Nosing around a country store
It’s cosmos season in the Eastern Free State and there, among the blooms, is this incredible old general-dealer trading store and restaurant at a place called Verkykerskop. Which, when literally translated into English, means 'far looker’s head'. Actually, however, it means 'the place from which you gaze with binoculars'.
Anyway. Be that as it may.
I pull over, climb out, step on to the porch and am halted in my tracks by a loud and hailing ring-necked parakeet. I think he calls me ‘Alkie!’, or maybe he’s yelling ‘Alfie’. I dunno. Parakeets are not famous for their plosives. Especially when they’ve got a bit of an overbite like this one does.
I pass this noisy green bird and enter the Verkykerskop Store which, as one goes further in, morphs into Smiley’s Restaurant. But back to the store.
If you are of a certain age, you’ll know what I’m going on about: curved glass cabinets full of apricot balls, toffees, chocolate monsters, old tins of snuff and roll tobacco, Steelband contact adhesive, White Star Laxative Mixture, and Bulls Eyes and sweeties that make your mouth go black.
There’s an aroma in an old South African country trading store you won’t find anywhere in the world.
There’s an aroma in an old South African country trading store you won’t find anywhere in the world: eucalyptus, Boxer Blend tobacco, fabric and blankets, farm remedies ... and is that a whiff of horse liniment?
If you’re not of a certain age, use your imagination or proceed on to Smiley’s.
The owners are Matt Hoffman and his wife, Beth. He used to drum for money, but he now restores old pieces of furniture, and she’s a fine caterer. Beth once prepared food for Madonna and her crew when they toured South Africa. Interesting people own country stores.
Smiley’s does a roaring trade, especially on Sundays. Verkykerskop has become something of a desired destination, and lots of urbanites have semi-settled here. It seems there’s romance going on at Verkykerskop as well, judging from the wedding chapel and overnight cottages out back.
As I walk out after an excellent Sunday pot roast, the parrot yells again. I sigh with relief, because this time I’m sure he calls me ‘Alfie’...