It was on a daily scenic cycle route between Noordhoek and Hout Bay that William “Bill” Robson, 78, came up with the idea of a children’s book, Annie and the Little Blue Jug.
Set on his Noordhoek smallholding with its Cape Dutch-style home and massive oak trees, the book lies “very close” to Mr Robson’s heart.
It tells the story of a 9-year-old girl who lives on a farm and always tries to help anyone in need despite having to come to terms with loss in her life.
The conceptualising of Annie and the Little Blue Jug was Mr Robson’s way of mourning the loss of his two sons.
Mr Robson had four children but in 2010, his eldest son, Geoffrey, a twin, then 31, died in a base-jumping accident in Franschhoek.
Geoffrey was a mechanical engineer for a Swiss company and was testing wingsuit designs. He was on holiday in South Africa at the time.
In 2013, Mr Robson’s younger son, Anthony, a musician, then 32, who also lived in the UK, started having seizures, but before the cause of the seizures could be established, he had a bad fall during a seizure and died.
“I was alone with my thoughts every day during these cycle trips, and I had time to think about my loss and this is how the story of Annie started forming in my mind,” he says.
However, it was only after meeting Matthew Ziranek, an artist and friend of Geoffrey, at the Noordhoek Farm Village, that the ball started rolling.
“He said he illustrated children’s books, and I told him about Annie and the Little Blue Jug. He liked the idea and said he would illustrate it for me.”
Following the conversation with Mr Ziranek, Mr Robson immediately started writing the book.
“I did it by hand, I don’t take to computers too well.”
He says Mr Ziranek’s illustrations brought the book to life, and instead of trying to find a publisher for the book, he decided to self-publish it.
While the book was being printed in 2016, another tragedy struck the family. Mr Robson’s ex-wife was killed in a cycling accident.
The book’s main character, Annie, has lost her twin brother and her father. She and her mother are left to tend to the farm and she talks to animals on the farm while helping her mother.
The story is set at Christmas time and Annie is excited as she accompanies her mother to the mall for Christmas shopping. It is here where she first notices the little blue jug.
Mr Robson says there are many compelling messages woven into the story of Annie and the Little Blue Jug.
“Annie is still coming to terms with her loss, but she is channelling her pain in a positive manner to try and help others.”
He says children have the most refreshing views on life and are untainted by cynicism and there is a lesson in this for everyone.
Mr Robson is a harpsichord and organ maker, and Annie and the Little Blue Jug is his second book. His first book, also self-published, Midnight Mess, looks at a comedy of errors on a night he was supposed to play the church organ in a Greyton church.
Annie and the Little Blue Jug sells for R125 from loot.co.za or at R100 directly from Mr Robson at firstname.lastname@example.org