We came across a FOR SALE sign on this bleak, isolated building in the middle of nowhere (which, like most places that are nowhere, is, of course, somewhere -in the small dorpie of Klaarstroom in the Klein Karoo, in fact). An invitation to turn off the road, get out the car and peer in through the dusty windows on tiptoe was naturally taken up by this serial dreamer of alternative lives. It was only after having a really good look round that we realised it was a church, so modest was the building. Inside, there was a wooden “bimah” on one end of the room – I resort to terminology that reveals my inadequacies in these regards – and a small cross of stones above a doorway on a façade that did not face the road.
Immediately, I started to dream…of moving in, of starting a children’s writing weekend programme there, of planting trees to provide shade – but which type of tree? Already this was a dilemma – of inviting friends to stay with us as work parties to help with garden and refurbishment – but which friends? – of writing a book there, of living there forever in the lee of those beautiful mountains.
Then, the B and B owner told us the story of how the church got to be on the market. It seems as if the church used to belong to the Coloured community which, in the typical inherited South African pattern, lives to one side of the village. A doctor who owned a house in the “white part’ of the village witnessed the trek of the Coloured community as they made their way across the town to their church on Sundays and had an idea. He offered to build the community a church at their own end of town, in exchange for the old building. According to the person who told us this tale, he did deliver a perfectly adequate, though basic, structure. But, it was not long after taking ownership of the old church, that it was placed on the market for R500,000.
The dream began to sour with that and…
Then, Peter noticed the hurtle of traffic on the Meiringspoort Road was on the same side of Klaarstroom as the church
…and the dream lay in the dust of our wake as we left town.