All across these mountain valleys, apples ripening on the trees. The more common varieties grown for export include Pink Lady, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Honeycrisp and Braestar. But there are also varieties that date back to Edwardian times, Beauty of Bath and a close relative of the famous Worcester Pearmain found in Herefordshire. In all honesty I don’t think our apples grown in a the warmer climate can compare with the crisp sweet crunch of English apples but I do enjoy our late autumn apples, the slight wrinkle and fragrance. Peaches and yellow plums are coming in, together with persimmons and custard apples.
Driving to the farmers’ market this morning, an amazing sight. The leader of a troupe of Chacma baboons jumped onto a slow truck heavily laden with apples, climbed into the back of the truck and began throwing apples to the other baboons at the road’s edge — all this on the Nuweberg in Viljoen’s Pass with the Hottentots-Holland reserve all around, the proteas and wild grasses and grey santolina.
A bowler’s over-arm swing, the thick-set baboon chucking out red apples onto the road, apples rolling downhill with young baboons giving chase. I have heard local farmers talk about the baboons stealing fruit from the trucks climbing the four mountain passes that surround our valley but thought the stories apocryphal. There were more baboons playing under the flowering gums on the mountain pass, around 1 500 metres high, and we saw grey rhebok near the small dam.
It was very hot at the market and we had to hurry because I was going down to the coast – on impulse I bought a large white freshly killed duck , then the yellowtail and a lovely geelbek (fish from the Atlantic) on ice for this evening’s fish grill. A vivacious conversation with a Madagascan French baker selling baguettes and ciabatta, health bread with rye and sunflower seeds. He talked about the volcanic eruption on Martinique in 1902 and the chaos it caused there, thinking about Haiti’s earthquake. All the islands off Africa in the Indian Ocean are French-speaking and have histories blighted by slavery and funded dictatorships. He had met Aristide, the former president of Haiti who now lives in exile in South Africa, a Salesian priest become liberation theologian, another exile who loves good French bread and longs to be back on his suffering island.
And I was thinking too, as I saw the people waiting for the beer tent to open at the market, how simple it is to break that dependency – and yet it is so much harder than we anticipate. The heat terrific, hard blinding light on white tents and shade umbrellas, looking with sympathy at those who will be pale, sweating and incapable by noon. I carry a bottle of water in my raffia bag, never let myself get thirsty or too hungry or dazed by the heat. A wide-brimmed hat, thin cotton top, free of any compulsion to let the day slip into a haze of drunken melancholy.
Along with coping strategies, I learned self-soothing behaviours in early sobriety and they hold me steady. I’m not talking about maladaptive habits: self-harming mutilation or binge eating and vomiting, numbing out with porn or overspending on consumerism, process addictions that are just substitutes for the bottle. I’m talking about taking care of the uncertain or flustered self who wants a glass of cold water, a cup of hot sweet tea, a friendly voice on the phone, a long scented bath, a walk in the cool of the day, practice in breathing. To keep a journal, to paint landscapes, to make summer soups and tend herbs and sit laughing with sober friends in a shady restaurant overlooking a lazy green ocean. I’m heading out to have lunch with some sober AA friends down at the coast. Such idiosyncratic generous crazy wonderful people., my own kind. I shall come home dizzy with laughter and affection. A cameraderie I have never known before.
“How much better it would have been had I felt gratitude rather than self-satisfaction — gratitude that I had once suffered the pains of alcoholism, gratitude that a miracle of recovery had been worked upon me from above, gratitude for the privilege of serving my fellow alcoholics, and gratitude for those fraternal ties which bound me ever closer to them in a comradeship such as few societies of men have ever known.”
– As Bill Sees It, p. 133