Home Opinion & Features Starry, starry night amid the sound of silence

Starry, starry night amid the sound of silence


I remembered a time many years ago, when my twin grandsons visited the farm.

After a too-long absence from the family farm in the Karoo all sorts of memories have come flooding back.

I had forgotten, for example, what darkness looked like. This might seem a silly thing to say, but we never see real darkness in the city.

There is always a street light or the headlights of a passing vehicle or the neighbour’s security light casting a splash into a corner of your room, even when Eskom pulls the plug on our electricity supply.

I was reminded about darkness during the first night of my stay here, when I woke up and thought my eyes had failed to open.

Not a flicker or glimmer to be seen. I opened the curtains to let some starlight in.

I remembered a time many years ago, when my twin grandsons visited the farm.

They lived in Durban and were about two years old at the time. They were in the bath when the lights suddenly went out (nothing to do with Eskom, either).

The little twins set up a screaming chorus of hysterical volume.

Later, when order had been restored, we wondered why they had reacted so badly.

We realised it was because they had never experienced total darkness before. It can be quite scary the first time.

The other thing I’d forgotten (but not missed) was silence. Once the farm animals and birds have settled down for the night all noise stops.

We city folk are likely to sit up with shock in the middle of the night and say: “What the heck was that?” Only to realise the unaccustomed noise was silence.

Some years ago a neighbour turned an unoccupied cottage on his farm into a holiday getaway to rent.

He furnished it tastefully and fitted all the latest electric appliances and advertised it in Joburg newspapers.

The first guests – a young Joburg family – seemed delighted and settled in happily to enjoy their rural break.

The following morning they had disappeared, leaving some money and a note saying: “Sorry. We’ve gone home. We couldn’t handle the silence.”

I suppose once I am back home in Cape Town I’ll be unable to sleep because of the occasional late car whooshing past.

Goodness knows how I’ll react to an ambulance siren: probably have a heart attack and end up as a passenger.

In the meanwhile, it’s good to be back rediscovering the silence and darkness of real night.

Last Laugh

True story. A city visitor rounded on one of the local sheep farmers and said: “I think it’s disgustingly cruel the way you cut off the poor little lambs’ tails.”

“You shouldn’t let it worry you, lady,” he replied. “We’ve been doing it for so long that the lambs have become used to it by now.”

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