Ring­ing in the New Year on the beach

CityPress - - Voices - Paddy Harper voices@city­press.co.za Fol­low me on Twit­ter @Pad­dyHarper1

Sun­day. New Year’s Day. The beast that was 2016 has fi­nally been buried, but not be­fore claim­ing my bra, Jo Naidoo, a cou­ple of days be­fore. Jo was a top man.

Jo’s death took away any in­ter­est I had in a New Year’s Eve party, so I’m in show­room con­di­tion as I lie on the couch pon­der­ing how to wres­tle the re­mote from the Big Lah­nee (that’s Mrs Harper to you) and the Small Lah­nee (our 10-yearold son) for long enough to watch the Arse­nal game later in the day and live to tell the tale.

By about 3pm, it’s clear that all I’m gonna be watch­ing are the high­lights. It is what it is. It’s also pig hot. The Dur­ban air’s like trea­cle. The ceil­ing fan just nudges the hu­mid­ity around the room. The Big Lah­nee and the Small Lah­nee are squab­bling about whether to watch car­toons or para­nor­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tors on TV.

The Big Lah­nee’s win­ning the ar­gu­ment. The Small Lah­nee’s al­most in tears. There’s only one so­lu­tion: the beach. The Small Lah­nee’s eyes dry up. He sprints off to get his swim­ming cos­tume and, 20 min­utes later, we’re on North Beach.

The sand and the prom­e­nade are packed. So is pretty much ev­ery blade of grass and cen­time­tre of con­crete be­tween OR Tambo Pa­rade and the wa­ter. The Small Lah­nee takes off like a rocket into the mass of hu­man­ity jump­ing up and down in the moshy surf.

The wa­ter ban­ishes the day’s sweat in a mil­lisec­ond. It’s beau­ti­ful. But it’s rough as hell. The life­savers are blow­ing on their whis­tles like mad­men, try­ing to keep the mass of swim­mers in a place where they can stop them from drown­ing.

I head deeper and roll on to my back. I take a look to­wards the beach, hop­ing to see the Small Lah­nee. There’s this mas­sive rib­bon of black and brown bod­ies of ev­ery con­ceiv­able hue bob­bing up and down in the ocean as the waves roll in. There are screams of joy in what must be ev­ery of­fi­cial lan­guage and half a dozen con­ti­nen­tal ones ev­ery time a wave breaks. There are no wit ous. Their loss. F**k you, Penny Spar­row.

I head for the shore in search of the Small Lah­nee. In­stead, I run into Sipho Mabuse. “Hot­stix” is bare­foot in the sand at the wa­ter’s edge. The timer’s chilling with Dur­ban ac­tivist Skiddo Naidoo. Skiddo’s my bra and, ac­cord­ing to some, Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s eleventy-third son.

Hot­stix is beam­ing. “This is beau­ti­ful, man,” he says.

He’s right.

There are screams of joy in what must be ev­ery of­fi­cial lan­guage ev­ery time a wave breaks

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