I’m sitting in what is about to become my wife’s new bedroom, in a new house. “Hers” it became when we passed the budget for the third time!
The fold-away doors, all 8 metres of them, have given way to a World Heritage site. To my left lies Ntaba Nquno, where General Botha took command of the Boer forces in November 1899. His predecessor, General Joubert, hero of the first Anglo Boer War, had been wounded the day before at the Battle of Willow Grange, hence the change in O.C.
In the foreground lies one of the planet’s most enchanting valleys, and right here beneath this great hillside, lies the nation’s Champion Racehorse stud. Now I know what the British, the Zulus and the Boers were fighting so furiously about. This is God’s own, and they fought more ferociously for this territory than they did for any other.
Think about that. The British at the time, held dominion over two thirds of the earth’s surface, yet here is where the Empire engaged itself so earnestly, for its greatest military moments, as well as its worst. Since starting this note, I’ve had to walk across the courtyard at the rear of this house, and besides realising my wife got carried away with the size (our plans are simply jotted on the back of exam pads in this part of Zululand, so it’s easy to miscalculate), I also know that, for once in my life, I got really lucky. I married a genius.
The lakeside suites at Hartford House have long borne testimony to her creative talents. The occupancies tell us that, and the admiration of both the architectural and the decorating world confirm it. But “her” house is surely her finest moment.
That said, it really is larger than it should be, and perched beautifully as it is, it’s also a bit on the conspicuous side for a Zulu farmer who still comes to work in a Corsa bakkie, clad in khakis and veldskoens. So I’ve spent the morning planting trees to “hide” it a little!. Equally, this was not the time to be building, though it’s been a 2.5 year project for all the interruptions my management have brought on my builders in the time. You never want to be “splashing out” on a personal indulgence when there are others in pain. The timing was not good, though it might’ve been, had we completed it in 2007 when we first started. My team keeps saying, “purge your conscience, you’ve slaved for it”. I’m consoled only slightly. But it’s to them that Cheryl and I turn with our thanks. In our time here, they’ve run the hard yards with us, they made the sacrifices and at last, they’ve too, reaped their rewards.