Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Saint du Barrys and sounds

I don't cook with recipes. I follow successes that I've learnt, and if I try something new, I'll keep it secret until it works or is abandoned. Joan has teased me about listening to the pot to tell where it's at in the scheme of readiness. Yes, I have a sensitive ear, whether it's about music, cooking or subtle noises of alarm. I enjoy picking up romantic atmosphere or jolly moods by listening to the sounds that accompany these pockets of solitary experience.

We used to have a lot of frogs. There was a gully across the road which had water flowing down to the Jan Dissels River, and when this was closed, the frogs subsided. Sometimes they start up at night, but their number and vigour have both declined.

Hadedas. When I grew up in Cape Town, and started working, right up till 1988, I hadn't seen one. Up in the Eastern Cape they were prolific. Now, in Cape Town, they're everywhere. Guests ask what makes such a racket in the morning: hadedas. Big, black yet full of oily colour up close, the best explanation for their raucous cry is this: they're scared of heights. Taking off and flying, they look down, and then scream their fear. It sounds true.

We've grown fond of the evening and morning bird-calls. If you listen carefully, you can pick up what sort of day it's been or going to be. Then of course Ramius, the African Grey, might be cracking something in the food dish, or talking to himself, or sending the dogs to bed. If they bark, he'll join in for a moment, and then say "Go to bed!". On his own, trying to maintain his level of conversation, it will be greetings in various voices, or bits of Shakespeare - "O reason not the need" or "When to the sessions of sweet, silent thought" are favourites. He might be a bit more crisp on the flight deck: "Captain to cabin crew, check and cross-check". "Flaps up, flaps down." Surgical procedures are quiet: "Scalpel please, oxygen, clamp. DeBakey scissors".
More randomly, "Buttons". "Coffee."

On some weekend nights, you can hear the town having fun, sometimes it goes to bed early. Sunday mornings are silent, punctuated by church-bells that are early in summer, a bit later in winter. In the quiet of the night you may hear a cock crow. There are two low sounds of water running at Saint du Barrys: the water going nito the fish-pond and the small water-feature at the corner between the dining-room and the guest wing.

The wind doesn't blow stronngly or gust for long periods of time, as in Cape Town. The thatch over guest rooms means that rain is more of a rushing noise than a clatter.

The morning might wake up either with hadedas or Egyptian geese, with their honking, hissing cry. I like the sound of the fire, either in the office or outside at the braai.

I think eveyone listens to hear if the ambulance siren goes towards the N7 or towards the Pakhuis Pass. The other sound of distress is the helicopter circling the town before landing, then taking off again from the hospital after a brief droning.

The busy-ness of Saturday morning in the Main Road is noisy. Shouting, greeting, advice, laughter, abuse, impatience. My favourite is "Jou kop lek!" which means "your head is leaking". There are plenty of other retorts, most of them unrepeatable.

There's a bowling green next door, and when there's a big meeting, the balls clink continuously, and the voices comment.

I have just come in from making the evening's bookings at the restaurant. The birds are making their settling-down chirps, and there's a quiet night chill gathering in the air. Rush - hour which lasts from five o' clock till five past five has long passed. Soon the mild crackles of the fire beside me will be the loudest thing I can hear.

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