IF YOU WRITE AND SEEK STORY IDEAS - romance, horror, bigotry, or travel - you might struggle to find a better location than where I am now.

I'm in Cape Town, probably our world's most attractive ocean-fronting city. Whales play close to the shore, shoppers and sellers gossip non-stop in the main street under the gaze of astonishingly high mountains just, almost, a stone's throw away.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Tell me a story .... I'm visiting a nation of enthusiastic story-tellers. Many thanks to photographer Mike Erskine and Unsplash for the photo.

Look out to sea and the mighty Southern Ocean shimmers all the way to the horizon.

Stare up at the often cloudless sky and it's as if you are gazing into Space, albeit Space tinted a gorgeous light blue by day, and blacker than black in star and planet strewn nights.

Breathtaking, often horrifying

A visit is wonderful for the eyes, the people good for imagination, and the tales they tell surprisingly breathtaking, often amusing - and often horrifying.

Of course, wherever humans gather in the world, anecdotes - stories - are exchanged. It's what our species does.

But to me anecdotes seem to be told more passionately, more intensely, and often more desperately here. It feels as South Africans are really hungry for story-telling, perhaps because unlike most of the world, TV was denied them till the mid-seventies.

Of course, they were (probably are) great readers, with some very successful authors, but unlike most of us, they had to make do with moving pictures - the bioscope, as it is quaintly termed here - for a shared story-telling experience.

Tomorrow, I'll tell you of the first story I heard, overheard, as it was recounted almost in a sort of stereo effect by two women in a busy coffee shop, a bloody story of heroism and horror.

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