Bookends at Evita se Perron, the Darling Fest and Scarecrows

Scratching around my hard disk I came across a blast from the past. Last year’s ‘Fest’.  Are you ready for the ‘Return of the Scarecrows?”

I wrote this piece for ‘West Coast Way‘ circa 5th November 2017. Big thank you to Carmen for permission to republish here.

It’s a great privilege to live in the small town of Darling. With just over 10,000 residents, Darling is barely bigger than a village and has all the characteristics of a village and so I will refer to it as a village.

The residents are involved, they contribute to the many activities of the village. They volunteer their time and skills to support the many events and causes. They contribute hugely to Darling Tourism, warm bodies who help to provide the human link.

It is not unusual to find a retiree as Chair of the Darling Museum and volunteer at the SPCA shop while her partner is the newsletter editor of the over 50s club and runs a community website.

There is a very active Whatsapp forum where dogs are lost and found, lifts are arranged, furniture changes hands, people arrange to meet for coffee, good book suggestions are shared. There is a very competent and well run Darling Watch which watches over the safety of the village and villagers. There is a superb rugby team based in Darling which is high up in the leagues of Boland rugby and boasts Provincial and Springbok players. Recently the team scrum half was selected for the Springbok under 20s side. There is a cricket team that draws a good crowd on a balmy summer afternoon.

Involved, that’s what we are. So when the idea and gossip of the Darling Fest started to filter through the village there were questions, timetables, ideas, meetings, suggestions, more ideas and so the project took shape like Topsy in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, “it just growed and growed”. The flagship event of the Fest was undoubtedly the Scarecrows. The villagers got right into the spirit of Scarecrowism. They were inventive, funny, wise, representative, historically relevant, hysterically irrelevant; they were everything you would expect of Scarecrows.

They adorned shops in the Main street and private homes and guesthouses throughout the village. They were standing proudly with arms outstretched, draped over hedges, slouched on benches, posing, taking selfies. The crows sulked and left town.

Some of Darling’s darling scarecrows to whet your appetite.

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The shindig got underway with an evening concert at Evita se Perron on Friday 27th October featuring the Darling All Stars. Music, comedy, a little dancing, more music and the incomparable Lance. I’m not going to tell you about Lance, you have to meet him on stage; an entertaining working man busy at the Engen garage by day, performing by night. Did I mention that Lance won last years Darling’s Got Talent competition?

I had spent the Friday afternoon cruising around town with my beloved princess, an ageing and chubby dachshund by the name of Rebecca (Beccie for short), taking pictures of Scarecrows and absorbing the atmosphere, while my wife was busy with the painting crew brightening up the benches and tables in the park opposite the Museum.

Friday night was a late night so Saturday got off to a slow start, not unusual in Darling. The event of the day was the birthday gathering at the Darling Wine shop to meet old friends, to nibble gently on a glass of the Cape’s finest or to sup lustily through a local craft beer from Darling Brew. The food stalls did a roaring trade, tender fillet dishes, bratwurst rolls, cheeses. And the cherry on top? Glyn Lewis singing live with trusty guitar, treating us to the favourites we all enjoy at these relaxed and casual events. Hmmm. Saturday turned into a long and merry afternoon as well.

Throughout the week-end there were live music events, some serious, some not so serious, story telling, tastings.

Sunday saw young, fit and energetic runners trotting around the hills and vales of Darling, a variety of races from 4km to 21km held at the Groote Post Country market. By the way, while we are on the subject, do you like markets ? Give this one a go, you will enjoy it. And hah, they sell their Groote Post special pink bubbles at the market. We’re just up the road from Cape Town.

We took it easy on Sunday. A little gardening, a stretched lunch and an afternoon snooze. Village life can be very hectic.

There was a brief hiatus during the week and then it was back to Evita se Perron theatre for the Scarecrow party where the stars of the show were standing all around, some looking a little tired, some still imperious, many looking scary, those posted near Edward Scissorhands were watching him nervously out of the corners of their eyes while a Wise old owl stood by, relaxed, because he understands the role of the Scarecrow.

The charm of a community like Darling is the variety of activity, the friendships that quickly form, the groups and the clubs. What village would be complete without ladies book clubs, bridge groups, wine tasting clubs, supper clubs, a Rugby club, a Cricket club, a bowls club and a golf club.

We are very privileged to have a giant of the South African theatre, a satirist of great skill and perception. Pieter-Dirk Uys established the theatre Evita se Perron at the former station some years back. He and his alter ego, South Africa’s most famous white woman, former ANC parliamentarian Evita Bezuidenhout, often referred to as Tannie Evita entertain audiences with their ready wit and razor sharp observation. As if performing, writing, raising cats, making videos, isn’t enough Pieter-Dirk founded and is the patron of the Darling Trust, an organisation much loved by the residents of Darling both young and old.

So with the contents of our week-end entertainment shelf neatly bracketed by the Bookends of shows at Evita se Perron we are already thinking about next year. Will it be bigger and better? That’s for you to discover, we’d love to see you here to share the charm that is Darling. You might even have time for a chat with a local estate agent!!

Well here we are in August 2018 and the Fest is almost upon us again. It will be interesting to see what New events and improvements the organisers have in store for us this year.

Read a Fright of Scarecrows

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Peter Hall

Peter Hall – born in Belfast (N.Ireland). Supports the Blitzbokke and Sheffield Wednesday (who?). Part-time blogger or geek, part-time scribbler, reluctant part-time gout sufferer and occasional curmudgeon. Proud father of talented daughter (triathlete) and son (musician) who live in Australia.

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