Changing worlds in Langebaan Lagoon
We live in a town steeped in beauty and splendour. We have the azure blue and sometimes turquoise water on our doorstep and when in bloom, the spring flowers are breathtakingly beautiful in their simplicity. The summers are hot, dry and sometimes windy and the winters cold, wet and hauntingly misty.
In all, we live in a paradise, where crime is petty and small town neigbourness is still very much alive and well… most of the times. Langebaan, like most growing coastal towns is experiencing the growing pains all desirable coastal towns go through. How we decide to handle this is going to make or break our town.
We are glued to social media, whether we admit it or not and as such, we have instant access to the goings on in our little town, and oh boy, there is goings on indeed! Our Langebaan Facebook pages are a bustling mix of head in the sand tree-huggers that would paint the sky a different colour of blue each day to ward off any negativity besetting the town, clearing the way for those that thrive on the inability to stand up and be heard.
On the other spectrum, we have the downright direct approach of the towns’ activists and militants, wanting to stop every development in its tracks to keep the character of our town positively 80’s style, when Langebaan was no more than a smallish fishing village. This makes for very interesting reading…
Langebaan has the added burden of the lopsided family syndrome where a great portion of the town’s menfolk are plying their trade abroad. Due to political systems in place, they need to seek sustenance for their families elsewhere as the employment opportunities can only carry so much. They work contracts in faraway and exotic places like Angola, Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan to keep the home fires burning, with a gruelling schedule of several weeks working twelve hour shifts, 7 days a week. This is complimented with downtime of several weeks where they can come back home and fix all the stuff broken by boisterous kids, scratching dogs and gnawing cats. The added bonus of this mad schedule is that the money is good when converted into our bungling currency and girlfriends, wives and others eagerly await the return of the goose with the golden eggs to storm the shops.
The customary huge SUV or four wheel drive bakkie, standing menacing on the poor pavements, because they can, is loaded to bursting with trinkets and necessities alike, while hair is coiffed, nails on both ends being worked and clothes in the latest styles being bought. This makes for a strange picture of opulence and style out of a Vogue magazine, in a town just wanting to be a seaside village with bare feet and t-shirt wearing folks drinking up the sun and water of our beautiful Lagoon.
We have a town of two sides where living arrangements are concerned as well. The houses that I knew as a young adult visiting Langebaan on excursions consisting of wine, women and song… did I mention wine… are all but pushed aside by monstrosities of several levels, proudly designed by some crack architect from Cape Town, Johannesburg or if the whispered stories can be believed, even as far as heady destinations like New York and Paris. They resemble not so quaint fortresses of steel, glass and mortar with the customary view over the water and beyond, with the selected view boasting a glimpse of Table Mountain on a clear day.
These impressive dwellings are straight out of a Top Billing episode where, if the rumours can be believed, are silent onlookers at parties by the rich and undercover townsfolks of epic proportions. Nothing is good enough when these lavish parties are planned and Beluga caviar is one of the least impressive items on the menu where French Champagne, Chivas Regal and Glenfiddich flow alongside wine with a label proclaiming some Chateau as part of the name. This is being sipped by plumped up lips courtesy of some doctor doing exclusive nip and tucks to already strained faces resembling a sphinx on a bad day and bejewelled hands weighing several carats.
The other side of the spectrum is occupied by rows of neat small houses at the town’s entrance, ring walled with stones from the earth where the foundations were excavated. This bustling area is beset with the people we know and love, sporting garish coloured curlers in the hair when visiting the newly renamed OK Minimark, dropped suspension Honda’s with a matt black bonnet and a booming sound system, distorting perfectly in tune with the boom-boom beat box installed somewhere in the musty insides, with a sometimes toothless smile lighting up the sky when telling the world and its friend about the latest soppy secret in the street.
They are the earthy inhabitants of Langebaan where real problems like drugs, liquor and sexual abuse are the vices they need to live with daily. They walk where they want to go in town, chatting to everyone in earshot with spicy language that would sometimes put a sailor to shame whilst being followed by a couple of streetwise kids dodging cars on hand-me-down bicycles that would flatten a kid from the other side of town instantly. They are proud people with meagre possessions, looking life in the face and living it according to their own drumbeat.
And then there is the middle of the road bunch, making up the soul of our town… inherently good people slogging it out in the daily battle to make ends meet, balancing the budget and trying to extract the most out of the opportunities the town has to offer. They are the glue keeping the community together with their own brand of empathy, friendliness, viciousness and troublemaking rolled into one heady ball of life. The kids are divided between school in town and surrounding areas, moms doing taxi duties between cleaning the house, having a career and keeping up with news at weekend braais and midweek visits, while dads go to work at dusty steel plants and industries supporting the never sleeping giants in our midst.
They are the ones prowling social media sites to either stalk and never comment, but are totally aware of every morsel of juicy activities being discussed, liking the comments of friends to keep the friendship healthy and stable and commenting about the newest salon in town or the bad service experienced by some hapless restaurant in town, just to revisit the place the next week because the furore has died down.
In short, Langebaan is losing its fishing village character forever and it is being replaced by a new and not altogether bad vibe trying to find a way to fit into the void being left. We as the custodians of this, need to accept and manage the challenges of controlled development without spoiling our town forever. We need to engage with one another on thorny issues without popping our head in the sand, hoping to a favourable outcome. We need to keep politicians accountable for decisions they make in our name and most of all, we need to continue building a town that we can be proud to leave our children growing up in this piece of wonder we call Langebaan!
I am living my dream in a seaside village on the West Coast. Having toured the world, working weird and wonderful jobs, lived in faraway and exotic places and running several own businesses, I finally settled on Langebaan as a permanent base to launch the next adventure of my life. Watch this space…….