In the winter months of June through to August the weather is temperate. From time to time the sea begins to churn just beyond the Bay and waves begin to chop-chop as far out as I can see. Briny sea weather in the Cape can sometimes surge into turbulent storms, in which great swells break violently onto the concrete pier. During such rainstorms I stay indoors watching gutters become rivers and praying that harbour walls do not buckle beneath the furious breaks. On rainy days we discover the places in the ceiling that need work. Water drips persistently from leaks and we have to salvage every bucket and bowl to catch it.
In winter our rains come down fast and true, and there is ample opportunity to step over puddles and then jump into them. I have a collection of gumboots which I have accumulated over many years of annual rainy winters. My current pair is bright red with white daisies. On especially wet afternoons I have a tendency to tramp mud into the hotel lobby, a bad habit of mine since I was little. I always forget to wipe my feet on the welcome mat.
In the winter Daddy spends quite some time with his head in the ceiling, fixing up those pesky leaks. Business is slow when it rains, but the fireplace is always aglow and warm beverage is served. The house becomes drafty, because it’s old and creaky, and sometimes groans as if respiring. Gusts of wind blow down the chimney on wintry nights, shaking the rafters and chilling us in the beds upstairs. The house stands quite boastfully on the corner of Main and Colyn, a vision in cobalt-blue paint, layers of which have been redone over the years but the original colour remains - without a doubt the local eye-catcher on the block. Little Library stands two storeys above street level, with a flight of steps leading up to the front door. We still have the old knocker, but have since put in a doorbell as well. The house inside is home, well-polished and wallpapered. When my parents bought it over it was in disrepair, splintered by the south-easter and eaten away by salt-winds and drunkards.
In a love affair of mortar, pride and embellishment my parents got to work with a small baby on hand to restore the grand house to its former dignity. Recently married and having spent the last of their newlywed savings on the purchase of Little Library, my parents used their own hands and sweat in the founding of the place.
Daddy put in new windows all by himself and mixed cement all day. He gathered stones from the beach every day about ten of them. By this laborious task of carrying and dropping and going back for more, Daddy eventually built a dry stone wall out of those stones to show that this place was ours and nobody else’s; but a wall small enough for passersby to look over and see what it was we had built. Walls have fortified cities and castles, keeping kings and dividing citizens. Ours was built in earnest, an encompassing wall over which neighbourly greetings could be exchanged. By spring the house was complete and I was already learning to walk. My parents stood back and admired what they had done.
“It’s quite a sight,” said Daddy. “I think the colour is quite striking.”
“Quite,” said his wife. “It feels like we’ve already lived here a decade. I can’t see why. I suppose a fresh coat of paint does wonders.”
They stood for a moment without a word with their arms around each other and I, holding tightly onto my mother’s hand, gazed up at them.
It was as if wet plaster, some good lighting and a bit of my mother’s grace restored the house long before the dining tables and shutters were put in.