It’s hard enough caring about South Africa when you’re actually there. Try doing it from Central America. I’m sitting in a rustic beach bar on the Pacific coast about seven metres from the equator. That’s what it feels like. The bars in these parts don’t have aircon because they don’t have walls. There’s no point jumping into the sea to cool off because it’s even warmer than the air. There is literally no way to reduce your body temperature. I’ve tried gin, beer, tequila and rum, but all it does is make me hotter. The girls seem to think so, anyway. Perhaps I’m hallucinating.
I do have a room with aircon in the next village 20 minutes away but I don’t think I can make it. My son-in-law has lent me his old car. And I do mean old. It’s a 35-year-old Suzuki Samurai with illegally extended shocks and an accelerator pedal that tends to jam. I can see the road through the floorboards and the handbrake doesn’t work. The key falls out while I’m driving and the fuel gauge is about as trustworthy as an ANC mayor. The engine screams and whines worse than John Steenhuisen in a coalition meeting with, well, anyone, really. A week ago, the car known as Gatito passed a roadworthy test.
I’ve just ordered something called a Jamaica Smile. Maybe this is the one that will stop me from spontaneously combusting. I can already hear the annoying gringo family to my left.
“Dad, that man is on fire!”
“Looks like a Biden supporter. Let the motherfucker burn.”
“Burn, motherfucker, burn!”
So, that’s the thing. I need to force myself to take an active interest in what’s happening back home, if only for the couple of hours it takes me to write this column. Obviously, that’s on a good day. On a bad day, which isn’t all that different to a good day, it can take six hours. That includes research, multiple trips to the bottle store, spontaneous naps and a fair bit of primal screaming.
On the other hand, I could just write about my sojourn in the tropics. But there would be complaints. South Africans are world-class complainers. Mostly for good reason, it must be said. We should be more like the French. Start with complaining, by all means, but then move on to proper, organised street protests. We complain, then we get drunk and then we have a hangover and after that, we don’t care if we live or die. To alcohol! The cause of and solution to all of life’s problems. Homer said that. Not the Greek. The other one.
One of the complainers turned up after last week’s column about Panyaza Lesufi’s undergunned and overweight militia. Charlotte flounced into my inbox, snorting and tossing and stamping her pretty little hooves.
“Hey, you are being cruel. NOT NICE!!” Nice? This is South Africa, sweetheart. Last time I saw Nice, it was lying in an alleyway with an empty wallet and a gaping head wound. This is not the time for nice. There are Bastilles that need storming. To the barricades! And not, as Charlotte would have it, to the Saturday morning flea market for tea and crumpets.
Spraying digital spittle into my face, Charlotte continued: “Those people look ready to DO something. And that SOMETHING is NOT to run off to Costa Rica with their tails between their legs.”
For a start, some of “those people” look ready for nothing more than another bucket of KFC. Also, I didn’t so much “run off” to Costa Rica as go on holiday. Perhaps, in Charlotte’s grim world of relentless niceness, holidays are not to be spoken about for fear of offending those who can’t afford to travel. Fleeing on holiday aside, I feel I should point out to Charlotte that men do not, in fact, have tails between their legs. Poor dear. I hope she survives the shock should she ever have the misfortune of seeing a naked man.
Anyway, none of it matters. In 100 years, every one of us alive today will have disappeared and been replaced by eight billion people who don’t currently exist.
Right now, I’m more worried about something the chairman of Pick n Pay said recently.
“I feel compelled to caution that the entire food industry is under existential threat. The probability of social unrest relating to food shortages, and possible store closures if blackouts get too high, is now heightened.”
Perhaps we shouldn’t be too concerned about the paranoid ravings of a glorified shopkeeper. It’s that kind of crazy talk that turns rational men and women into doomsday preppers. But what if he’s right? What if it’s not simply a cunning ploy to get us stampeding into Pick n Pay branches everywhere, stripping the shelves faster than they can be restocked and scurrying back to our bunkers to offload before returning for more?
Having the streets full of roiling bodies fighting over the last tins of pilchards is not a good look. As Charlotte would say, it’s NOT NICE.
In the meantime, I guess it couldn’t hurt to start growing your own veggies and learning how to whip up a batch of Molotov cocktails.