If I have not written here for a while, partly it is for the usual ‘reason,’ or at least excuse. I have been busy. I have also, more honestly and legitimately, been taking some time out, from work at least, after sending off my engineering report.

Honestly, what I needed was a week on a deserted beach in Mozambique. What I got was a week at home, reading, attending to chores, beginning the clean-out of my office and the rendering down to essentials that is needed before – in under eight weeks – we pack up and go, first on our road trip down to Cape Town and back, and then to Canada.

The other reason I have not written is that it is, in an odd way, hard to grasp and to explain what has been going on. On the face of it, nothing too far out of the ordinary – Eve’s graduation, Kathy’s husband Gareth passing an exam, the children coming over on Sunday for a braai and a chat. But the exam Gareth passed is the first, essential step on the path towards specialisation as a surgeon – and along with the marvellous news come all the big questions of work and career and where to live and when to have children. And what it will mean when there are children – grandchildren – and a father and grandfather is living on the complete other side of the world. I will come home, of course, I will be there, make no mistake – but you get the point.

And then there was the family braai – honey and mustard glazed pork fillet, a fresh home-made date and sage chutney, Rob’s famous chorizo and caramelised onion tart, chopped roast Mediterranean vegetables (damned if I can remember what it’s called), followed (after a suitable period of digestion) by Rob’s fabulous dessert – a picture-perfect cake with macadamia nuts, lime, and a topping of zingy icing. But it was not the food, of course, so much as the family that mattered – and the family was there for a reason, which went beyond just food and saying hello to the old fogies.

They were here to go through the house with Rob and me, and to decide what they could store, what they could use, and what they didn’t want or couldn’t keep. From room to room we went, with Rob taking notes: the lounge – sofa, coffee table, bookshelf, hifi, television, lamps. Our offices – desks, office chairs, desk lamps. Books. Cook books. Art work. The bedroom – bed, mattress, side tables. And so it went, with a sense of strangeness about it all, as if we were walking together through an auction room and all of a sudden our settled home was no more than a fiction, an act of the imagination, about to fly off through the open windows and away over the rooftops.

But most of all, it brought it home, to Eve and Kathy and to me especially, but also of course to Rob and Shaun (Gareth was sleeping between shifts at the hospital) what it is that is happening. We are leaving, packing up, getting ready to go. Before Christmas we will be in Canada – and Eve and Shaun will be hiking in Nepal, and Kathy and Gareth, quite possibly, will be home alone for a Christmas together, without family and probably without friends. Everyone who can, gets the hell out of Johannesburg in December. So we chatted away lightly, and tucked into the food and toasted the various successes and accomplishments, and along with the fun and the relaxation was just a tinge, a tinge mind you, of melancholy, of wondering what it would all mean, and what would happen.

One of the things we toasted, of course, was Eve’s graduation. Rob and I attended the ceremony last Tuesday, and afterwards we took her and Shaun for a late afternoon lunch of seafood and white wine at a little Portuguese restaurant just down the hill from the university. Her Masters thesis: a study of tiger fish, in three environments.

Tiger Fish. Somehow that seems fitting.

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