Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Fantasic creatures, evocative houses

In 1969 I often used to drive from Durban up the North Coast Road to Tongaat Beach and beyond. On the way I passed a rather strange symmetrical house among the pine trees, between the road and the beach. The house kept drawing my attention, partly because of its symmetry, partly because of its location, and partly because it reminded me of a film I had seen.

House at Desainagar

House at Desainagar

It was in a place called Desainagar, at least that whas what was on the sign on the road that seemed to lead to it. I often thought of stopping to take a photo of it, but the road was then the N2 highway, with a lot of traffic in two lanes desperately trying to overtake along the only straight stretch for a long way on each side, so I never did.

The house reminded me of a film I had seen a couple of years before on Dutch TV. It was in French, with Dutch subtitles, so I couldn’t follow it very well. The film was called Les Créatures, and was set in a place on the seaside, and that was what the house reminded me of.

The film started off with a bloke and his wife driving in a car, and they had an accident which left the wife dumb, and they lived alone in a house in the woods. The first part was rather puzzling, but it became clearer when they discovered
another man who had built a machine that could control people’s lives and influence them for good or evil, and he prefers to influence them for evil. It seemed to be a kind of parable on manipulative relationships.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s we lived in Melmoth in Zululand, and passed that way again whenever we visited Durban. Val said that she found the house as fascinating as I did, but it was even busier than it had been ten years earlier, so we still did not stop to take photos of it. It was then painted a light green, which matched the trees.

A couple of years ago we passed Desainagar again on holiday, and were sad to see that the house was abandoned, empty and vandalised. The trees had all been chopped down too, so that the house was barely recognisable.

Then a couple of weeks ago someone posted a link on Facebook to an article on the house, which had some of the pictures we had never taken. And it seems that the trees that we had thought were pine trees were actually casuarina trees. It was interesting to read something of the history of the house, but sad to see it vandalised. It would have made a good setting for a fantasy novel or film along the lines of Les Créatures.


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