‘To All the Girls I’ve Loved’: Namaqualand drive triggers romantic nostalgia

A work trip to Namaqualand leads Dirk Lotriet on a nostalgic drive through his hometown, sparking reflections on past loves and life choices.


Early on Wednesday morning, the WhatsApp came through: I had to go to Namaqualand for work. Immediately. Which is not unusual. It happened before. It’s a long drive, but not unpleasant. After almost 900km, we drove through Kakamas, the little Northern Cape town where I was fortunate to grow up. I drove through my old hometown once or twice in recent years, but I haven’t visited for close to 10 years. I didn’t stop, but I saw all the old familiar landmarks and it triggered my memory. And right then a song from those innocent teenage years played on the…

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Early on Wednesday morning, the WhatsApp came through: I had to go to Namaqualand for work. Immediately.

Which is not unusual. It happened before. It’s a long drive, but not unpleasant.

After almost 900km, we drove through Kakamas, the little Northern Cape town where I was fortunate to grow up.

I drove through my old hometown once or twice in recent years, but I haven’t visited for close to 10 years.

I didn’t stop, but I saw all the old familiar landmarks and it triggered my memory.

And right then a song from those innocent teenage years played on the radio: To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before from Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias.

It was a hit in my final school years and it forced me to think about some of the girls I knew as a 17, 18 year old.

Unlike Willie and Julio, there weren’t that many girls “who travelled in and out my door”, but as a teenager with robust hormones, I was able to fall in love at least five times a day.

What would happen if I stayed in that little town, married one of the local girls and settled down there instead of going to university, became a journalist and lived in Johannesburg?

In Johannesburg, there were many, many more girls to fall in love with, for one thing.

Eventually, I became part of suburban city life, learned to build meaningful relationships, married and gradually turned into my father and grandfather – people who worked hard, cared for their families and loved their wives.

Most of the girls I spent time with as a teenager were absolute angels. The ones I met in Jozi, including my first wife, were straight from heaven.

My present wife, the lovely Snapdragon, on the other hand, is from the West Rand.

Some of the others were kinder. Friendlier.

But thinking back, I have no doubt whatsoever that I’ve picked the right one.

She’s perfect.

“It’s chilly here this morning and I didn’t pack a jacket,” I WhatsApped her on Thursday morning.

“You can be a real idiot when it comes to the choices you make,” she replied.

“I’m not so sure,” I said. “I think the choices I make have a way to turn out perfectly.”

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