Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Dark days... but not forever?

This is one of a series of arresting plaques on the wall around Simon's Town's famous dockyard, which features strongly in my new novel, The Girl from Simon's Bay. Each plaque describes a different aspect of the town's history since the days when Simon's Town was a winter anchorage for sailing ships.

By the early 1900s, Simon's Town had a substantial dockyard including a dry dock that was, at the time, the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere. The town arguably reached its peak as a crucial British naval base during World War 2 when hundreds of ships were repaired and re-fuelled during the conflict. Sailors from many Allied nations thronged its Victorian lanes and enjoyed the hospitality of its watering holes. But the world moved on, Simon's Town was handed over from Britain to South Africa in the mid 1950s, and a harsh government began to implement the system of apartheid. In 1967 Simon's Town was declared a white Group Area, and all non-whites were to be evicted.

The evictions, as described in the plaque, play a key role in The Girl from Simon's Bay. My heroine, Louise, and her family have to leave their cottage on the mountainside above the dockyard and try to make a new life some distance away.They lose their close community, they lose their proximity to work, they lose their magnificent view of Simon's Bay...
Once our cottage is empty, I rest on the wall.
The sea winks with a brilliance I must try to remember.

But will it be forever?
One day, Louise reflects years later, David might help me reclaim what I've lost.
Simon's Town.
The soaring mountains.
The irresistible sea...

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