Thursday, 8 January 2009

Greetings From South Africa

Hi everyone,

I hope you all had a wonderful festive season and have started the New Year on a high note!

I'm still in South Africa and will be until the end of the month. It is hot here in the Cape! The ocean is sparkling, the vineyards are green and I'm eating and drinking way too much. I must admit to feeling very guilty whenever I turn on the news and watch people digging themselves out of the snow in Britain and the US while outside my window the sky is the most divine blue you can imagine...

Before you start hating me too much, I should say that Christmas in South Africa is often a rather surreal experience. Imagine Santas keeling over from heat exhaustion. Watching your relatives dripping sweat into their brandied pudding while Bing Crosby dreams of a white Christmas in the background. Tinsel does not look good in sunlight and fake frost looks even tackier. Many South Africans still insist on having a full turkey Christmas lunch even though the temperature is in the nineties and a cold meal would be far more appropriate. Of course, we also insist on sending each other Christmas cards featuring snow scenes or red breasted robins, even though the majority of South Africans have never seen either in their lives.

New Year's celebrations are good, though. Even at midnight the air is blood warm, and there is nothing like ringing in the new year while looking up into an African sky and seeing the Southern Cross above your head. Usually we spend New Year's eve with our families but this time my husband and I attended the most wonderfully cheesy "Jungle" party where we were served potent drinks in hollowed-out pineapples and most of the women were dressed like Lara Croft. Yours truly had found herself a pair of rather gorgeous tropical butterfly wings on the internet and had ideas of my husband accompanying me as my butterfly catcher. (Cute, yes?) Sadly, the idea of tripping around in a pith helmet and butterfly net did not appeal to my man and he decided to go the macho route (gorilla).

I haven't just been partying – I've also been catching up on my South African reading. If you go into a book store in South Africa, there is always a big shelf right at the front door that displays the latest offerings from South African authors. South Africa has eleven official languages (twenty-five are spoken) but English is the lingua franca and many South African authors write in English regardless of their native tongue. My native language is Afrikaans, which is based on seventeenth century Dutch but which has changed greatly over the past three hundred years. I love my language – my first job involved teaching it – and it has a fantastic literature, especially in poetry. Like most commercial writers, however, my aim is to reach as many readers as possible. As there are only about 8 million native Afrikaans speakers worldwide, I have decided English is probably the best way to go. My friend, Deon Meyer, who writes crime novels, does it differently. He writes in Afrikaans and then has his prose translated. (You'll find a picture of the two us together at a book signing if you go to the pics on my MySpace page).

And speaking of book signings! In another three months, Keeper of Light and Dust will be in the stores. If you guys would like to read a synopsis of the novel and the first chapter, please go to my website for some background on the book if you're interested. You'll also be able to see what the UK cover will look like. BTW, my British publisher has suddenly decided to change the title to The Keeper. It is not that I dislike the shortened version, but I'm not best pleased at having two different titles on either side of the ocean. It makes it very difficult when you're doing promotion on the internet. You'll see what I mean if you go to my website: lot of asterisks and footnotes.

Right, that's it from me. I'm leaving you with a picture that I took yesterday when I was at The Vineyard Hotel in Cape Town: one of my favourite spots to have a proper tea with all the trimmings. The hotel is situated at the foot of Table Mountain (but from the back and to the side) and as you can tell, the gardens are beautiful. The hotel itself has an interesting history. It was originally built in February 1800 as a country house for lovely blonde, blue-eyed Lady Anne Barnard. Lady Barnard, the daughter of the Earl of Balcarres, had been the toast of London until she shocked polite society by marrying a man 12 years her junior and leaving Britain for South Africa. At the time, the British had been in power for five years at the Cape of Good Hope, George III was on the throne in England, Napoleon was reaching for glory and Beethoven had completed his first symphony!

Until next time, you guys, have fun and stay warm

The Vineyard Hotel

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