Arts & Crafts
Bonded by Books
Forty-two years is a long time in anyone’s book (if you’ll excuse the pun), but for an informal club to keep going for such an amount of time, takes dedication. Luckily there’s plenty of that around. “With technology creeping into everything these days, we are so proud that our club is going strong,” says Shireen Motara. The meeting takes place at Bateleur Estate’s new community centre, where Almarie van Rooyen is this month’s host. A stalwart in the group, she was invited to join in 1993.
She’s laid the tea table out beautifully and the women are in a flurry of catching up and exchanging news. Members have come and gone, but the club has remained in its current incarnation for years. They know one another well and are appreciative of the relationships formed. A love of books brought them together, but friendship and shared memories cement their bond.
They fondly recall the days when they’d make an annual pilgrimage to Tshukudu Game Lodge in Hoedspruit, owned by one of the founding members, Ala Sussens, and her husband, Lolly. “It was always a spoil and a highlight,” says Lois Crighton, who moved to the Lowveld in 1992 not knowing a soul. Mary Lawson, wife of well-known local guide and author, Peter Lawson, became her friend and introduced her to the club. “It proved to be a big blessing,” she says. “It makes you ponder how a simple thing like a book can keep unity among a group of friends for such a long time.”
The trip to Tshukudu would start in the early morning, accompanied by much excitement. Once there, they’d have tea and their meeting, but by 11am, it was time for the first gin and tonic, followed by a game drive and scrumptious lunch. The afternoons would be spent lazing around the pool before driving back home. They all agree that Ala spoilt them rotten, and that those days were magical. Carol Nicholson, at the moment the longest-standing member, joined in 1992 and says she felt privileged to become part of the group. “We all had a common bond: the love of reading.”
“Our diversity in character meant a real diversity in the books we chose,” Carol adds. The mixing of tastes persists to this day and the pool of books contains something for everyone. We have women from all walks of life, and although we may see some of them only once a month, we have become good, and in some cases close, friends. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
In this club, members take turns to choose books according to a strict roster. The rules were penned down 42 years ago, and are still adhered to for the most part, except for some minor deviations. The two savoury/one sweet rule imposed on the hostess is mostly ignored in favour of a more ambitious spread, Carol tells us, before someone immediately pipes up, “There’s a two savoury/one sweet rule?” followed by much laughter.
The easy camaraderie and familiarity of these women make for jolly afternoons filled with books, memories and shared stories. Through the years some members have left the country and others have passed on, but all are remembered with fondness. “We might not remember all the books we’ve read, but we always remember to love one another,” Lois says.