From Koljander, koljander, so deur die Bosch
by Annatjie Melck
At the end of April 1994, we left Thibault Street and went to live on Muratie. This was not easy. Muratie was a romantic, fairytale address, but in reality it was a hard adjustment to make.
Annemie Canitz had lived there, alone, for years and years, along with Johanna Davids, her household mainstay. There were no luxuries, and almost no facilities in the old house.
I remain glad, today, that Ronnie and I moved there together, for I could not have done it on my own. Ronnie was ill, and many friends and acquaintances came to visit him. As was our custom, there would always be a glass of wine and something to eat on offer.
With the help of his wine friends, I built a fine braai area for Ronnie. There he could attend to his fire, preparing meat or making potjiekos for his friends. His wine friends from the Worcester area gave him a lovely old copper brandy kettle, which became the focal point of his braai. I attended many auctions until I found a large, sixteen-seater diningroom table for the old house, and thus our culture of food and wine became established at Muratie. Interesting friends and family saw to it that there was hardly ever an empty seat at our immense diningroom table. There would be music, the kitchen would be a hive ofactivity, and the aroma of food would infuse the atmosphere of our Muratie home.
We commissioned an historian to research and record the history of the farm, and what a jewel we discovered. Muratie had been owned by Martin Melck, patriarch of the Melck family, in the late eighteenth century. He built the homestead – in which I now live – for his daughter, and Muratie remained in thefamily for the next ninety years. It is truly wonderful that the farm was restored to the Melck family in 1987, when Ronnie bought it from Annemie Canitz.
The stories that surround Muratie are endless. There had been interesting people and characters over theyears, but now it was Ronnie and my turn. The first night that I slept there, I said to Ronnie: ‘When the sun sets, I will not stay here alone.’ Well, the sun has set, and I have stayed on alone, and I continue to stay on alone, and I do so very happily.
The enjoyment of food was always important to us, and at Muratie Ronnie and I threw ourselves into this aspect of our lives together with even greater enthusiasm. We infused new life into the old homestead, and the diningroom table was always occupied for Sunday lunch – with leg of lamb, roast beef, roast pork, springbok leg and similar family recipes. One or two friends were always invited to join us, and at the end of such family meals our glasses would be raised, and Ronnie would sing the family anthem: ‘Come landlord, fill the flowing bowl.’ Thus we enjoyed so many meals, where wonderful stories were told, and friends from all over the world were made.
Johanna was always in the kitchen. At first she looked at us askance, especially me – I had, after all, taken the place of her beloved Annemie – but later she decided that I wasn’t so bad after all. She loved Ronnie from the very beginning, however, and cared for him like gold – so much so that she would have a skelm cigarette with him behind my back. Johanna still lives on Muratie today, although she has retired. She lives in a fine house, and comes once a week to brighten my home with flowers and to shine thehousehold copper and silver. She tells me who is sick, who has died, and whom she has had to bury. No one really knows how old Johanna is. She speaks a lingo of her own, and she is beloved by the whole family. We are unbelievably fond of her.