To her this was simply a barbaric act of treason akin to slouching at her table, turning down her offer of seconds or – if as designated barman – you allowed her glass to stand empty for a brief second. In the event of this calamity occurring, she would become silent in mid-sentence and simply stare at the errant barmen in disbelief, her brightly jewelled hand would move slowly to her mouth suppressing the urge to yell. She did not tolerate incompetence or bad breeding of any form; least of all in her dining room. Food and wine were important to her, and in later years her favourite tipple was the Julia; but she was more than just a lover of fine wine and dining.
She was a true renaissance figure whose education had been broad and well-rounded. For her there was no distinction between art and science, between form and function -things were simply right or they were not; and if they were not, you fought tirelessly to correct them. To her the debate of form versus function was simply nonsense; things had to function well AND look great, there was no compromise. Compromise was a word she simply did not know, pursuing excellence in all that she did.
This philosophy, and a tremendous capacity for work, saw her achieve many great things, often in fields traditionally the domain of men; artist, potter, pianist, farmer, mayor, women’s golf captain, company director, member of the Black Sash, politician, town councillor, town-planner, gardener, fisherman and many, many more. Indeed, there were few aspects of life where she did not cast her formidable shadow and leave a legacy.
As mentioned, she loved wine [Julia!] and was a superb cook, many of her ingredients coming from her own vegetable garden or the fruit trees on her smallholding, where she spent hours preserving fruit and making jams. Try as you might with your own marmalade, fig preserve or stewed guavas, it was accepted that she remained the benchmark; if you doubted this, a simple stare and expletive reminded you.
My Gran was living proof that an individual can make the world a better place. The people of Durbanville who enjoy the old buildings she preserved, the open spaces, the many trees that differentiate the town from her neighbours, the tremendous sports facilities, the Rose Garden, the Indigenous Garden and many more are testimony to her tireless efforts. Following her fine example, it is my aim to make Avondale a better place for all who live and work here, both now and in the future. A challenge indeed, but one worthy of pursuit.
Why not celebrate Women’s Day with a bottle of Julia or Graham and remember all those women who have made the world a better place?