POSTCARD FROM A SMELLY OLD LAGOON

Big sister and Mom at the Knysna Lagoon

When we were small, we loved Knysna beyond all reason. While our friends went to places like Kenton, Port Alfred, J-Bay, Plett and Nahoon, each year, we’d pack the cars with Christmas presents (mainly Christmas presents), lilos, fishing rods, a boat and caravan in tow, and we’d head for Knysna.

Getting there involved traversing the Blauwkrantz Pass with its fearsome hairpin bends, before eventually dropping anchor on the edge of a milkwood fringed lagoon. This mid-summer pilgrimage happened every year, no exceptions. During the years when oupa and granny had a house there, it was more.

I’ve been in Knysna the past few days. This time reminded me a lot of then.

The smelly old lagoon is still doing a great job of being smelly. The crabs that nip your feet and the squishy quicksand that oozes through your toes and whiffs of egg, haven’t changed a bit. I remember my mother digging for bloodworm in the squelchy lagoon mud. If she provided bait for fishing trips, the men would complete their side of the bargain and bring back elft for breakfast. It was a fair exchange and it worked. We ate a lot of elft. Sometimes the haul was so good, my mom would make pickled elft with whatever couldn’t be cooked for breakfast. That was nice. Pickled fish, hot sweet mealies, potato salad and enough beetroot to turn the whole lot pink.

The fantasies. I used to wonder whether great whites could slip through the bar at The Heads and into the lagoon. Yesterday we saw a seal doing the 1600m butterfly in the lagoon. If a seal can, surely a shark could? Surely?

Most of all, it’s the smells that stay with me. The smell of Christmas beetles torpedoing into the gas lamp, the sour, yeasty smell of milkwood trees below the carpark at The Heads, fish frying on a Cadac cooker, Coppertone and hot salty wind. And that other whole category of aromas, courtesy of the forests and the Knysna furniture industry. The smell of stinkwood, yellowwood and blackwood at Fechters furniture shop in town, which has been in the same spot since 1936. It’s still there. IKEA, don’t even think about it. Fechters is here to stay.

What’s happening in that picture up top.? Seated next to my mom is my sister.  And the twinkle in my mother’s eye? That was me. Since Christmas is a time for families, I’m pleased to introduce you to mine. The blog of big sis can be found here, complete with all manner of family secrets.

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