The Mother City is a terrible place for a man to be during Women’s Month. Whenever it rains, the gutters run pink with oestrogen and the bars fill up with jackbooted lesbians. And there are still three weeks to go.
Now, more than ever, problem wives and difficult girlfriends need to be isolated from the herd. Once they get wind of a movement, there is no stopping them. They will sweep through our cities like a great growling tsunami, pausing only to get their hair done before laying waste to the country’s confectionery stocks. This doesn’t bother me. Let them eat cake. But I know that once the gateau has been decimated, they will turn on us.
I had to get Brenda out of town fast, so I offered her an all-expenses paid trip up the West Coast. This is a region where women have long since won the struggle for equality. They do most of the work and bear the burden of responsibility admirably. Some of the most liberated men in South Africa can be found in these parts, sitting beneath trees gossiping and drinking like the women did before they freed themselves from the yolk of oppression.
We hadn’t even reached Melkbosstrand before Brenda began demanding to know where we were going. I told her it was a surprise. Women love surprises, yet you wouldn’t think so considering that most divorces are filed by women.
Passing Saldanha, Brenda held my last six-pack out of the window and insisted that I tell her. Faced with a hostage situation, I was left with no alternative. “Bosluisbaai,” I said, watching the beers explode in my rear-view mirror.
“Bosluisbaai is in Namibia,” Brenda barked, snatching the sole surviving Tafel from between my legs. I was outraged and called her a communist sympathiser.
“FW de Klerk,” I barked back, “sold South West Africa to the terrorists for a dozen cows, five guns and a Nobel Peace Prize and to me it was and always will be a province of this great country!”
There are few things worse in this world than driving to Bosluisbaai in a rusting Hyundai with an angry woman and no beer as company, so I turned off at Paternoster.
If you are into fishing villages full of deserted whitewashed cottages, fat unwashed policemen and motherless, quota-less fishermen with murder in their eyes, Paternoster is where you want to go.
I suggested we drive another few kilometres to Tietiesbaai. It seemed like a good place to spend Women’s Day. Brenda was less sure and made me stop alongside the first white man we came across. He told us there was nothing at Tietiesbaai. Just another broken promise in the new South Africa.
Paternoster is a self-catering town without the catering. The shop sells ice, coffee and tins of hangover food. The bottle store is an alleyway that ends with a hole in the wall. It would have taken hours to pass my order through the burglar bars, but I pressed the buzzer regardless. Then, all of a sudden, nothing happened. So I went back to the car.
After much banging on doors and shouting in fractured Afrikaans, we occupied a cottage much like the Germans occupied Paris.
Suffused with spontaneous romance, I tried to invade Brenda but she put up the French resistance so I offered to take her out in the hope that food would enhance her mood.
There is only one hotel in Paternoster. Any more and there would be trouble. I suggested a pre-dinner drink in the bar. Brenda was reluctant. “Come on,” I said, “one drink can’t hurt,” knowing very well that hospitals, mortuaries, rehabs and maintenance courts are full of people who said the same thing.
That bad old moon began rising the moment we walked into the bar. “Look at this amazing floor,” I said. Brenda looked at the stained parquet. My diversionary tactic lasted all of four seconds. Then she looked up at a ceiling decorated with women’s underwear. Bras and panties, as far as the eye could see.
Brenda was speechless just long enough for me to order her a double gin and tonic, which quenched her outrage much like petrol quenches a fire. Not that this country has any petrol.
Trying not to blow our cover altogether, I ordered a triple klip ‘n coke. The barman, a misunderstood poet trapped in the body of an insensitive oaf, happily complied. Actually, that’s not true. I could see that happily had never been a part of his emotional vocabulary. Primordial grunting, on the other hand, was right up there.
Brenda said the bar epitomised everything she found hateful in men. This wasn’t at all what I had planned. I quickly pointed out that the low-flying lingerie bore the evidence of drunken signatures, indicating that the female clientele had voluntarily parted with their unmentionables. In that case, she said, the bar epitomised everything she found hateful in women.
This wasn’t good. Now she hated men and women. I asked the barman for a shooter to calm things down. A Bob Marley was clearly out of the question. “How about a Springbok,” I said. He offered a Gemsbok instead. I told him that I was game. He didn’t get it, but we did. Over and over again.
After the shooters, Brenda passed into the eye of the storm and all was right with the world. Later, the barman made us something called a Jelly Baby, which sent Brenda plunging back into the vortex. “What if,” she said in a very loud voice, “this bar were decorated with men’s underwear?”
It was a horrible image that stayed with me right until I went outside and aborted my Jelly Baby. Then we went back to our cottage and celebrated Women’s Month by sleeping in separate beds.
7 August, 2007