Off to the tropics, thanks to Eskom

I can’t help feeling a little envious when I read posts on social media by people who are struggling to cope with this festering pandemic and all its diabolical trappings. I feel cheated, somehow. Where is my mental anguish? How come I never get depressed or anxious? What’s wrong with me?

Perhaps I am one of those who are at their happiest and most stable during times of crisis. I don’t mean a nihilistic, misanthropic sociopath. I mean one of those strong, dependable types who only fall apart in the most extreme of circumstances. No, that’s not it either. I have encountered extreme circumstances in the past and rarely felt inclined to ride it out with fortitude and courage. Instead, I have packed my car and driven to another place where circumstances were less extreme.

Some people, psychologists mostly, will tell you that you can’t run away from your problems. Far better to keep making those R850 an hour appointments to share your problems with someone who gaslights you into believing you’re making progress and twenty years later retires and moves to a Caribbean island.

Speaking of which, that’s precisely where I am going. If I suffer from anything, it’s a reckless spontaneity that has, admittedly, landed me in trouble on previous occasions. Now, I’m all about the easy way out. If at first you don’t succeed, go drinking. If you need to work at your relationship, find one that doesn’t need work. Giving up before you even try means you can never fail. You get the picture.

I’ve been married twice, both for 10-year stretches, and overstayed my welcome by at least five years in each. It’s obvious that I am quite at ease during times of crisis. Come to think of it, perhaps I’m just a bit slow in recognising a crisis in the first place. Not because I’m insensitive. I’m a writer, for heaven’s sake. We are gentle, sensitive folk by nature and if you doubt me I will hunt you down and cut your face off while you’re sleeping.

I have since learned my lesson and as a consequence tend to understay my welcome in everything from relationships to jobs. On the rare occasion that I visit people who claim to be my friends, I often leave before things can turn ambiguous. The Marx Brothers’ song, “Hello, I must be going”, was written for me.

As for my impulsive decision to grab my surfboard, pack a small bag and flee for Central America, I blame Eskom. Well, more the ANC, I suppose. Same beast, really. Everything that is horribly wrong with this lurching wreck of a country can be traced to the ANC. Also, Jan van Riebeeck. And all the way back to a bipedal hominid reprobate who shagged the local knuckle-dragging tart, probably in the vicinity of modern-day Krugersdorp, setting in motion a series of events that led directly to where we are today.

Bloody evolution. If we’d all just stayed as chimps we wouldn’t be worrying about load-shedding and the price of petrol. We’d be living in the forest, eating for free, not going to work and having hot monkey sex with our licentious bonobo cousins. All under the benevolent dictatorship of a silverback whose grunt was law.

And this is why I’m off to a tropical island far, far away. I can’t keep driving to a bar with a generator every time the power is shut down. It’s unnatural. “Right, then. I’m off to the pub to get some work done.” Nobody should ever have to say such a terrible thing. I remember a time when I’d go to the pub to get away from work. To relax, flirt outrageously with the wives of other men, argue about politics and get into brutal fist-fights.

I’m writing this in the pub at the moment. It’s an hour into load-shedding on this thrilling slide towards total collapse of the national grid. The generator is strong enough to power their router and a string of fairy lights. I’m the only one here with a laptop on the table. Waiters keep looming out of the dark, asking if I’m okay. Do they mean mentally? Of course I’m not okay. I’m working. In the pub.

And so I am away to an island in an archipelago in the Caribbean because they have a steady supply of electricity and we do not. Okay, that’s not the only reason I’m going. I’m sure I’ll end up working in a rustic beach bar, anyway. The difference is, it’ll be by choice and not necessity.

I’m not bailing altogether, of course. The engine room in the good ship RSA is on fire, the hold has sprung a leak and pirates are fighting each other for the wheel while Captain Cyril stands on the burning deck, looking shocked. I want to be here for the grand finale. It should be spectacular.

12 thoughts on “Off to the tropics, thanks to Eskom

  1. Alan Paterson

    So Ben, you’re off again (so to speak)? Sterkte and hope your column will continue to thrive (so to speak again) in the electrifying archipelago. You deserve the break.

  2. Marlize Meyer

    Good move Ben. Seems the 4th unsurfable wave is due and the short one NDZ is bound to close the pubs here again! Hope to hear from the other side.

  3. Jane

    Don’t forget to send a postcard. You can’t make us readers go cold turkey without your column every week. Or you might find a posse of fans arriving at that island pub to oblige you to put pen.

  4. Hi B

    The Carribean has fierce natives, unpredictable cyclones and rum in plastic bottles. Suggest you go to where the heart lies – west coast of central/south america, where you’re less likely to be mugged for your laptop since there are plenty of old fuddled retired murikans ripe for the pickin’ ! And you’ll have family when you, too, become too fuddled to surf!

  5. Margie

    May I come with? I wouldn’t want to be married though – once was enough for me. I hope you’ll continue to write. “Freedom” and “Democracy” in this country has turned out to be so profoundly disappointing, it might be better to live in Bogotá – at least you know where you stand.
    Love your columns – they bring a bit of sanity into my life (or insanity, depending on which way you look at it

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