For various reasons my mind has recently turned, in spare moments, to deciding where I’d like to holiday (verb, thus annoying a few purists and tangling Google’s algorithms). Considering the rarity of spare moments, maybe my mind just bent a little rather than turning fully, but even that has been enough to make a short list and have time left to stir memories. The nostalgia was initially triggered by a recent Facebook post “Libraries as vacation spots”. Although the author spent her vacations actually inside libraries, a number of my childhood holidays were preceded by visits to book exchanges and the Public Library (for Pietermaritzburg dwellers of yore, remember the building set back from Longmarket Street that later became Warren’s Health Studio? The building itself fascinated me as the main book collection was housed in a large room with an inside balcony running around most of the room that was also lined with shelves, a rather gloomy floor-to-ceiling treasure cave that sparkled with intent. In retrospect it must have been a temporary measure while the new Bessie-Head-to-be library was being built adjacent to the City Hall).
The time period I’m thinking of would have been at the end of the Sixties going into the early Seventies. My grandparents had discovered the Natal Lurula Spa near Paulpietersberg near Vryheid (now Gooderson Natal Spa Hot Springs and Leisure Resort my close friend Google tells me). They persuaded my parents to take a well-earned break and so began a series of family holidays to the hinterland. A series of pools fed from hot springs in the area and, still bookmarked with awe deep inside my head, a large magnesium pool channelled directly from some polar region (spot the Jules Verne influence?). The latter never tempted me more than ankle deep and, even then, only on days when I thought blue feet looked cool. On the other hand, we all soaked slothfully in the warm pools until our legs oscillated rather than walked back to our rooms. After the first exploratory trip, my mom made sure to take John and me to the library ‘in town’ to stock up on reading material ahead of the holidays. By then I’d pretty much exhausted the Famous Five stories of Enid Blyton, worn out Nancy Drew and the Hardy boys, and discovered Willard Price’s Adventure series. I still clearly remember pouncing victoriously on “Safari adventure”, the problem with enthralling series being that it becomes harder and harder to locate unread titles.
As an adult, I’m rather appalled now that I’m reminded that the purpose of the various expeditions was to collect live animals. My childhood soul became so involved in the plot that the implications went right over my head. It’s an unresolved internal battle that is not going to be satisfied any time soon : rights of the animal versus what’s right for the animal. It is therefore rather interesting to read that Anthony McGowan has been commissioned to add four more titles to the series and the focus is shifting more strongly to conservation.
Now that the prospect looms of a ‘proper’ holiday after nineteen years punctuated with occasional mini-breaks, my adult soul has found new ways to be torn. The choice is currently Berg versus Cape Town as both hold happy memories. Maybe I need to go and sit in a library somewhere and find the peace necessary to rational thought.