Just before leaving for Australia and New Zealand, I had bought 2 properties in August, 2004, in Uniondale where we had settled. They were both on the main street, Voortrekker Road, next door to each other, despite the fact that they were nos. 74 and 78.
On my return at the end of November, I set to converting no. 74 into a Backpackers Hostel. No.78 I had given to Sheila to do whatever she wanted with it. It was in a far better condition than no. 74 so required far less adaptation to the Art & Craft Co-Op that it was to become. She got several local artists together as members of the Co-op so that all could display their wares and be on duty one day of the week while the others did their creative thing. Painted orange, it soon became known as The Pumpkin.
Naturally enough, it also became a coffee shop and began to serve light meals.
2004 tailed off with delightful visits from various friends and family reconnecting.
Tiaan Theron and his wife Sabine from Maun, Botswana, spent a night, so we caught up on the news from there. (Pieter Kat, the lion researcher, had had an awful road accident and, weeks later, was still in hospital in Johannesburg.)
We went to the city of George to meet up with Rollo Brent-Meek and his wife Naomi from Warmbaths, now Bela Bela, literarily meaning boil-boil in the local languages of Setswana/Sepedi, referring to the steam that used to rise over the bush from the hot water springs before the stream was capped.
My son, Ryan, wife Elaine and their little boy, Thomas, spent a night and bought a painting of Sheila’s from The Pumpkin the next day before setting off once again on their travels.
Our Warmbaths vet friend, Dr Marius Theron with his daughter, Antonique, spent a couple of nights with us and joined us for a festive Christmas dinner at Sheila’s brother, Neil Maling’s farm.
Despite our short stay in Uniondale, we were already getting the impression that we were not really welcome. Two of our neighbours were giving us pet-related problems. We had one cat poisoned and another one shot. Very few of the local white folk were supporting the Pumpkin, either. Those that were, were either artists themselves or newcomers, like us.
But, of course, the capping news of 2004 was the awful 8.9 Aceh earthquake off the coast of Malaysia on boxing day and the devastating tsunami that ensued. Even on the first day, the deathtoll was estimated as 7,000 people and it just shot up from there. By New Year’s Eve it was at 125,000. And the resulting tsunami was causing havoc as far away as the east coast of Africa.