The Rhymes & Rhythms of Writing

I grew up in Grahamstown (Makhanda) and when we were children we spent every holiday and weekend at Port Alfred in the Eastern Cape and if we weren’t swimming or sailing we were fishing. The bait and tackle shop made quite a lot of cash out of us but we never caught anything except streepies. Somehow, when we got to Plett I discovered the secret of catching the spotted grunter. At about the same time I came across a publication called “The Fishing Journal” edited by Bruce Truter – the very man who used to run the bait and tackle shop in Port Alfred when I was a kid. In spite of my misgivings I decided to write some fishing stories and they were pretty well-received.

Despite that little foray into writing, when the idea of writing something about our farm/smallholding occurred to me, I initially dismissed it out of hand. This was because my father was a writer of considerable note. He wrote plays, poetry, short stories, scholarly articles on Shakespeare, collections of short stories, and several volumes of autobiography. He won several major literary awards. For me to write anything for publication would be really difficult without inviting a comparison that would be really disadvantageous to me.

All the same, I found myself thinking of the books that I’ve read over the years about country life and the gratitude I felt towards their authors for giving an urbanite like me a window into the rhythms of their struggles to survive of the land. What prompted them to put their stories down? Not the desire for fame. I think at bottom, they took such pleasure in their own lives and they had a sense that very many people who aren’t farmers are nonetheless fascinated with farming. They wanted to share their experience with them. Or perhaps they felt that their way of life was changing and that they wanted to leave a record of some sort? I recently read a book called “The Shepherd’s Life” and it gave me the courage to start making a record of how we got into farming. I still hesitate to use this word because our operation is so small that it hardly qualifies as a farm, but it is certainly on a larger scale than gardening and a lot more expensive, so it must be farming! Another incentive has been the idea that I can write without the intention to “publish”: what I put down here can be tucked away in a file on the wine website for those who have the time and interest to read it.