So much have been written about the unprecedented times we are living in. Here on the banks of the Goukou River on South Africa’s Southern Cape Coast it is no different – an eerie sort of quietness has settled around us. Almost like the build-up of summer thunder storms in the Karoo. You see it coming in the distance, clouds rolling towards you – and you anticipate the fury of the thunder and lightning – and the rain storms that will follow.

Except this is no violent thunderstorm that will come and go – this is something so destructive that when it is finally gone, will have changed the way we live. We do not know yet what the cost of lives will be here in our country and we are all gripped by a feeling of uncertainty and even fear – of the unknown which is ahead of us.

We think of the peoples of Africa with so many poor communities – in some areas they do not even have water – how do you wash your hands? The word – sanitizer – is something foreign if you do not have enough food to eat. We pray for the people of Africa!

So what do we do?

So what do you do? Well here on the bank of the river, the sun rises every morning, the tides come and go – and we feed the birds and watch the Heron, Kingfishers and seagulls going about their business. The fish dance on the sandbank as the tide rolls in every day. Idyllic – one would think – but there is a difference.

It is quiet but soon we anticipate that more people who own property here may want to come down here. The schools have been closed, it will be Easter soon. They will come from Cape Town, where things are equally miserable. Whether it will be wise to do so, is questionable.

We all expect the situation to get worse and lock-downs such as in other parts of the world, will trap all those who are here at the river or in Stilbaai – right here. We have around 30 caravan shareholders in our area – and they use communal wash rooms – utilities that cannot be kept free of threats at all times.

One neighbour arrived early in the house next to ours – with just about his whole family – daughters and boyfriends – all either working or still at university – all now working from here. At eight every morning we watch our son, Johno, and his family, Jules, Hunter and Halle, doing the JEFF Fitness Faculty programme on line. JEFF members are based around the world and yesterday, on Saturday, we watched as people from North America, Italy, the Middle East and Australasia – along with thousands of South Africans join in to participate on line in the vigorous hour long session. With the pubs in the UK also now closed, the numbers participating now will increase further.

It is indeed the new way of doing things – more than 4000 people keeping fit at home. It is inspiring!

Different perspectives of Corona

Here in the Southern Cape we have a diverse community – and not all know what to make of the Coronavirus. At the little fisherman village near us, where most of the people who work in Stilbaai live, we asked a senior Melkhoutfonteiner what he thought of the Corona. A puzzled look on his face told it all – ‘Sir, I have not seen that car for a very long time – my uncle had one many years ago but sold it.”

The two people who regularly work for us, Ellen and Adrian, have been told to stay at home – they get their fees every week.

In the town, where the river runs into the sea, low tides somehow looks lower this weekend. A few people walk or run and the supermarkets are more empty than usual on a Sunday morning. The line at the counter where pensioners buy their Sunday lunches are shorter. At the entrance you are confronted by a staff member with a big bottle of stuff from which he profusely spray a substance on your hands. There are rolls of sanitizer wipes which you can use to wipe your trolley before you enter.

Inside there are no sanitizers of any make on the shelves. The panic buying of toilet rolls and tinned food have somewhat dissipated. There is however plenty of food and the fresh produce shelves are well stocked.

It seems that the closure of schools for about a month, has caught some of the locals off-guard. Their kids have come home from boarding school. “You better buy six boxes of Weetbix,” says the wife of a burly chap. “You know how they can eat! The next four weeks will be hell.”

The Corona is surely posing different challenges to all.

Reading the Sunday newspapers is depressing. Not even a descent brunch can lift the mood. We switch from the news channels to sport and watch recordings of old rugby and cricket matches to change the mood. At least our country won those matches and it is still good to see. But there is only so many times you can watch the World Cup rugby final!

We drink coffee with the neighbours. My neighbour brings his chair, coffee and cookies and I do the same. We sit on the patio chairs – six metres apart – and we drink coffee and talk about better times. He does not know how long he will stay here – for now the constant travel abroad and playing golf here there and everywhere – have been canned! “I told you this is a special place,” I remind him as we watch the river and the birds.

Riverside panorama

Friend Koos is also here with his family – including brother and his tribe. Koos is not fishing this time – “working from home”, he says.  Some sort of major deal – managed from the banks of the Goukou. We greet each other by telephone.

Another development at Riverside is that “Deepthoat” has moved out. Who will forget those late night conspiracies of 2013? It made even old Jan Huppelbeen’s spirit rise and complain. We wonder what the “Deep” and his fellow conspirators now think of Corona.

The visits to the local restaurants and the pizza joints – and the coffee shops for a leisurely breakfast -have been put on hold. Indeed, the local businesses will suffer.

Otherwise things are pretty normal here at the Goukou – the seasons are changing, we are heading to winter – but the days are sunny and quiet. The heron, the seagulls, the Sacred Ibis and the Kingfishers are keeping us entertained. All in all we are grateful for what we have.