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The estate

published: 2009-07-05

Dinner on The Estate. Started with a wine tour. Catering to
the impudent curiosity of we-the-tourists. The British owner did what
was expected of him. He stood by a vine, showed us the light green grapes, the
leaves, and spoke of what made his wine special. His words danced over his posh accent, slipped by me in unconnecting tones, unaffected by my judgement. He then showed us the large aluminium
systems for fermentation, and finally the musty cellar in which we did our part: we ooed and aaed at the sight of the barrels. After which we were invited into the home, built
by parents, led straight through the hallway to the back, the garden, with its
view over their rolling vineyards. There, we tasted the wines. The other tourists had disappeared, had returned to their holiday homes scattered
over the estate. Not us, we had been invited for supper. By then, their friends had
joined us. The Portugueze wine-producer, the Dutch banker, the Austrian diplomat.
The estate owners’ five sons played out their territorial games on the lawn
as we discussed things we knew nothing of: the taste of wine, the keeping of chickens. Yet in turn their guests knew nothing of literature, not of Disgrace nor of Half of a Yellow Sun, which
common ground has led me to discuss; these, our shared histories, upbringing in Africa, or
Portugal, in countries other than those of our heritage. Our own microcosmic, wordly
order. The children ate pasta in the kitchen while the grown-ups took place in the
dining room, then moved to the living room for coffees and more wine. For
Portugueze sweets. I felt strangely melancholic of my youth, of the past that
lay behind me, of a dying order within me. It had taken me years to fight, only to find that sometimes, on days like this, I missed it. Why? Not
for all its outwardly show, its pretense, the bubble that is most easily
pierced. But for the dramatic stories that lie beneath the glisterine surface. 

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