South Africans who say they would rather spend their holidays here than anywhere else – because, like, it’s such an awesome country – should have their jaws permanently wired shut so that never again will they be able to lie through their stinking teeth.
Patriotism be damned. They are here because they can’t afford to go anywhere else. Two-thirds of the people who support the Proudly South African campaign are right now sucking back margaritas in southern Spain or slipping their CVs under the doors of employment agencies in Perth.
At least a quarter of our country’s population never go on holiday because they are otherwise occupied in one of our many elegant state facilities for the morally challenged. Others, like the unemployed, are permanently on holiday and are the least deserving of our sympathy.
The people who you should really feel sorry for are people like me. People who stay home rather than risk decapitation by an airborne taxi or encountering a butcher from the hinterland so drunk that he mistakes you for Lord Kitchener and plucks out your eyeballs with his tungsten steel braai fork.
Indeed, you need to feel sorry for people who get out of bed deep into the festive season, trip over a tangle of wet towels and fall down a staircase that is slick with unidentifiable grime. I would be dead if a pile of unwashed clothes hadn’t broken my fall.
Shell-shocked, I trail through the house collecting empty beer bottles while accumulating a thick layer of animal hair on the soles of my feet. By the time I find Brenda, I look like a hobbit with a drinking problem.
The house is beyond dirty. Encrusted dishes and semi-sucked marrow bones are strewn everywhere. The windows are impervious to light and the pot plants have wilted like giraffes on tranquillisers. The cats are having a nervous breakdown and the dog has been projectile vomiting. The blood from New Year’s Eve is still on the lounge walls. The toilets are unspeakable and I fear a cholera outbreak is imminent. Are the British behind this? There is no time to find out.
Covering my mouth with a damp cloth, I swivel my eyes at Brenda and make the international gesture for “what the hell happened here?”
Like one of those dangerous mimes you see in shopping malls, Brenda goes through a range of expressions that imply sudden surprise. Why she doesn’t just speak, I don’t know. I start replying in the spirit of the game, but, quicker than a striking cobra, she catches my middle finger and bends it so far backwards that I cry out in pain.
“Kwaai Lappies,” says Brenda, “has been on leave.”
Cold panic rises in my chest. “Good God, woman! What are we meant to do now?”
Brenda sinks to her haunches, a look of utter hopelessness on her face. It is a pathetic sight. I try to encourage her to stand up and get stuck in.
“Come on!” I shout, dragging her by the hair. “You can beat this thing! Don’t give up now.” Her eyes glaze over and she slumps sideways. “Go ahead without me,” she says weakly.
Does this mean she won’t do the housework or, worse, can’t? Is it possible that she has forgotten how? Aren’t all women genetically hard-wired to clean? Or is this an elaborate ruse to get me to do it? There is no way to be sure. The woman is as trustworthy as a juvenile puff adder.
I call Kwaai Lappies in the Transkei, begging her to return without delay. No dice. She says she is going to Coffee Bay with the kids and will be back at work on the 19th. Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The 19th? When did domestic workers start getting the same amount of leave as hard-working white men? This is what democracy has done to our country.
I call her again, this time wanting to know where she has hidden my whiskey, but she threatens to get a restraining order and switches her phone off.
Faced with the harrowing realisation that we are doomed to wallow in our own filth for another ten days, I tell Brenda that we are going to have to start rotating rooms. I only hope the en suite is able to recover after lying fallow for so long. The last thing I need is the health department cordoning off the street and declaring our house a biohazard.
Right now, in suburbs across this fine land, madams – big and small – are sobbing helplessly. Unable to operate the Hoover or find the broom. No idea how to use the steam iron or stack the dishwasher. Can’t tell their spin cycle from their menstrual cycle.
Beauty from next door is also on leave. I know this because I can hear little Chardonnay screaming her hateful lungs out. Why is she screaming? Because a strange white woman keeps trying to pick her up.
God help us all.