Leaving Botswana in 2004, we established ourselves in Uniondale, Western Cape, South Africa. Despite its English sounding name, Uniondale turned out neither to be English nor unified.
It didn’t take too long to peel back some of the layers. This was not just an Apartheid dorpie, it was a Boer War dorpie. With exceptions, of course, the majority of the moneyed populace were not only Afrikaans, the intrusion of English Inkomers was resented, and persons of Colour were kept in their place. Their place, Lyonville, was around the corner of a hill that effectively kept them out of view of the pale-faced quaint little Victorian village with its broekie-lace colonial gabled architecture.
Tenants occupying another property that we bought insisted that we should attend a Uniondale High School fundraising function to be held at the town hall so that we could meet the local folk. They assured us that our feelings of rejection would prove to be unfounded. Neither Sheila nor I were particularly social people, but we hoped that our original impression of a particularly unfriendly town would be dispelled in wave of warm welcoming bonhomie.
We stood around clutching our comforting wine glasses like rocks in a tidal pool while the fishes both large and small swirled around us. Even those who had invited us kept well clear lest they run aground.
Jimmy Zondagh, a local apple farmer, briefly came to greet us before he was swept away by the tide. A brief glimpse of what should be normal hospitality stood out like a lighthouse.
The Master of Ceremonies, the High School Head Master – we noted him ask his wife, the local librarian. sotto voce who we were – anchored himself in front of us and, without introducing himself, in Afrikaans demanded to know where we were from.
“Uniondale,” I answered helpfully.
“What!?” he thundered.
“Sorry,” I said, puzzled, “Haven’t you heard of the place?”
Although we moved to Haarlem, a Colourful village some twenty-five km away, two years later, Uniondale is still our nearest town, and there are actually some fine friendly Boer folk there.