Chapter 10.10: Engaged to be Married

Introduction to Bacon & the Art of Living

The story of bacon is set in the late 1800s and early 1900s when most of the important developments in bacon took place. The plotline takes place in the 2000s with each character referring to a real person and actual events. The theme is a kind of “steampunk” where modern mannerisms, speech, clothes and practices are superimposed on a historical setting.  Modern people interact with old historical figures with all the historical and cultural bias that goes with this.


Engaged to be Married

December 1892

Dear Dawie1,

The quest that I embarked on with your support proved to be spectacular! I tried to write to you every few weeks and keep you abreast of our progress, but it has not always been possible. I think back with great fondness to the meeting we had on Oscar’s farm where the company was founded. Of everybody who was there, you were the only one to support our quest besides Anton. I hope that life is settling into a rhythm for you in Los Angeles.

I often think back to the years of our youth in Pretoria. Yes, we thought we were men when we met, but we were barely out of our boyhood. Nights was nothing for us! We could stay up from the setting of the sun till the next morning discussing life. We had the best of times! I wrote to you a couple of months ago that I intend to ask Minette to marry me. I was in Calne at the Harris factory when I decided to come back to South Africa for a short break. We have been growing ever closer and we had an amazing time in Denmark. Likewise, being together in England is fantastic! She is a great friend and companion! She is exceedingly bright and these adventures would not have been the same if I had to be completely alone.

This is something I want to discuss with you. We identified that we live life in our minds and that every cultural expression is a product of our mental world including religion, nationalism, etc. We also recognised that thought is a material product based on memories. Experience always has to be questioned because we can not separate the experience from the experiencer! The experience means nothing to anybody if it is not interpreted by our brains in light of historical knowledge which is material. We are at the time when we are alive the totality of the collective consciousness of our world. This extraordinary thing that happened that matter became self aware. This is who we are. It occurred to me when I contemplated this that despite the fact that our memories are material, the fact that we are aware of it is something very precious. We are the collective consciousness of our material world but also the particular consciousness of ourselves. We recognised with us a deep desire to be permanent, not temporary and through religion and other devices such as art, we strive for permanency, not understanding that the universal consciousness is permanent and we already that! What I discover in myself is that I derive immense pleasure from my memories. My memories can not be the same for you or anybody else, but I enjoy it when I am able to experience something with another conscious person and point to something which is pleasurable and say, “look at that!” “Do you experience the same pleasure that I am experiencing at this moment?!” In this way being together gives us great connectedness with people around us. It is this experience that binds the two of us together because we are able to construct and deconstruct mental images and as it were, see the same thing, and this collective seeing binds us through shared memories. Being on my adventures with Minette gives me the same remarkable sensation of shared memories binds us in a unique way.

So, I decided to ask her hand in marriage. I now know what it is like to be around someone and enjoy their company insanely but never realise that I was falling in love with her! That is what happened to me. Julie Pickton, Kevin’s wife, had a real heart to heart with me in Peterborough. Ever since I left for Calne I have been plotting to return with Minette to Cape Town to make our relationship formal.

Well, you know that none of these things is still in the future. At the moment we are already leaving Cape Town on a steamer, returning to London and from there back to Calne. It already happened. We are engaged. I wish that you could have been with us for our engagement but I realise America is very far!

My first week in Cape Town was hectic! I wanted to spend as much time with Tristan and Lauren whom I have not seen for almost two years. They have grown so much and are developing into the most amazing two human beings! Of course, I spend every free minute with my mom and dad. My dad is getting old. He wanted every bit of detail and we had a time that I will never forget. The bond between us is stronger than ever! In between everything, I met up with two old mountain friends of Minette and me, Tahir and Achmat.

I discussed the plan for our engagement with them and we set a date for Tuesday, 18 October 1982. (3)  They would meet Elmar, Juanita, Pieter Willem, Luani, Liam, Tristan, and Lauren at Kloof corner at the front of the mountain and hike up with Corridor Ravine to the spot where Minette and I would be waiting.  It was all a complete surprise for her.

I thought I had a lot of time to plan everything but this was not the case at all. I had no time left! If it hasn’t been for Tristan and Lauren I would not have finished everything in time. They ended up almost planning everything!

The Pendant

In Cape Town, I commissioned the work on the design and production of an engagement pendant. The company I used is freeRange JEWELS. They assigned the most perceptive designer to our case, Dawn Bolton.  Her love for nature and for the indigenous tribes of southern Africa made her perfect for the job. I was struck by the respect she has for all people which is very important to both Minette and me.

The main features that I chose for the design of the pendant, are words from the Korana language that describes Minette and my relationship. Close to Parys on the Vaal River is a Korana village that I like visiting whenever I have a chance. The Korana is a nomadic Khoe group and got their name from a chief called Kora (or Gora), who was the first leader of the Gorachouqua. They are related to the Griqua who originated from a freed slave, Adam Kok. He got burgher rights and a farm near the present Piketberg. Here he founded a vigorously mixed community. Some say that he was married to the daughter of the chief of a Khoikhoi (Khoe) clan, the Chariguriqua, during the 1750s. As he moved up from Piketberg to Little Namaqualand he attracted a following and by the 1790s the community moved to the Orange River and then eastwards along the bank. The place where they finally settled became known as Griqualand West. The leader at this time was Cornelius who gathered a large number of Basters, some Khoikhoi and escaped slaves around him. (sahistory.org.za)

They are very talented people! The Korana, like the Khoe is semi-pastoral people who grow their own crops and keep cattle and sheep. They live in villages and they used bricks for building and have an efficient method of government with a legislator. Their revenue sources are taxes, trading licenses, and fines. They printed their own currency in 1867.  The coins and notes had a limited circulation use and levies were paid with cattle, goats, sheep, and grain. (History of the Griqua) The Griqua was free but for only a very limited time. Their way of life and short-lived freedom inspired early astronomers to call asteroids with a short lifespan, a Griqua. This became convention is what they still call this phenomenon to this day.

Griqua

From Children of the Mist, The lost tribe of South Africa by Scott Balson. He tells the story of how he met a man wearing one of the old coins around his neck which set him on a quest to discover the story behind it and these remarkable people. For more information visit http://www.griquas.com/ and read his synopsis at Die Griekwa.

Dawie, I realised that my own memories are important to me. Likewise, Minette and my shared memories are important, but I find something within me from the time when I was a child that finds great importance in the collective memories of our world. The big things are impressive to me and capture my imagination, but also the little. The small stories of people all around us and especially those who are not so well known. In England, I gained the greatest respect for English culture. I can see why they are the most powerful nation on earth. It is not only powerful and productive, but it is also beautiful. Still, the Korana people equally arrested my heart and I have an affinity for them which is hard to explain. Here, over the last few hundred years, these semi-nomadic, pastoral people who came down from up north quickly adapted to the reality of western influence and through interaction with the San Bushman and the Europeans and by accepting many slaves into their midst to give them a new life of freedom, they created a magnificent society. I have a natural affinity for small stories like this and if I have a choice, I would just as much want to celebrate their lives and existence as I would want to recognise the beauty of the English culture!

This background is important to explain why I chose phrases from the Korana language for Minette’s pendant. I selected a pendant because I remembered Minette had previously said that she wouldn’t be very keen on a ring. I wanted something which reflects her character who always identifies with the lowly and downtrodden of society. Her spirit is bound to the earth – to what is beautiful and natural. She is very careful to treat poor former slaves and the richest of our community exactly the same. In this regard, she reminds me very much of the Korana. It is this spirit that I learned from her which motivated me to visit the Korana village at the Vaal River as often as I could. The story of Adam Kok and the kind of followers that he attracted beautifully reflects Minette’s spirit. If we were alive in the time of Adam Kok I, I have no doubt that we would have joined them in their trek to their own homeland. I used their language on the pendant and planned to follow their tradition of courtship when I propose to her. These I learned from the Korana people.

The reason why I chose a pendant is not only because Minette preferred it, but I got the idea when I visited a Griqua village just South of Bloemfontein on the farm Wilhelmshöhe. It was part of the farm Bruidegomspruit which was owned by the Griqua tribe. Adam Kok III, who was the captain of the tribe, gave the farm to Johannes Witvoet as a wedding present. The name Bruidegomspruit which means Bridegroom’s creek is in celebration of this event.  The farm was later bought from Witvoet by a missionary by the name of Friedrich Wilhelm Salzmann. It was Salzmann who divided the farm between his two sons, Carel and Martin, and so, part of the farm became Wilhelmshöhe. Martin Salzmann built the original house in 1885.

There was a large Khoi community who once lived on the farm, the ruins of which are still visible to this day as well as the old stone kraals that were built by M.J. Salzmann (Snr.) in amongst the stone ruins where the Khoi people lived. It was here where I met a man wearing one of the coins that were minted in 1867 which gave me the idea of a pendant. I attach photos of the ruins and the view they had from their homes.  The sheep they kept were fat tale sheep along with game from the area.

The other group that I, of course, interacted with a lot when I was riding transport, was the San Bushman. I selected 8 words that are important to Minette and I being, Family, Peace, Fire, Friendship, Marriage, Joy, Love, and Beauty. These I translated into the Bushman and Korana language to honour the hunter-gatherer people who roamed this land for millennia and the Griqua.

The words were placed around the image of an eland which I chose from a painting in a cave in Larinston, Barkley East. This is engraved on the one face of the pendant. The eland is a symbol of growth and spirituality in San culture. It is their most sacred animal, often evoked at rites of passage for women and men and features in a wedding dance.

Dawn suggested that for the other side of the small disc, the Quiver Tree, which is indigenous to South Africa and known as ‘choje’ to the San people. They hollowed branches out to use as a quiver for their arrows. Around this image she placed our names with the phrase, I love you, translated from Khoekhoe (Nama), a Khoisan language spoken in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia, by a bushman scholar from Namibia, Dr Niklaas Fredericks.  Dr Fredericks consulted with his tribe and got permission from the elders that we may use the two images. They also checked the translation of the words and its spelling.

Pendant

Will You Marry Me?

All was set for an amazing day. The ruse I used to get Minette to go on the hike with me is that I told her that her sister’s son, Liam, is hiking up with Achmat from the other side which is easier and less tricky, to meet us on top. She has always wanted Liam to do the route with us and despite her initial reluctance for such a strenuous hike she agreed quite excitedly. She was convinced the great surprise was that we will meet Liam on top.

On the 18th of October 2018 (3), we hiked the Suikerbossie route from Hout Bay, and halfway with the ascent towards the mid-way point I stopped and picked up a stick.  In the tradition of the Korana people, I broke the stick in two and asked Minette to marry me while I explain the Korana tradition. I did this as we were ascending a very steep hill on top of the mountain. Minette thought I was telling a story, as I often do, and remarked that it was a nice story and that we must press on. She was concerned about Liam and Achmat being alone on the mountain. For a second I wondered what on earth I was to do now. I tried again. “Will you marry me?” I asked her again. Slowly the reality of what I am doing dawned on her. She was completely taken by surprise. When she said “yes”, I handed her one half of the stick and kept the other half.  We completed the short distance to the midway point where we sat down and I gave her the necklace with the Eland/Quiver-tree pendant.

I served her coffee, an act that was also inspired by a Korana tradition.  The young man would ask the mother of his bride-to-be, if he could marry her daughter, in the presence of her father. If she agreed, he would return to his home where his own mother would give him coffee.  He would return to his fiance’s family where he would serve them the coffee as a sign that his own mom agrees to the union.

FRJ 3.gif

Minette and I had just finished our coffee when our two mountain guide friends, Taahir and Achmat arrived. The first thing she knew about the visitors was when her sister appeared through a hole in the rock. Minette exploded with excitement! Completely unbeknown to Minette, at 5:00 that morning, Achmat Jackson and Taahir Osman guided a small party of family onto the top of Table Mountain, and joined the Suikerbossie trail. This small party was made up of my brother, Elmar and his son, Pieter-Willem, Minette’s sister, Luani and her son Liam, as well as you two.

When we all settled down I recounted how I proposed to her and that she had accepted, and I further explained the symbolism of the pendant, the breaking of the stick, and the coffee.  Each person was given a mug, on which we had printed the pendant designs on each side, and each person’s name. I served the rest of the group coffee, and we drank together.

FRJ 4.jpg

Fanie, Luani’s husband, graciously offered to stay home with Luan, her second son, who is still too small for such a serious treck. On the way back we went past Tranquility cracks. We delayed here and soaked in the magic of this amazing place. It was an amazing gift we could give our guests who don’t make it onto the mountain and Tranquility Cracks is as special as it gets on top of Table Mountain. It was all in all the most magical time imaginable. When everybody eventually made it off the mountain, the celebrations continued at Klein Constantia wine farm.

Tristan and Lauren were magnificent and made the day possible. All the preparations were done by them and without their involvement, this would not have been possible. Johann and Julie attended as did Oscar and Trudie.

The Art of Living

The basis of our quest to understand and make the best bacon on earth is seated in family and love and great friendship. As we did during the wedding, so I will do now and not speak about business or bacon, but can this really be separated? Is bacon not the supreme example of how life is lived. One small discovery at a time! Loads of hard work. Luck! Serendipity! Commitment! And love! In the end, it all merges together into a beautiful relationship, as all the hard work we put into bacon will one day bloom into what is the best bacon on earth!

Everything I am learning about bacon culminates in a delicious delicacy and like discovering the art of bacon, our friendship and love culminated into what is nothing less than a mountain peak of our existence – such as what Minette and I experienced on Table Mountain with family and friends. We celebrated deep into the night on a beautiful wine farm. So, the story of bacon and the art of living merge into one.

I am blessed to have you as my friend, Dawie and even though you were not here, still, your spirit soared with us over mountain tops. With my brothers and their wives and family; Luani, Fanie, Liam, and Luan; Minette’s mom and dad; My mom and dad, the amazing and beautiful Tristan and Lauren, together with my most precious friend, you Mr. Dawie Hyman, we embrace life and all the good it has to offer.

Most of all, in this letter I celebrate my beautiful fiance. As we sail towards England, Minette is with me and I am insanely excited to introduce her to John Harris and the many friends I made in Calne; Michael and to Kevin and Julie Pickton and their family; to Lord Landsdown and his family and the beautiful people of Bowood. It all leaves me speechless and a bit afraid because I know I must find a way to do even better when it comes to our wedding! I, like you, am a firm believer that if one is going to do something, we may just as well do it excellently! For this, I trust the spirit of bacon to take us on many more adventures among which will be our wedding! Life will show me the way and I can hardly wait to see what is installed for us!

I am planning to visit you when I am done in Calne. I will love it if Minette can join me! Maybe we sail for America after England!  In America, there is much to learn and we have a lot of catching up to do.

The warmest greetings from Cape Town,

Your friends,

Eben and Minette!


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(c) eben van tonder

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Notes

(1) Dawie Hyman

(2)  Elmar and Juanita is my brother and sister-in-law.

(3)  The actual date was 11th of March 2018

Reference

Trench, William Steuart, 1869, Realities of Irish Life, London, Longmans, Green, and co.

“History of the Griqua”. Griqua Royal House. Retrieved 8 December 2017.

Photo References

Griqua with coin around his neck:  Scott Balson, Children of the Mist