THE HOUSE AT MORGAN BAY: A memory, circa 1977

The original rondavel* was probably more than a hundred years old. Generations, one after the other, had tacked on rooms; higgledy-piggledy, with crooked passages and ceilings sloped so low in places that they left spaces that served only to house a stack of books, or storage space for a basket of eggs.

What eventually became the kitchen had been built around the old outside-oven; walls a meter thick resulted in window sills wide enough to serve as storage space for pots and pans, pots and pans battered and weathered, brought from the houses in the city, no longer acceptable for there, but perfectly suitable for making mussel chowder after a day at the beach.

A week before the families arrived from Johannesburg and Salisbury, the maiden aunt from East London would drive to Morgan Bay with two servants. The key would be retrieved from under a stone at the water tank and every door and window would be opened. Every piece of furniture would be carried onto the grass outside and scrubbed down with soapy water to slough off the sea grime. Chests were opened and faded cotton sheets were hung on the washlines, flapping in the wind like flags heralding the arrival of royalty.

Trays and trays of bottles and jars were carried in from the car and stacked on the sideboard on the front verandah, which served as the dining room; ginger beer, curried beans, curried peaches, chutney, watermelon preserves … There were cake tins stacked high containing rusks, biscuits, coconut ice and fudge.

In the long, wide back verandah stood a row of metal-frame beds; eight or ten, I can’t remember. This was the sleeping area for the tribe’s younger children. Fishing rods and nets leaned against walls, here hung a rope of pumpkin shells and there was a tower of plastic buckets for building sandcastles.

There was a garage of sorts, but it had become more of a storeroom; for beach toys and outdoor cooking paraphernalia, tool boxes and surfboards. And there was a pile of ticking-covered mattresses. Because one never knew who was bringing a friend, a new fiancé or a lost soul who shouldn’t be left alone for the holidays.

I wonder if the house is still there?

* Rondavel:
The rondavel is a small building, usually round or oval in shape and is traditionally made with materials that can be locally found in raw form.



  1. I remember this memory of Morgan Bay, especially the food: “ginger beer, curried beans, curried peaches, chutney, watermelon preserves … ”

    I’ve always loved curries and chutneys. And watermelon pickles floating in sweet brine.

    What a wonderful trip back in time. Thanks, Cin.

  2. Oh, those were the days! My mother’s family had the same set-up on the Transkei coast. I wonder too what remains in the area as it has now taken off as a holiday resort and the ‘natural wildness’ will be gone, spoiled forever. Lovely post, Cin. It brought back a host of memories.

  3. Great description, Cin. Love all the visuals – especially the walls being a meter thick so the window sills become storage. Layers and layers of stories in those goods and chattels.

  4. Great memories Cin. The dream must have given you a warm and fuzzy feeling.
    Our rondavel was the kitchen. It was known as my mother’s rondavel. Maybe it was because it was the only reminder that she lived there.

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