Thirty years after she had a “bash” at starting a paper, Heather Brenner still believes in the power of community news.
“In the main, people are not interested in issues beyond their immediate location. They look forward to distribution day – to getting home from work, pouring a drink, putting their feet up and turning the pages to local gossip,” says Ms Brenner, who started Tabletalk in 1987 and worked on the paper for 18 years before turning her hand to politics.
In 2006 she was elected as a DA proportional representation councillor, and in 2009 she became chairperson of Sub-council 1.
“Often I could move things a lot faster when I was writing for Tabletalk thanIwasabletoas a councillor. It amazes me how people jump when the press puts on the ‘press’ure,” she says.
“But having been on the other side of the fence, I could easily weave my way through a reporter’s obstacle course. It helped me immensely.”
Last year, Ms Brenner and her lover, Andy McPherson, moved to the scenic coastal village of Great Brak River to spend their golden years in leisure.
She says that a few days in Cape Town a couple of months ago convinced her that relocating was a good move.
“It’s heaven – no wind, no traffic and no water restrictions. Our dam is 80% full, and we are in the summer rainfall belt, so we expect more. This time last year, the dam was more than 100% full and overflowing.
“I do a lot of gardening, and my garden is marvellous: clivias, azaleas, rhododendrons, fuchsias, pentas and heliotrope in profusion.”
Apart from keeping her green fingers busy, her days are also filled with knitting Mother Theresa jerseys for newborn babies at the local clinic, while Andy has taken a fancy to playing bowls.
The two have also joined the local astrological society. And if that’s not enough, Ms Brenner has been elected as the chairwoman of the Great Brak River Estuary Forum. “For my sins and to prevent my brain from petrifying,” she says.
Looking back, Ms Brenner says she cannot believe it’s been 30 years since she “penned the first stories” for the paper.
Things have come a long way since the word processor which she used to type Tabletalk’s stories in the beginning.
“I shall never forget my time with Tabletalk and often think of all those who worked with me – the dreaded Brian Joss (former news editor) whom I learned to love, (former editor) David Hill, Cathy Stagg and, not least, my faithful rep, Lynn Holmes. We had a good thing going. It all stood me in good stead for council work when I went into politics”.
But Ms Brenner is happy with her new life: surrounded by friendly neighbours with the option to venture forth for a dip in the river mouth on a really hot day.
She says she’s not a sight for sore eyes at her age and shape, “but what the heck… I am fortunate, indeed, as I live in paradise and would be an ungrateful b* not to be happy.”