THERE is something startlingly fragile about the softly kneaded sheepskin on her guest toilet floor. That husky voice. “That was my father's Dorper sheep, that one. Look at that photo of him with one on our farm."
Real “boere" hospitality, which makes you feel your arrival has been expected. Brümilda's dining room table is colourfully set. “Listen, I've been through the whole garden … these are the only ones in bloom now." Two arum lilies in a vase. Lavender sprigs decorate our plates.
An ornate chandelier adorns the ceiling. “Load-shedding … you should have been able to see the light reflecting from it." Behind chandelier crystals, above the passage to the intimate living room, a metal frame curls around the phrase Mi Casa Es Tu Casa. No mere words. Genuine warmth surrounds Brümilda's interior space. “That's how we were brought up, nobody left empty-handed. Mom would pack provisions for the road, Dad would provide a little windfall…
“I think my father was the person who loved me the most. He was my hero. After his death, and that of my mother and my brother, Renico… I let people go, but they're irreplaceable. It gets better, because I'm happy, but I'm alone, like an orphan without them. You never get that close to someone again. No one will ever love you that unconditionally again." She looks upwards. Breathes out, her eyes blue and shiny.
“About six years ago, Renico helped me move here to Parktown North. My sisters, Frederika and Nancy, gave me the guts to say after 32 years: ‘Cheers, Westdene, it was fun and creative, but the time to move is now.' Then you pull up your roots and do it. Now I'm here."
Good with stories
Brümilda's intriguing house channels energy, and peace and colour flow in harmony, from front door to back garden. “My stuff tells stories. A little painting I bought in Montmartre, Paris… I carried those fat little angels under my arms all the way from Amsterdam. Mom Freda was so passionate about France, especially Versailles… she had that tête-à-tête conversation sofa brought back from Europe years ago.
“Everything I have matters. Let me show you Mom's wedding ring." She disappears into the room, returning with the timeless gem on her right ring finger. Does she keep it in a safe? “No, we don't do safes…"
The torso on the porch is surely vintage; it's from the 1984 television series Die Dood van Elmien Adler, by Chris Barnard. “The sculptor character creates a bust of me, this then becomes evidence of an affair I supposedly had with him… One weekend, I was murdered while my husband's and my circle of friends were visiting us."
It feels like I'm playing Cluedo. “It turned out the murderer was my best friend, Mrs Sculptor, very jealous… yes, it was Jana Cilliers." My eyes grow wide, Van Rensburg starts laughing. A naughty chuckle, spontaneously contagious. “Yes! I was on a horse… maybe she couldn't ride a horse, she was terribly jealous." She continues chuckling.
Avocado ritz vs kale
We eat retro avocado ritz from delicate cocktail glasses. “They were also Mom's, but a lot of them broke. She made food like this but with her own sauce; own mustard with tongue, own mayonnaise. This is my trick, the Sixty60 secret shrimp sauce!” We also eat irresistible ciabatta and cheese. “Those are from Pantry by Marble, on Jan Smuts Avenue… they need thick butter. People drive from Pretoria for their baked goods." Coffee steams in small, brightly coloured mugs.
“I notice food fads, then sometimes I try things that don't work for me at all. Like coconut water, for example." We chuckle again. “I also tasted kale soup… super-green smoothie, not bad. But kale is too bleak for me."
“My career is one privilege; stage, film, television, my drama school. Surprises still beckon ahead. But curveballs… life happens, what I can, I deal with. I am always prepared. In Egoli's days, whenever possible, I learnt the entire week's text on weekends. If something happened on set influencing the shooting schedule, I was the little stalwart, I knew all Louwna's words.
“When I slipped on my bed mat earlier this year and broke my arm, I was forced to call a halt. I'm so used to routine, daily work on set, teaching. Now I go looking for my water bottle but come back with my hairbrush in hand, you know?
“Having time on my hands, creating my own schedule, that's new. First thing in the morning: my Bible verse for the day on my phone, to get strength for the day, and the load-shedding app…" I laugh out loud, Brümilda shakes with laughter. “Really… then I drink the coffee and watch the news while I still have courage and soft eyes for that… Then admin and matters like my involvement with the Siyabonga Children's Home*."
Should I go empty-handed?
It's time to order an Uber to travel to the Gautrain station. The Van Rensburg hospitality shines through once more. Brümilda bundles me into her Suzuki, a bulging bag of provisions for the road and pomegranate juice on my lap. She refuses to drive off until I am safely inside Rosebank station. Her mother's wedding ring reflects the afternoon sun as she waves.
* Brümilda is the patron of the Siyabonga Children's Home in Germiston. It houses 43 children, aged between 3 and 18, from unsafe environments. Its annual highlight is the youth team's Christmas party. Click here to learn more or get involved.
♦ VWB ♦
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