, the vets, CNA. Going to Beans About Coffee is quite a walk but I walk with purpose, knowing that a delicious cup of cappuccino and a plate of scrumptious carrot cake are awaiting me! George people smile openly. Although there was one man who for four months would not return the smile I threw at him. I continued to smile and say: “Hi there!” every time we passed. When he finally caught my smile and threw it back with a: “Good morning!” I wanted to hug him. I didn’t though. I walked on, secretly doing a high five with God!

One night, about three weeks ago, Perdita, my wire haired dachshund, slipped through the outside fence and disappeared. Again!!! I went to the fence and looked up and down the road, no Perdita! I was in my pyjamas but desperate to find her, I left my flat and walked to the back of Pick ‘n Pay. They keep their rubbish bins there and I was sure they had attracted Perdita. I looked at the bins in the dark but they seemed deserted. I ‘ran’ home and phoned my friend B. She was at a dinner party, miles away so couldn’t come and help. I scanned the road outside but no Perdita. The next moment, I saw the light of a torch, and there was Dewald, the supervisor of our flats.
“B told me that Perdita is missing, I came to help look for her.” Then I saw my friend Nix, who lives down the road:
“I heard Perdita was missing. B told me.”
Then Christine and Ron, Mums’ neighbours, arrived.
“We’ve come to help find Perdita,” they chorused.
Dewald let out a shout: “There she is, coming around the corner.”
Dratted Perdita had been scrounging at Pick ‘n Pay and had hidden when she’d seen me.
These people I knew, had all come out of their lovely warm homes to help me find my dog! This is the sort of thing that people in George do. I am so fortunate to live in such a close knit community!

I always feel safe in George. And yes, you’re right, I should not go walking to Pick ‘n Pay at ten o’clock at night. That is asking for trouble. It was just that my ‘child’ had disappeared and I panicked. Unlike other cities I’ve been in, George seems secure and protected. The other day, I came across some children playing cricket in the street. I was reminded of my childhood where we did exactly the same thing. Seeing children behaving in such a normal, happy way made me smile. These children were not shut up in a gated and guarded community. I pray that George remains as it is.

I had no idea that George would contain so much joy for me. All bought about by that drive with Mums in the car! The mountains, the airport, the golf course, the Botanical Gardens and the people. And just think: If you come and live in George or just visit, you can take lovely refreshing showers, using that most vital ingredient of all – water!

Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”
Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

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