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Posted on: Tuesday, 23 February 2010

She’s no Barberton Daisy …

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Barberton

Barberton

When I see the turnoff for Barberton / Badplaas my heart sinks for a moment. I desperately wanted to see this town that I’ve heard so much about, but a 20km detour in this heat on my bike seems like a lot to ask. Too many thoughts wash through my tired mind. I want to see this town. I’m only doing this journey once. Lets take the risk and hope this town is as great as everybody says it is…

I didn’t make the wrong choice.

Barberton is from a different century. With the mountains as backdrop and the old school architecture I understand why many people flock here over weekends. But I want to meet these people. Who are the ones lucky enough to be living here…

At the first coffee shop I can find I sit myself down and order a cup of civilization. My cappuccino is great and as I contemplate my plan of action to find someone in this town who’s going to my historical guide a lady walks over from nowhere. Wicky is an artists here. She quickly tells me about the surrounding area making me wish I could spend a whole week here. Sometime I will. When she hears what I’m busy doing she immediately tells me to go meet Sue. Sue will tell me stories that can fill many a book. But I must watch out she’s a bit temperamental. The arty type, if she’s not in the mood she’ll close the door in your face…

Barberton Daisy

I knock on the door of this Sue that will enlighten me with her stories, she opens the door. ‘Hi, my name is Ruan, Wicky said you have great stories and I was hoping we could have a cup of coffee. She hesitates for a moment and then asks if I take sugar.  In one hand she manages two mugs and in the other she has a box of cigarettes and an ashtray. We sit in her beautiful garden at the foot of the mountain whilst a little Maltese poodle is barking at the butterflies. His name is ‘day dog’. I frown. He comes here during the day when his family leaves for work and then at night when they come back he returns, thus she named him day dog.

Sue is originally from England and her accent is still thick as she tells stories with smoke floating from her one hand. She used to be a dancer, a modern ballerina. But when age started hanging onto her ankles she and her husband immigrated to Johannesburg. She tells of great works of South African theatre that she was a part of. She changed careers and was now making costumes for sun international and all their shows. Every bit of theatre history that Sue has helped make is like from a book. She colours all the moments with the perfect lighting and her words seem to make the costumes she worked on real.

After working for Sun International she decided to open up her shop. This woman has no hang-ups; she tells it like it is. I start laughing at her representation of a production meeting. She never got stuck in a meeting because she always pretended to be extremely busy. ‘They can phone me you know, the technology is there, us it!’

Barberton

Then three years ago they decided to move away from the theatre industry. “I’m old, I don’t want to run after directors that aren’t sure what they want anymore.” They decided to open a guest house. When they couldn’t find something in the Midrand they heard about this place in Barberton and bought it immediately. She laughs at a questions about her children, the oldest is at a sensitive age. With a mischievous glint she mentions that her daughter is turning 30 and her son is in Matric. She still does the odd bit of costume, but not having anyone that can help her makes it difficult. They can do without me in Johannesburg. It’s not like I’m the only costume designer, besides I like the quite life.

At this point we realize that we’ve actually met before. Whilst I was still studying theatre we worked together on a pantomime at the national youth theatre in Parktown. Then there’s the mischievous smile again. You’re the boy who had to wear the stockings… I blush, yes that was me.

I like Sue, there aren’t any issues. She doesn’t beat around the bush and she has the heart of a child. This Ballerina has definitely not performing the dieing swan scene.

She lights up another cigarette and starts whispering the entire town’s gossip…

Useful Barberton Links:
Barberton Attractions
Barberton Guest Houses
Barberton Accommodation
Mpumalanga Accommodation

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