Why falling in love under the Platteland stars is like loadshedding
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Finding your soulmate in the mountains is like kindling a flame in the dark

"We spent hours chatting under the stars. Each day, his departure was postponed. Five months later, we have spent less than two weeks apart."

During the recent loadshedding, when I was doing my best to grill lamb chops with a row of candles providing the only light, I had the crazy thought that embarking on a new relationship in your 50s is similar to cooking by candlelight.

You know what to do based on years of practice and previous experience, but under the flickering light, you seem to lose your confidence and nerve.

My reckoning is that couples who have remained in a committed relationship over decades are like those people who love cooking food over an open fire, and have mastered the art of juggling a torch and braai tongs while having sufficient heat to sear the meat.

You know your partner’s past and you have forged a life together navigating idiosyncrasies, experiences and challenges.

This is particularly true when living out on a farm in the Platteland, with long distances between you and your neighbour.

Your partner is often your sole source of conversation – the only person to share your thoughts, ideas, fears, and daily activities.

It’s no wonder that you often pop in to drop off a parcel you have collected for your neighbour, and end up staying for lunch at a large table built to accommodate 12 people, with only two places set.

You must enjoy your own company and have a deep connection to the earth when you fall in love with a farmer. When I was growing up on our farm in the forgotten part of the Drakensberg, I was confident I would never leave the valley.

In my perfect world as a child, I would marry a farmer from the district and live happily ever after, as promised in the fairy tales.

As a “laat lammetjie”, I used to watch my three elder sisters curling their hair and eye-lashes, applying make-up, giggling about the evening ahead as they got ready to go to dances with guys they had grown up with in the area.

When I entered my teens, I used to pester my mother to make me outfits I could wear when my brother chaperoned me to parties, where I learnt how to “sokkie” in the strong arms of the local boys.

At my first outing, I was asked to dance by a young gentleman who grew frustrated by my inability to master the steps. He picked me up and swirled me around to glide off in the opposite direction.

I ended up dating a guy through my senior school years. He lived on the farm 15 kilometres away.

Uncle Chris, who helped my father manage the flocks of Merino sheep, used to remind me of an incident when I was still small enough to stand on the seat next to him in the bakkie, on my daily excursions to find another little lamb who had lost its mother.

I explained in great detail how, when I was big, I would ride my horse up a lane of willow trees to my farmhouse.

When the ever-practical Uncle Chris asked me how I would get a farm, I replied “I will marry a farmer, of course. I will not have freckles forever”.

But after finishing my degree, I headed off to seek my fortune in the City of Gold, where I was more concerned about my career aspirations than romance.

Sure, I had relationships, long and short, with guys I met in Johannesburg.

They would visit the farm when my leave allowed, but after three or four days, they would start missing the distractions of city life.

As my dream was always to return to our farm and open a guest house, my relationships fizzled out. None of my partners were cut out for remote living.

When I packed my bags after 29 years in the corporate world and headed back to the mountains, I had resigned myself to remaining a spinster, according to my brother.

The gentleman I had dated as a teenager was not even an option, as he had become a recluse after the failure of his marriage. But life always delivers the unexpected.

Sitting on the stoep of my brother’s house, recovering from a late night of catering for two couples who were celebrating their 30th wedding anniversaries, I had butterflies in my tummy after meeting one of the guys who has made his annual pilgrimage to this centre of the universe of fly fishing.

We spent hours chatting under the stars. Each day, his departure was postponed. Five months later, we have spent less than two weeks apart.

We have gained the knowledge and experience from our previous relationships to know what we want from each other and our partnership.

In the same way you try and do something with only the light of a candle, there are many shadows where you are unsure of what is hidden. We have to figure out the hurt and pain of previous ordeals.

However, I am confident that, at 50, I have finally found my soulmate in the mountains.

*You can learn more about the joys and challenges of life in the countryside on Karoobewoners – a series made just for you by BrightRock – on Tuesdays at 21:00 on KykNET, channel 144 on DStv.