The Story Weaver Ramblings…                                                                         1 December 2017


For fifteen (or was it sixteen?) years I wrote a newsletter called The Olive Branch for the Prince Albert Tourism Association.  Now their marketing strategy has embraced the notion of integrated on-line media, including a blog. That newsletter is no more and it seems a suitable moment to resurrect the Story Weaver newsletter which will provide me with an opportunity to write from a personal perspective.

Here is the first edition of my Story Weaver Ramblings… thoughts and ideas, news from Prince Albert and a story or two…


Siemon (2nd), Joseph (1st), Gabriel (3rd) Leesfees prose writing for u/18

Siemon (2nd), Joseph (1st), Gabriel (3rd) Leesfees prose writing for u/18

The Prince Albert Leesfees took place at the start of November and three of our Albert College students did us proud by taking all three prizes in the prose section of the u/18 writing competition. They produced an interesting variety of texts: a narrative about a plague doctor in medieval Europe; a vivid description of the Great Karoo and an eco-documentary piece on the provenance and travels of a plastic bottle.  These were planned, written and edited as part of their writing experience during English classes. Lots more of that ahead in the next two years as we work towards Cambridge A levels. I’ll be starting a Literature class for their friends in the IGCSE class in January too.


O for Olive 5km from town on Swartrivier farm

We drove out to O for Olive for a relaxed lunch with friends at Café O on Sunday and lots of locals had the same idea. Henriette is having fun making new desserts in the kitchen and her latest creation, an elegant jam roly-poly with custard, went down a treat. I have just discovered that the staff at O for Olive have been providing a meal for the Beading Project teenagers once a week for the last seven months. Another example of Prince Albert generosity! These youngsters make beaded ‘Prince Albert People’ brooches, fridge magnets and Christmas decorations to earn a living - find out more here.


Karoo gold on the Wolwekraal Nature Reserve Photo: Sue Dean

The drive home, looking towards the Swartberg, offers a wonderful view of the mountain range and because a little light rain fell recently, the Karoo Gold (Rhigozum obovatum) has been coaxed into flower, producing splashes of bright yellow across the veld. While the town is nourished by water flowing from springs in the mountains, the farms in the Great Karoo are suffering drought, in desperate need of soaking rain. A gift of fodder to the local farmers was welcomed earlier in November.


The river crossing at Eerstewater in the Swartberg Pass

Townsfolk are much relieved to know that the Swartberg Pass has re-opened to traffic after a six month closure due to massive flood damage in April. The Provincial Road Services have done a sterling job. Huge boulders, larger than a combi, had been washed down and the road alongside the riverbed had been reduced to its foundation, laid in the 1880’s. Local labour assisted in raising the level of the road by more than three metres and in repairing the badly eroded section above Malva Draai. The re-opening, with some stop/go halts at times, is vital to Prince Albert with the Christmas school holidays upon us and many visitors eager to drive across the Pass with its magnificent views. 


When I first arrived in Prince Albert I met Dr Jan van Heerden, born in 1926. He remembered many of his mother’s stories and how, when he got up to mischief as a child, she would wag her finger and threaten him with dire consequences. "As jy nie ophou nie sal die musbiekers jou vang!" (If you don’t stop the Musbiekers will catch you.) Musbiekers? Dr Jan's mother spoke of the Mozambican labourers employed by John Tassie to construct the Swartberg Pass in 1881, when his tender of £18 120 was accepted by the Cape Parliament. Within a year he was bankrupt and work came to a halt, with just 6km of road completed. Thomas Bain took over eighteen months later to build his Pass and Tassie's name faded from local memory, but that of the 'musbiekers' remained.


Open Studios event December 2017

One of the Christmas holiday events coming up is the Prince Albert Open Studios week from 15 - 22 December. A number of artists and crafters are opening their studios to the public, enabling us to see how and where they create their land, letter and ‘found object’ art, water colours, ceramics, stone carvings, oils, acrylics, carpets, bags… I am particularly looking forward to visiting Die Letterhuis, 30km from town, where calligrapher Heleen de Haas will host an exhibition and I can wander along the prayer walk on the river banks to see some land art installations.


I’ll be taking visitors on the Ghost Walk during the school holidays and my Historical Ramble will be available in the mornings. 

Booking is essential, so call 023 5411 211 or e-mail: to arrange your walk.


If you are looking for accommodation in Prince Albert, I recently set up a website for a group of independent guesthouse owners. They offer room-only, B&B and self-catering accommodation, across a range of prices, in town and on local farms. There are plenty of photos and all the contact details you need:  


In the rush towards Christmas, relaxation sometimes eludes us, but it needn’t. Here are a few of the ways I unwind that you might like to try when you visit Prince Albert:

My dear friend, Brita, has set up her Reiki studio in her ‘Healing Cave’ here in Prince Albert. A reiki session with Brita is a relaxing and nurturing experience. Contact her on 072 744 4037.

Peace is profound at the yoga classes at Simply Saffron - visitors can join locals to experience a class with Hermon or Ridwaan and when she is visiting, Sandra Heider offers Forrest Yoga sessions. Tel: 023 5411 040 for details and times. They offer massages, reflexology and reiki too.

Another friend, Lynne-Marie Behr, offers Amazing Massages - and that's true! Contact her on 083 277 8027 for total relaxation. Her 'massage on the move' service takes her to guesthouses to treat three or more people: perhaps a wedding party or family members attending a re-union. 

If you are not in Prince Albert then here is a suggestion for finding relaxation on-line: I recently came across a beautiful blog called STILL, created by Mary Jo Hoffman, who posts one image, daily, of gathered natural objects found near her home in Saint Paul, Minnesota, or on her travels. Then she adds a thought. She says: “Still blog is a place to stop. A place to look at one thing at a time. A place to be still.” 

Blessings from Ailsa


The Story Weaver

Prince Albert

Tel: 023 5411 211  e-mail: