The activities and traditions surrounding Christmas time in Lavender Hill served as the inspiration for a new booked.
Collatain Hendricks-Cloete, 56, launched her debut book, The Hills are Alive, at Cape of Good Hope Lions Clubhouse, in Plumstead, on Saturday December 2.
Ms Hendricks-Cloete, who now lives in Gansbaai and manages a holiday resort, said the inspiration for the Christmas story comes from her childhood experiences in Lavender Hill and is “interspersed with fiction”.
“Growing up at a time and in a place where the festive season brought not only great joy but also endless preparations. I remember the great preparations for Christmas, the endless cleaning, the great excitement about the Christmas clothes and food and the celebrations with family, neighbours and friends of all religions,” said Ms Cloete.
Ms Cloete captured memories that many can identify with in the 1980s. “It was a time of Jack Keys Hampers, Riviera snacks and Bashews cooldrinks. We celebrated like that and I’m sure that many still do. My household family and I surely still do. We have kept many of the traditions alive but as we know, as time goes on, the traditions become a bit ‘watered’ down and families adapt and create their own traditions. I thought that the title The Hills are Alive is such an apt title because at this time of the year, Lavender Hill truly became ‘alive’ with joy and anticipation. We were in the throes of washing and cleaning everything knowing that we will be enjoying the fruits of the year’s labour,” said Ms Cloete.
This tale focuses on the love, traditions, dreams, fun and family life in the Cape. “The hardships are woven loosely into the storyline but are not the focal point. This family, like many others, deal with their challenges by working hard and giving their children a firm foundation in God, education and strict discipline balanced by fun and entertainment too. From the beginning to the end of the story, the message of love, hope, joy and peace of Christmas and the popular 1980’s music and fashion is a consistent theme,” said Ms Cloete.
Growing up in Lavender Hill presented both challenges and celebrations in Ms Cloete’s life and she said she and her parents, and her late brother, moved to Lavender Hill in 1973 when she was 6 years old and he was 3 years old.
“Subsequently 2 more siblings were born whilst we lived in Lavender Hill. We moved to Seawinds in 1989 when I was 22 years old. My parents still reside in Seawinds,” said Ms Cloete.
“My best memory is the fact that we could play freely as children at that time. There were always games to be played like Nikkies, Rhubarb, Lastic and Kennetjie to name just a few. Children were free to be children.
“My worst memory is in the 80’s when so many innocent lives were lost due to the apartheid regime’s brutality in Lavender Hill. We often witnessed these acts and our homes were often filled with teargas,” said Ms Cloete.
At one stage in her life Ms Cloete was interested in pursuing journalism as a career but her mother was not happy about this because of the political unrest in the country in the 1980s.
“At the time we probably thought that journalism was only reporting on the news in the country. She feared for my life,” said Ms Cloete.
She got married at the age of 26 and she moved out of Seawinds in 1993. “I had sporadically through the years moved in and out of Seawinds due to work commitments requiring me to often move out of Cape Town.”
She has been married for 30 years and has a son, 28, and daughter, 26.
Ms Cloete made the choice to spread her wings out of Lavender Hill, but came back to share her story.
When asked what advice she would give to inspire youth, she said, “Although youth should respect good advice, let your own voice speak the loudest in your life. Never stop dreaming, set goals for yourself with action plans on how to achieve them. Grab opportunities with both hands, be prepared to do nearly anything that is legal, nobody owes us anything. Move out of your comfort zone, that is where growth takes place. There is no place for self-pity but only for action. When we fall or fail, we must get up again. Don’t sit and wait around for a job or an opportunity, go look for it and when you find it be the best at it,” said Ms Cloete.
When asked if Ms Cloete could turn the clock around would she have made different choices in life, she said: “No, I would not have made different choices. All the choices that I have made in my life have led me to where I find myself today which is in a place and a space that feels good and right. Life will always present challenges and opportunities but we have to learn not to focus on the challenges but on the solutions. That which we cannot solve or resolve, we pray about and in the fullness of time resolution comes. We must never stop taking opportunities, we have to keep living and dreaming until our last breath. I have achieved a lifelong dream at the age of 56, that is, to be a published author and it feels real good. Now I look forward to writing my next book,” she smiled.
The Hills are Alive is currently available at a Christmas special of R199 while stocks last. To get a copy WhatsApp 071 854 2424. The book is available directly from Amazon and Kindle.