Thursday, 2 June 2011

The Bitter Enders ~

There is a sign in the middle of nowhere, a big yellow one, with the words CHARLES BABER printed over an arrow. Why this can be, I do not know, because Charles is a person in perpetual motion, as men of light and laughter often are. But if you follow the sign you may well find him. I did. And that is how, at the eve on the twentieth century, I found myself living in the depths of the northern Transvaal, staying with a family whose forbears were amongst the first British settlers to somehow carve out an existence in the African bush.
      It’s been said that by the late 1880s the Waterberg Plateau was guarded by poisonous serpents, inhabited by murderous brigands and was teeming with dangerous wild animals. But two Victorian English ladies made their home there and managed to survive the Boer War. The pioneers built a small thatched church that became the hub of life for the brave but often eccentric settlers who brought agricultural technology and commerce to the sparsely populated region. Their descendents are still there today, a people characterised by their humour and tenacity. ‘They call us “The Bitter Enders”,’ Charles said, looking back on his life and struggles farming the soft Kalahari sand of the Limpopo Province.
      This is a saga of a family battling against the elements and facing up against the odds. It is not a tale of violence and intrigue but of funny things. It’s a story of perseverance, about a man who tells of the time he was caught up in a passing whirlwind with tears of laughter in his eyes. Over the years I sat at the Babers’ dining room table and listened to endless amusing accounts of the family, their animals and other characters of the bushveld. And these I recount today.

The story of a South African farming family spanning the years 1880~2000.

‘A Western in an African setting.’

“A James Herriot tale in an African dimension. I loved all the animal stories.”

“It’s intriguing. The saga of a dynasty.”

“What a lovely man Charles must be. His stories have me laughing one minute, crying the next until tears are rolling down my cheeks.”

“Gripping stuff. You find yourself living in the Boer War.”

“Charles and Nina’s romance, set against the sparking Indian Ocean, 1950’s dance floors and the sheer hard graft farming the African bush is the stuff that feature films are made of.”

      “…he’s gone back fifty years in his memory as easy as we go back a month… It’s a pity there’s none to write down the things he call home, for they’ll perish with him, and some of them well worth remembering.”
from The Whirlwind by Eden Philpotts