In January 2012 – goodness me, 10 years ago – Coromandel was in Cape Town and we were staying with my brother in Port Owen, 150 km north of Cape Town on South Africa’s west coast. The long, golden sandy beaches are empty and it is seldom that anyone ventures into the sea. Only the hardiest souls would brave the cold waters of the Benguela Current as it sweeps up from the Antarctic.
The former fishing village of Paternoster is now a mix of bijou cottages, boutiques and chic restaurants, yet local fishermen still land their catch here and pull their nets up the beach. On one visit there I noticed something odd about the fence posts – what was that creamy-coloured topping they all had? Needless to say we stopped so that I could have a look.
The ordinary wooden fence posts, tied with barbed wire, were encrusted at the top with snail shells, as were some of the fynbos plants. Some land snails, I discovered, ‘hibernate’ when the hot summer temperatures deny them the water they need. This is known as aestivation. They close themselves up inside their shells, sealing it with a sticky membrane, then wait until the spring brings the rain again.
So here’s my interpretation of this phenomenon. The washed-out blue is typical of the January sky, while the landscape turns brown in the summer. I added an extra layer of wadding beneath the fence post to give it depth, then used some mother-of-pearl buttons for the snails themselves, purchased in a lovely little craft shop in Vredenburg. Meander-quilting in variegated blue thread for the sky, sandy ripples on the earth, and rice stitch for the barbs on the wire. They all add together to provide the memory of a lovely day out, in excellent company, complete with a bacon-and-blue cheese salad washed down by a speciality beer from a local brewery. Bliss!