A capricious Latina bitch by the name of LaNiñaput the kibosh on our plans to hole up on the Wild Coast for a few days. Before you could say “hypothetical meteorological phenomenon”, storm clouds gathered and temperatures sank faster than my spirits as the unseasonable deluge mocked the prophets and profiteers of global warming.
There was nothing in the local papers about my failure to address the climate change conference in Durban. This is one of the consequences of parliament having passed the secrecy bill and I am proud to count myself among the first victims of this savagely repressive piece of legislation.
The drive from Morgan Bay to Banana Beach on the KZN South Coast should have taken no more than four hours. It took eight. Instead of reading the map, my navigator was reading a novel. I am the first to admit that when it comes to a sense of direction, a sightless vole could find its way out of a shopping mall faster than I could.
One of the reasons men like me get married – apart from having regular access to sex ha ha yeah right – is so that someone can tell us which road to take while we focus on driving as fast as possible.
I have a navigator who, when asked if we are on the right road, says: “Not now. I’m on the last chapter.”
And so – after fending off Mthatha’s ridiculously brazen tourists-in-transit heist meisters and negotiating the goat-infested pot-holed horrors that masquerade as roads in the Transkei – I took a wrong turn and ended up on a dark and misty road heavy with speeding juggernauts and imminent death. There were tears, recriminations and threats of divorce, not all of which came from me.
Somewhere in this nightmare, a cop waddled into the road and pulled me over. He pointed at the seatbelt I wasn’t wearing and motioned me to follow him to the patrol car where his corpulent sidekick ordered me to get into the back seat. I did as I was told for fear of having my scrotals chopped off and sold to an 85-year-old man from Idutywa who wanted muti for longer-lasting erections. I slid in and closed the door. The car smelled of chops and bribery. He checked me out in the rear view mirror. “You white people, you like to plan your holidays,” he said. “Us black people, we don’t plan our holidays. We just go.”
Was this an accusation or a conversation? White Man, I find you guilty of planning your holiday. Off with his head! My instinct was to deny everything. “I certainly don’t plan my holidays, officer,” I said defensively. “Look at my car.” The luggage on the roof was listing dangerously to starboard. Two filthy dogs dangled from the back window and a filthy tempered wife protruded from the front. This was clearly the car of a man who couldn’t plan his life, let alone his holidays. The lawman cared less. “So must I give you a fine?” he asked. For what – planning my holiday or driving without a seatbelt? I was reluctant to ask. “If that’s what you must do, then do it,” I said. He told me to get out of his car and be careful next time. My kind of cop.
Brenda and Julius Seizure, the epileptic dog, seemed in need of a holiday, even though we were already on one, so I drove to the Zinkwazi Lagoon Lodge which looked like a luxury resort on the internet but turned out to be the kind of place that would have struck terror into the dark heart of Colonel Kurtz. The swimming pool looked as if it might have sharks in it and the ferry to the beach was last used in the Normandy landings. The Day of the Triffids was a gardening show in comparison and checking in was a scene straight out of Deliverance.
Depressed, afraid and confused, we then spent two days with my relentlessly combative and increasingly odd parents and their 125-year-old Maltese poodle at Blythedale Beach. By the second day, the smell of homicide was thick in the air. A van drove past with a sign saying “Family butchers” on its side. Brenda said it’s a pity she didn’t get their number because if any family needed butchering, it was this one.
To round things off nicely, as we headed for home the clutch on the Land Rover packed up just outside Durban. Brenda, turquoise with fury, told me to call the AA, which I thought a bit extreme considering I had only had three beers for breakfast.
So, instead of being halfway to Cape Town, I’m back at my parents’ house writing this on a laptop balanced on my knees in my old bedroom. I spent the first 17 years of my life in this room. It’s slightly bigger than Mandela’s former cell. No wonder I’m claustrophobic.
A mechanic with the eyes of a stunned mullet told me it would cost R8 000 to fix the clutch. He can tell this just by looking at the car. I want to bite his venal little face. Fucking greedmonkey.
It’s very late. Everyone is asleep. Gekkoes the size of Gila monsters inch down the hot sweaty walls. There’s a rat in the kitchen that owns this house after the lights go out. Three gunshots echo in the distance. Then a chorus of frogs. Perhaps they are linked. Frog gangs, shooting it out on this sultry November night. Tomorrow’s headlines: A family of frogs croaked last night.
Strange sounds from the jungle outside. The ghosts of my childhood are all around me.