Goes to show

2010-10-23 00:00

HULLO Cherry! said I to Cerise Thwaite whom I haven’t seen in forty years. I recognised you instantly, said I, you haven’t changed a bit. Which is a lie: Cerise is a flabby postmenopausal old sack with droopy yellow dewlaps and hollow grey eye-sockets and crowsfeet all over her temples and furrows all over her brow like a plowed prairie as seen from the air, whereas she used to be a pudgy premenopausal young sack with pink dewlaps and eyes like pingpong balls entirely filling their sockets and a nice tight skin. What about a cup of tea, then, hey? said I. Here at the Botanic Gardens Tea-house?

And that’s where we now sit. This is a municipal jungle with bits of Borneo, pieces of Patagonia, of north, south, east and west, it’s all here. Monkeys and hadedas hop about and steal sandwiches off the plastic table where sit certain German tourists who become entirely charmed and take photographs of them. On our plastic table we have a bowl of wholegrain health biscuits with a lid and tea in a pot. Nice urban jungle, I observe, to get conversation going. A sort of small wilderness, isn’t it? Bad move; Cerise slightly lifts her right upper lip to expose the canine tooth on that side and glances about her with the utmost disdain. Well they’d better get rid of that Umbrella Tree for a start, says she, it’s not only exotic, it’s invasive. It is listed noxious. Argument looms, but I never did know when to hold my tongue. Jaaaah, I suppose so, say I, though I’m a bit exotic myself, me faether was transplanted from Dundee Scotland, you know. You are just being obstructive for the sake of argument, says she. Well okay, say I, let’s have one, but she just falls silent and purposefully chomps healthful biscuits and thinks about the Integrity of Nature and how nobody’s going to violate it while she’s around. She’d lay down her life for it.

I nosh on a few biscuits myself, not so much for pleasure but to justify the silence, it’s rude to talk with your mouth full, see? Um-te-tum, I hum. I cast about for something innocent to say, to knit up the embarrassing hole in the conversation, and when I’m on about biscuit #6 aha! it occurs to me something about our childhood would be just the thing. I think I’ll stick some matches in an avo pip and put it on a glass full of water as we used to do as kids, remember. Wasn’t it fun? Another longish pause follows. What for? she says

Well it’s educational for my grandchildren to see the roots dangling down in the water and a little shoot grow up top with a little leaf or two. And then? says she. Well how great for the laaities to see a little newborn thing so full of expectation of life become a full-on strong and happy adult; I think I’ll plant it in the space behind our clothes lines. AAAUUUGH !! cries Cerise, and bloody nigh breaks her dentures on the latest biscuit. I don’t understand you, all you love is invasive foreign plants which destroy our green heritage! She swallows the biscuit almost whole and coughs a cloud of crumbs all over the table. I wipe them up with a paper serviette and things fall silent once again. Humm humm titumm, I hum. After a bit I say Nice plastic furniture, hey, it doesn’t rust or rot out of doors and see how easily we could wipe it down with a paper serviette. A good safe subject for calm conversation, that. Plastic is made from the fossil remains of ancient trees, says Cerise, the past is still part of Nature and one should show respect for all species past and present. Like the avo tree? say I. Why are you so quarrelsome? says she, I respect all species in their own habitats and the Avocado I respect in Mexico. Bloody hell, say I, it sounds a bit like old times, dunnit? Avocados are all right but they must know their place. Evou op sy plek, ’ksê.

Further silence. Tralalala. There must be some safe topic somewhere, in Heaven’s name. Aha! The strike! It’s in its tenth day and the city is more or less at a standstill, I’ll try that, it must be safe from the fanatical greeneries. What do you think of Cosatu? say I to Cerise. Well no, it’s no good, she replies. Mangosuthu Buthelezi tried to introduce it to his Zulu people but in their natural wisdom they wouldn’t even touch it. Are you sure? say I, it’s the first I’ve ever heard of it, I mean it’s not ol’ Gatsha’s usual shpiel, is it? Well it stands to reason, says she; our farmers are growing exotic rubbish and filling the soil with toxins and that’s why our rivers are all dirty brown. You must have fresh clean streams for soaking cosatu to leach all the deadly prussic acid out, see, so it’s fine for Zambia and those places where the bush is pristine and the streams all sparkly, but just think of the Umgeni river, how filthy.

That’s cassava you’re talking about f’chrissakes, say I. Manioc. It comes from South America. Well there you are, says Cerise, it just goes to show.

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