“Home is not where you live, but where they understand you” Christian MorgansternI've often tried to describe to people how 'The Valley' (as it is affectionately known) sucks you in. Of course, it doesn't have that effect on everyone - many people spend a happy couple of years there and then get on with the rest of their lives and never look back. Some of us are more affected than others.
“Home is the place where it feels right to walk around without shoes”
“There's nothing half so pleasant as coming home again.” Margaret Elizabeth Sangster
"The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned." Maya Angelou
Some of us fall in love there, find our hearts there, shape our dreams and the tiny embryonic beginnings of our adult selves there. I suppose it's a kind of womb. Or an incubator. Or a caterpillar silk cocoon. And, true to form, for so many of us it's a place where we want to return when things seem unmanageable or we want to go back to who we were then. It's the place we know we need to go when we're trying to get perspective and make sense of things. It's the place we go when we've accidentally, temporarily misplaced who we are.
Sometimes it's as if there is something wrong with us. But there is something special about the place. Perhaps the special is just that it was - for a few years, for an instant in time - the safest and the most dangerous place in the world. Perhaps it is the memories of 'becoming' that make so attractive to return to. Perhaps it has something to do with the red soil and the red aloes, or the leylines and the 52 places of worship. Perhaps the place really does have meaning outside and beyond ourselves. Perhaps it doesn't matter why and that is what makes the first sip of a beer at the Rat like breathing a sigh of relief and just being and coming home again.
With the potential (says optimistic me) of a possible light at the end of the seemingly interminable road to leaving the country for a while, and egged on by a friend's wistful longing for the G-spot and associated memories of 46D, and another friend contemplating being there next year, I suddenly find myself considering, quite seriously, one last debauched, friend-filled, laughter-drenched weekend in the valley.
(ps failing that, Stellenbosch, the only other place in the world that comes close, particularly in Autumn when the oaks are so pretty, is a pretty good substitute)