There is an undisputed story-teller in Michael Walker. The St James resident is an author 22 times over, each book a different nuance of life in earlier times.
In person he is articulate, thoughtful … and funny.
He has a number of yarns which have yet to make it into a book – I am hoping they will appear as product number 23: his memoirs, in rich colour.
His latest offering is called Travels along the Coastal Road, and maps the roads, the times and the lives of people from Simon’s Town to Muizenberg, from 1743 to 1890.
The book has previously unseen works of art to illustrate what Mr Walker describes in great detail, and coloured by anecdotal evidence.
Each chapter is dedicated to the journey’s different aspects: roads and tracks, then buildings along the coastal road, the seafarer’s perspective, the coastal journey between 1743 and 1890, then the milestones, the toll gates, the watering holes (where even some horses drank beer) right up to the arrival of the railway and the post office murals.
He jokes that it may – with the roadworks along Main Road in recent years – be taking us longer to reach our destination than it did with ox-wagon or horse and cart.
“My granddaughter was born when work on the road began. She’s turning 10 soon,” he said.
Perhaps the lass will turn to the pen and follow in her grandpa’s footsteps, and her book could include her earliest recollection of how long it took to build a road in her lifetime.
The poetic descriptions by early travellers of their first experiences with the Cape of Good Hope and their flowery prose, which took such care to encapsulate as much detail as possible of these foreign, exotic locations, are a genuine boon to read.
The book, which took Mr Walker a year to write, is filled with snippets of other times brought sharply to life, and is unexpectedly funny.
He chuckles that the stop-and-go gives
modern day drivers plenty opportunity to look at their villages with fresh eyes, to see the foun-
dation points from which their villages have grown.
Where the Cinnabar Tower block is in Muizenberg was once Farmer Peck’s – in 1828 it was the most popular of all the 19th Century water-
ing holes between Cape Town and Simon’s
He describes a macabre image of whale bones being used as marker points on the roads, or as fences. He speaks about times when there no motor cars and tells the story of David Livingstone’s refusal of a lift from Cape Town to Simon’s Town: preferring to walk the whole way.
The book is a treat and can be found in numerous local book stores.