Tin­kle tin­kle

With Harold Stra­chan

Weekend Witness - - Opinion - LIFE

SO young Lu­dovic takes his sab­bat­i­cal in Lon­don and moves into my block of flats on the Durbs Berea so he can get a first­hand view of our de­vel­op­ing democ­racy. Nice young bloke, ir­rev­er­ent. None of that dread­ful dreamy bunkum that went with African lib­er­a­tion in the 20th cen­tury, none of the mind­less Marx­ist blather of yes­ter­year, yet dis­dain­ful of the high pri­ests of glob­alised cap­i­tal and their cocky as­ser­tion that so­cial­ism is dead.

But hang on! Why should I call him young? He must be well into his six­ties. Be­cause he comes from the Punk gen­er­a­tion of Lon­don kids, that’s why, and the habit of de­fy­ing stuffy re­spectabil­ity has stayed with him. He still has holes in his ear­lobes where in the days of green Apache hair­dos he used to have great big nappy­sized safety pins. Presently he wears a mod­est pi­rat­i­cal gold ear­ring in good taste. And he still af­fec­tion­ately wears a frayed black leather weskit.

Strange thing about the Punk Gen­er­a­tion; they didn’t come from the Bri­tish work­ing class, they didn’t cul­ti­vate that du­bi­ous prole im­age of other groups, they came from com­fort­able fam­i­lies, and in­so­far as in­di­vid­u­als were po­lit­i­cal, they were so­cial­ist with­out a whole lot of sanc­ti­mo­nious bag­gage. They just wanted the poor strug­gling sods of this Earth cared for, so we Punks could get along with our dis­obe­di­ent lives with­out a load of guilt. And lo! they ex­pected their par­ents to cough up the cash for the car­ing. The cul­tured part of what you might call Lon­don So­cial­ism, this.

Now at this point, a cer­tain Cilia, whom I haven’t seen since old var­sity days, she phones me out of the blue for some sen­ti­men­tal rea­son I can’t imag­ine. Pretty, back then, I re­mem­ber, she would spend much time at her look­ing­glass. This is one of my pretty days, she would mur­mur. Her lover was Rod­ney, ma­jor­ing in English lit­er­a­ture, and he had a speech im­ped­i­ment, had Rod­ney; he couldn’t talk, he could only elo­cute while drag­ging on a Ben­son & Hedges Gold fag, and never was seen to no­tice peo­ple look­ing at their wrist watches. C and R were known at var­sity as Lace Knicks and Old Arse.

Now Cilia tells me I sim­ply must come to lun­cheon at her su­gar farm. A longish si­lence fol­lows, I’m a city lad, I don’t know how to watch su­gar cane grow­ing. How’s ole Rod­ney? say I, to shift the fo­cus of this con­ver­sa­tion a bit. The dear soul de­parted this life re­cently with the help of Messrs B and H, says Cilia, and I go deathly cold at an in­tu­ition: maybe she has me in her sights for a fi­nal fling. Aa­h um­m, say I ... But wait! there hap­pens to be Ludo. Chap­er­one. Can I bring a friend? say I. Your girl friend? says Cilia. No, say I, a most in­tel­li­gent fel­low from Lon­don who’s study­ing mod­ern so­ci­ol­ogy in our new South Africa. But of cauhse! says she with her most pol­ished Tory pro­nun­ci­a­tion. So Ludo and I sally forth in my stink dirty Veedubs beach buggy and me­an­der mind­lessly mongst the change­less cane fields of colo­nial Natal like Liv­ing­stone in search of the source of the Nile. We are as like to find the Dur­ban City Hall in this jun­gle as Cilia’s house, but there it is, fi­nally, nes­tled in a lit­tle hol­low full of the de­light­ful wafts of Sun­day Lunch, Natal style. Apolo­gies. Neveh to wur­reh, says Cilia, the lun­cheon is in the ahven.

We set­tle down com­pan­ion­ably. White starched ta­ble cloth. Starched servi­ettes — oops, ta­ble nap­kins — in sil­ver rings. Flow­ers. Nice. A ceil­ing fan gen­tly wafts down upon us. Cilia tin­kle tin­kles on a lit­tle glass bell and a re­spect­fully dou­bled­up small­ish Zulu lady creeps in with a whole lot of dindins on a tray. Ludo rises re­spect­fully and holds out a hand. Will you in­tro­duce us? says he. Luck­ily, the Zulu lady has just put down the tray, she leaps back with a small squeak as if he’s go­ing to get hold of her throat or some­thing. That was Justina, says Cilia, as the Zulu lady dis­ap­pears back­wards into the kitchen. The Zu­lus are a very proud peo­ple, you must be­ware of con­de­scen­sion. Says Cilia.

Justi­i­i­ina! she trills in a gen­teel sort of way. Let­ter low pump­kin yearner cor­ner pa­garty low pot larper low back plate gu low stove, s’il vous plait! and Justina takes the pump­kin long way round the ta­ble this time, walk­ing side­ways, eye­ing Ludo. But it’s a great old trad Sun­day noshup, for sure. Nice wine, too. Ludo gets up to stack the dishes and help with the wash­ing up. Ludo! Cilia ex­claims, I told you, th­ese are proud peo­ple, you must al­low them their dig­nity. Yeah, but doesn’t she want Sun­day af­ter­noon off? Yes, and it will come, says Cilia, but she has her prin­ci­ples, you know.

Well we made de­par­ture with the ut­most eti­quette, also friend­ship, smil­ing. Nice old duck, said Ludo as we hit the cane again, lovely grub. Chris­sakes, said he, but doesn’t she know 94 has hap­pened? Try 1910, said I. No, make that 1880. You know, Crown Colony.

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