Weekend Witness - - Opinion -

I STAND dis­creetly back from the ATM so folks won’t think I’m peep­ing at any­body’s PIN num­ber, when I get a sense of some­body peep­ing at me over my left shoul­der. I swing round; it is Cyn­thia in her gym gear. Aha Cyn­thia! I ex­claim. Yes I thought it was you, says she, from the singing. Oh was I? say I, well it was pretty quiet singing, wasn’t it? Oh yes, says she, I was try­ing to catch the melody. She smiles, pret­tily. You are the only per­son I know who sings in pub­lic, she says. I give this some cu­ri­ous thought. She may be right. Never mind the birds in the street, even the Zu­lus have stopped singing. They used to have a nerve con­nect­ing feet to vo­cal chords, a trig­ger­ing mech­a­nism: start walking, start singing, re­flex­ively. If you had a gui­tar, the re­flex was even quicker. But the small repet­i­tive tune and the quiet per­sonal lit­tle song on a fine walk of a fine quiet day have gone. Sub-woofer low-res­o­nance gadoomp elec­tron­i­cal taxi muzak has made his­tory of all that. For­ever. Sub-woofer has be­come chew­ing gum for the ears. Staff at the Steve Biko cam­pus tell me they have stu­dents who can’t write an exam with­out it, they can’t think with­out head­phones thump­ing at the brain.

Fine spring morn­ing, I ob­serve, that’s why I’m singing. Cyn­thia has to go and look out the win­dow to see such a fine spring thing though she’s just come in. Do your ATM busi­ness and join me on a walk to the bot gar­dens, with maybe a small song bust­ing out en route, say I. Oh nonono! she ex­claims in a mo­ral sort of way, I have to go to the gym. Any bird­song at the gym? say I. Oh no, we have heavy bass rhythm on head­phones to help with the ex­er­cis­ing, says she. Sub-woofer? say I. Well I sup­pose you could call it that, she says with some re­serve, this sound­ing rather low-class. Then a bit de­fen­sively: Well what mu­sic do you like then? Sheep may safely graze, say I. Harharhar! she guf­faws, you can’t have a song called that! I do have a song called that, say I, and I’m about to sing it when I get out­side. Who made it up? says she, straight­en­ing her mouth with some ef­fort. A bloke called Jo­hann Se­bas­tian Almighty Bach, say I. Go on! says Cyn­thia, that’s church mu­sic, man! I also sing syn­a­gogue mu­sic and the Devil’s mu­sic, say I, and Arab jazz; would you like some? I hate jazz, says Cyn­thia. You and Hitler both, say I, he called it Jewish Bol­she­vist Ne­gro Schrag­musik. You’re bloody mad, says Cyn­thia. Yes, say I, but I’m happy and I’m off to the Bud­dha’s great out­door gym where the birds sing.

Well I re­alise on ar­rival at the bot gar­dens I’m a bit late for the avian schrag­musik, the avises are all away hunt­ing gog­gas and things at this time of day. But it scarce mat­ters, for as I pass the dainty lit­tle char­ity out­door café there, a wave of curry-vapour wafts out, not the sort you can ac­tu­ally eat, know what I mean, it’s what the Brits made be­fore the Indi- an in­va­sion of their is­land home: stew with 2 tblsp­n­fls of gun­pow­der plus 2 of some­thing called cur­ry­pow­der, and you con­sume this with chut­ney and raisins and grated co­conut and sliced bananas for fux-

ache. This vapour-wave trig­gers a neu­ral sig­nal from nos­tril to foot telling my body to ro­tate through 180˚ and de­part smar­tish, and I find my­self im­pelled to­wards the In­dian Mar­ket as the hum­ming- bird is im­pelled from Canada to Mex­ico when its gene switches tell it a cer­tain species of flow­er­ing creeper is mak­ing the right sort of am­brosia down there.

I know, I just know, some­thing tells me Ma Gov is seething up a new caul­dron of mut­ton nosh at Mrs Goven­der’s Heav­enly Home of Cur­ries. Bak­ing her spe­cial half-loaf bun­ny­chow-shape bread, not your usual su­per­mar­ket fluffy stuff which in­stantly soaks up all and any gravy and goes all damp and squashy like an old bath towel. Farewell hadedas ham­mer­ing their beaks into the lawn, farewell odor­if­er­ous or­chid house, farewell bot gar­dens, I’m off to Vic­to­ria Street and my Heav­enly Home!

Aah Ma Gov! I cry, I sniffed your mut­ton curry from afar and I want a bunny chow please. Whole­wheat or yeast­free? says she. Yes, yes, yeast­free! say I, and some nice sam­bals on top, of your own ex­pert rec­om­men­da­tion. I tell you, dear read­ers, such a five-star bunny you should or­der at the Royal Ho­tel. Moun­chant du Lapin de­liv­ered by a waiter with white gloves.

I fid­get around ex­pec­tantly and con­tinue my small song as she la­dles the de­lights into the open half-loaf and deftly wraps it in a sheet of newsprint. There you are, she says. And what you singing, you? Oh, say I, a small song from long ago called Sheep May Safely Graze. Hm­mmm? says she and shakes her head against the gen­eral din of the In­dian Mar­ket. What? Sheep May Safely Graze, say I, she rolls her eyes and opens her mouth thought­fully be­fore speak­ing. Very safe or­ganic kind lamb, that lamb, says Ma Gov. No GM grass on that farm. No chem­i­cals. Sheeps safely graze that side.

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