Dreams and visions up in smoke as we wonder for whom the bell tolls
THE Byrds were singing “Oh what will you give me/say the sad bells of Rhymney/Is there hope for the future/say the brown bells of Merthyr…” on the car CD the other day.
It was sweltering, and just before that, I had been listening to the radio. They were discussing President Jacob Zuma’s non-answers in Parliament last week.
In the main, they were lampooning his exercise in obfuscation and making some humorous comments about No 1’s bumbling performance. One pundit remarked although Zuma might be guilty of many things, at least he hadn’t “stolen” our sense of humour.
Bells of Rhymney is a great song, by the way. It was written by veteran US folk singer Pete Seeger and is about a mining disaster in Wales in the 1920s, as well as the failure of the General Strike.
Seeger was a leading light on the folk scene and an important inspiration in the US civil rights movement. Along with people like Woody Guthrie, he inspired luminaries like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez to carry the banner.
The Byrds’ version gives the song a particular lift with Roger McGuinn’s plaintive vocals and signature jingly-jangly Rickenbacker guitar.
Anyway, the “is there hope for the future” refrain sounded again as I drew to a halt at the local corner café in funky Doringkloof to get a newspaper to catch the latest on the state capture front.
The lyrics were rather apt, I thought to myself… hope for the future, indeed.
As I pulled up, I spotted a blood-red sports car in the parking lot. I went in and Frankie was busy talking to the owner about golf. They guy was wearing a T-shirt with the slogan “Grumpy Dutchman” emblazoned on it.
I insinuated myself into the conversation – as you do in suburban cafés, especially when matters of state and sport are under discussion – and the geezer was amenable enough.
I asked him if his firebird parked outside was a Ferrari, but he said “no, it’s a Mustang”.
We left at the same time and I asked him to give me a bit of a roar. This he did as he disappeared down Sonja Street in a puff of smoke.
I sounded almost Harley-Davidson-ish and I immediately thought of that R&B song Mustang Sally, made famous by Wilson Pickett and the Young Rascals. With its “ride Sally… ride” chorus, it has become a regular on the pub circuit.
Talking of state capture, Jacques Pauw’s book, The President’s Keepers, really has stirred up a hornet’s nest. Riveting reading indeed, with my wife finishing it in two sessions, and now I’m busy ploughing through it.
Reading it, I keep on thinking of the words Peter Hammill sings on The Old School Tie: “Politicians fight it out on the conning tower/But all agree not to rock the boat…It’s a cushy job in politics… and it’s built on your vote …” Deep sigh; conning tower, indeed!
If true – and, given the pictorial evidence, I’ve no reason to believe it’s not true – I’m really surprised that the vehemently anti-tobacco NDZ apparently has no compunction to court favours from that dodgy cigarette boss Mazzotti; talk about dreams going up in smoke.
● Pretoria theatre lovers are in for a treat this weekend when local dramatist Stephanie van Niekerk stages her latest production, Nag Op ’n Kaal Plein (Night On A Deserted Square) tonight at 6pm and tomorrow at 3pm at the Brooklyn Theatre, Greenlyn Village.
An old schoolmate of mine, Van Niekerk runs the Method Acting Company in the city. The play is based on a poem written by her father, renowned Afrikaans author Dolf van Niekerk, about the memories of his youth which he spent in the Free State farming town of Edenburg.
The play brings alive a variety of characters in the town, and the square becomes a microcosm of the universe. I can’t wait to see it… and there won’t be a nuclear reactor in sight, or on the agenda.