As one who likes to choose my crowds, I stay well away from Kalk Bay on a weekend when it heaves with visitors packing the vast offering of eateries, and perhaps browsing through the largest collection of junk to jewels available in one short stretch of road in Cape Town, or even the world. Here you can find the old flour sifter that your grandmother once used, or the fox fur stole from the 60s that graced the shoulders of the local mayor’s wife, and even the LPs that you listened to in the 70s – all bringing back memories but not the urge to reacquire. As the burden of possessions bears heavily with the passing of the years, I sometimes pop into the china shop or book shop where it smells of ancient manuscripts and is dark and dull as befits a room full of antiquities. Always I am told there is no market for this or that, despite their having sold the very items to me 20 years before, and that a charity shop might relieve me of Arthur Mee’s illustrated Children’s Encyclopedia – filled with inaccuracies that bring a tear of laughter to the eye – or the marvellous Mr Punch leather-bound volumes pre-dating WWII. Who, I ask, is going to ever read these highly entertaining stories and admire the great skill of the cartoonists, when everything is electronic and on a phone these days? I bewail the loss of education and civilisation, but in the meantime, I no longer need the books and want to declutter and downscale my life. I suppose it’s all part of ‘letting go’ – the path to peace and happiness, it is said.
A visit to the china shop is not for the faint-hearted or unsteady on the feet. Imagine lurching into a display of 16 complete Royal Albert tea sets, with teapots, sugar bowls and milk jugs still in a state of wedding present pristineness (?). Most of them spent their lives in a china cabinet in a corner of the living room, too precious to be used for everyday tea, yet not brought out often enough on high days and holidays. Now it’s a mug – how awful. I must confess to using Royal Albert every day, as tea can be drunk straight from the teapot from fine china. An elderly couple were in the shop with a few items from their Willow pattern dinner service, and although they didn’t break into a jig when offered a cash price of R8 000, I feel sure there must have been a lot of whooping going on in the car home. FIrst time I have ever seen a shopkeeper buy something. I have some old silver and French crockery for him to look at – perhaps it will be my lucky day.
This jaunt galvanised me into action at home – looking into the depths of long-forgotten corners of cupboards and finding things I will never have any use for, and that nobody will want to inherit in this house! I am busy packing small items into boxes and the next time you visit a market, you may find me behind a table strewn with trash and treasures, encouraging someone else to clutter their home with dreams and memories until the cycle repeats itself.