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Only in South Africa

02 November 2012, 09:01

One of the things you notice when returning to South Africa from wherever it is you’ve been, is how generally friendly South Africans are. The ANC is doing their level best to ruin it, of course, but there remains a level of goodwill in this country, which I think is matched by very few other countries.

In the early nineties, we thought very seriously about emigrating, then stopped thinking about it and decided to put our heads down and work. Sometimes I think we made the wrong decision, other times I know it!

Nevertheless, jokes aside (that was one), I think we made the right decision. We don’t have servants and do our own housework, so that’s not the reason. The reason is the people. I’ll start with this forum.

As much cut and thrust as there is on this forum, with the atheists and the Christians giving as good as they get, it’s very seldom ill-tempered or vindictive. I can’t say that about YahooTalk (if that’s the name, I’m not quite sure). They are na-a-a-asty!

And then, of course, there’s the weather, which is no small thing, except in Bergie’s part of the world. The rest of the country, however, generally follows the second part of my little weather report of the other day. The Cape, the first.

In the eighties, before I went into business for myself, I was working in Eloff Street Extension, and over the road was a huddle of shops that cater largely for the poor (read black) people. They were mostly owned by Indians and they sold things like single cigarettes and so on.

One of the machine assistants came back from the shops hysterical with laughter, and when we asked him what was so funny, he started to laugh again. Eventually, he calmed down and, between giggles, told us what had happened.

He went into the shop to buy milk, and a stoutly built black lady was remonstrating with the owner of the shop, an Indian, about the differing size of the eggs he’d sold her. Why, she was asking, were they different-sized, but he was charging the same price for them?

‘Hoener se poephol are not alla same!’ he shouted back at her. ‘Some hoender got a big aah, some hoender got a small aah: how I can charge you different price?’

Which may not be as funny in script as it was when we heard it, but it set us up for weeks to follow. We laughed hysterically at the time, but a favourite phrase became, ‘Hoender se poephol are not alla same!’

Thirty years later it’s still a family staple.

This same guy, Jerry, came to me one day and asked, ‘Tyrene, can birds fly?

‘Of course,’ I said, and he started laughing.

‘No, man, not buurds, beds!’ Which I found funny, and still do. But that’s just me, and it may be because I have a poorly developed sense of humour. Although if certain reports are to be believed, it’s the atheists who have a problem with humour.

Of course, in that fairest Cape in all the circumference of the world, we get the very best tales, as I believe the Cape Coloureds to be some of the wittiest people in the world. Just walking past the flower sellers in Adderley Street can get me rolling in the aisles (metaphorically speaking). Spoken through flappy gums of course, you can picture the scene, I hope. ‘Sê vi’ my my flowers is artificial, djou moer!’

This one is going back years, the seventies in fact, and I was on my way to the station to catch my train home, and there was a blind guy who used to play his guitar, sitting on a battery-powered amp, with a tin next to him, when this smart-ass coloured guy walks past him. ‘Djy speel kak!’

And this beautiful Malay girl, also in Cape Town, St. George’s Street this time, walking past these two skollies. ‘Hey skattie!’ Kissy noises. ‘Hey skattie?’ More kissy noises.

She turns on them, ‘Fokof djy, ek is ? lady, ek!’

This one from Solly Philander, whether or not it’s true, I don’t know. A Malay girl again, and this skollie going, ‘Psst! Psst!’

She says to him, ‘What’s a marrer, your face gorra puncture?!’

Whether it’s true or not, it’s typical, and highlights the wonderful humour these people possess, and it’s mostly the poor. I remember waking up on New Year s Day to the most wonderful cacophony outside on the pavement. I was seven and we’d just moved back to Cape Town and I was miserable; all my friends were in Joburg.

I opened my window and there were these garishly dressed Coons, with banjos, saxophones and clarinets, singing songs like:

‘Hitler ry sy motorbike

Sy ballas swaai van lef to right

Of course dja,

Djy wiet of course dja ...’

The rest is lost in the mists of time, but it was filthy for a seven year old, and had me in hysterics. I had no idea then who Hitler was, but it didn’t matter. It made my day!

Many years later, my brother-in-law went down to Cape Town for the first time, and he was staying with my other brother-in-law in Simonstown. Now if you’re not from Cape Town and have never been there before, you don’t know that the road seems to end at Muizenberg and, only once you get to Muizenberg do you see road signs for Simonstown.

So he got badly lost and landed up in the heart of Kenilworth. Eventually, he saw this coloured guy sitting on the pavement and rolled down his window (he was from Joburg, so he just pushed a button).

‘Hey!’ he called, and this guy looked up. ‘Hey!’

The guy got up and sauntered across the road. ‘Praat djy met my?’

‘Ja, ek soek vir Simonstown.’

‘Simonstown? Nei, djy’s oppie vekiere pad.’ He half-turned and pointed. ‘Djy vat hierie pad nê, en hy vat so links, verstaan jy my?’

My brother-in-law nodded. ‘Lekker. Dan kry djy a fork innie pad, nê?’ Again my brother-in-law nodded. ‘Dan fork djy off, want ek nie djou hey nie!’

My brother-in-law eventually made his way to Simonstown, but that story lives on in the constant retellings.

Why have I written this piece of fluff today? Because I’m tired, so tired, in fact sick to death of this arrogant bunch of kleptomaniacs that call themselves government, and I needed to do something to remind myself why I, and so many other people, still have hope for this dear, benighted land of ours.

And the people of this country, even when they do the unthinkable and put their cross next to the ANC (maybe they think it’s like school, and a cross is for a wrong answer), are largely decent, struggling people, who somehow manage to retain their sense of humour and goodwill.

So, instead of a good old, justified, moan, I give you this, and hope it at least brightens up your day. Even if just a little.

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