Sunday morning broke bright and clear, and after a leisurely start Rob and I headed out to the Magaliesberg, an hour’s drive away. The mountains, farmlands, bush-pubs and of course Hartebeespoort dam with its bird life and boating, make the Magaliesberg the playground of all the good people from Pretoria and Johannesburg who, like us, head out on the weekends for a little R&R and the pleasant illusions of a day, if not quite in the bush, in the country at least.
We did our tour of the dam, first, chugging along the rutted, twisty track in the Landy, keeping an eye out for birds. Coots, Egyptian geese, cormorants, blacksmith plovers were plentiful, but the highlights were a white-fronted bee-eater with its carmine throat and delicate, curved beak, and a white-winged widow bird with startling yellow shoulder patches showing against glossy black. Along the shore, fishermen and their families lined up, rods aiming into the glinting water, all the paraphernalia of fishing boxes, fish traps, rod-stands pointing to a single-minded absorption, a world set apart from quotidian employment, the morning school run, the weekend chores of washing the car and mowing the lawn.
Incongruously, the lake lapped pea-green and stinking against the shore, a toxic algae bloom thick as paste in the ominous water.
The Ale House, a pocket-sized, funky pub set against the Magaliesberg hills, was the perfect place for locally brewed beer and pizza – sitting out under the trees, Rob and I began to talk about the future. Should we stay in the Emmarentia house; should we live in Johannesburg or move to Cape Town; what about life in Toronto? A two-country solution, we agreed, would be the best – but how could this be accomplished? What about her going back in March to shoot the second series of ‘Revamped’ – she was torn, she said; she didn’t want to leave me, but she had to think of the money, not to mention the practicalities of flights and visas. And, behind all of these questions, the fundamental issue: what about us, and our relationship?
Rob said, she wanted us to get married. This would solve many of our problems, it would give us a clear sense of direction, it would give her a sense of security. She wanted no-one else but me. I said, trying to maintain a light tone, yet trying to be sensitive too, to what was clearly a serious proposition: was it Friday, that I was divorced? She had the grace to laugh.
Marriage, I agreed, was very much one of the options for the future; but I needed to figure out what it means to be divorced, first, and I want to make the decisions we are facing over the coming months as a free man. I need time to breathe, time to be.
Rob understood, I think, but she was a little blue, as we finished our drinks, and drove home, and blue as we settled down for a quiet evening together, ahead of a busy week.
We swam in the pool, for the first time; I made us a risotto with a mixture of fresh and dried wild mushrooms; we sat up reading.
I do understand. Rob has been waiting a long time, for me to be free; she has taken risks, and spent a lot of money, to be here with me; she has big decisions to make, if she is to come back here to Johannesburg, this city for which she has little affection, after her shoot, in August. I understand all that; I recognise and appreciate it. But I do hope that she understands me, too.