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Thoughts and Things

26 May 2014, 19:30

I think it quite remarkable that Indians (not whoo whoo whoo whoo Indians with bows and arrows and warpaint, but Indians from India) were first brought out to South Africa as slave labourers in the sugar cane fields. Indians? Slaves I can understand, but labourers?

What’s the bet that within six weeks one of them had a shop selling bunny chows to first the labourers (if that they could be called) and then the white overseers and finally the plantation owners.

‘I say, Singh, what the devil is goin’ on here? Harrumph!’

‘What kind! Sahib, I make good bunny chow an’ all: taste it, sir, it’s a mild one, just for you.’

Sir Blakeley-Smythwhyte harrumphs, then expostulates ‘Mild?! Damn your eyes for insolence man! I’m an Englishman, I don’t eat mild food. Give me the same as you’re givin’ those lazy blighters!’

After Sir Blakeley-Smythwhyte is revived, with a circle of dark brown faces looking anxiously down at him, he harrumphs rather a little more softly, then says, ‘Damn good stuff, that man! What do you call it?’

‘Bunny chow, sahib!’

‘Harrumph, well I’ll be on my way then,’ and makes his way back to the big house like a bongo player in a South American marching band. And the closer he gets, the faster he waddles, till he disappears out of sight.

Slaves? I think not!

And there was, of course, Adam Kok, the first slave freed in the Cape Colony and given four hundred Pounds into the bargain, which was a princely sum back then. So as not to further incense the sensibilities of one Du Toit Grobler, I am going to give a sanitised version on his reporting of the news to his once-fellow slaves.

‘I say, chaps, you’ll never believe what happened!’

They all look up at him expectantly. ‘My master just gave me my freedom and four hundred Pounds!’

‘He did?!’ says one in disbelief. ‘Why, the dirty blighter! His mother’s thing!’

‘I say, that’s not way to talk about our good master,’ objects Adam Kok.

‘Really? Well, your mother’s maid’s madam’s womb, that’s what I say, and you should make haste and crawl back in there!’

‘Well, I never! ’ says Adam Kok in disgust. ‘Your mother’s thing smells like old fish, so there!’

‘I say, I’ll slap you that the mucous bubbles out of your nose like a trouser cough!’

‘Fornicate off!’ says Adam Kok and stalks off to build his own house, swearing he’s never going to share his good fortune with one of those ungrateful slaves.

And so on and so forth, and all of it clean. I trust Du Toit Grobler approves of this: I’d hate for him to have to make little toy oxen out of the issue of his eating a box of Brooklax.

Now, continuing in this vein, many people ask me where I hail from, due to my accent (I didn’t know I had one!)and are surprised when I tell them I hail from the fair city of Cape Town. As a result I included it in my show, in the following way:

‘In case you’re wondering about my accent, it is, in fact…educated. Yes, yes, no need for applause, I just paid attention in class. I tried that once in Standerton and it went down quite well…but then one of them got it…and passed it around…things got quite ugly for a while. It didn’t affect me, of course, I was back in Joburg by that time.’

‘I was told they trashed the place! Bit hard to tell really…rubble is rubble. I imagine they moved it round a bit…sort of low-class Feng Shui.’

As you can imagine, I got less work than I would have liked, but I did get this one job that interested me. There was a wrestling extravaganza at the Rand Show and they asked me if I would be MC and, when I looked at their offer, I agreed.

I was booked into the President Hotel and, being from Cape Town, had no idea how it had deteriorated in the years since I had last seen it. I can tell you this, though: it was sixties bling and then some! I’ve never seen so many mirrors in my life! And then an idea struck me!

I had this pimple on my bottom, right between my cheeks and it hurt like hell when I walked and, with all these mirrors, I finally had the chance to squeeze it. So I dropped my trousers and bent over and guess what - you guessed. The one reflection got in the way of the other and I turned this way and that and finally saw it.

I put my fingers on it and began to squeeze when the lift doors opened. I don’t know who was more embarrassed; them or me, but I hurriedly dressed myself and went off to find my room.

Next day it was off to the Rand Show, which I discovered had moved to Nasrec. I was under the impression it was still at Milpark! Still, there I was, within spitting distance of Soweto, with a dressing room, if you can call it that, made of plywood.

There were actually three dressing rooms together, with plywood walls separating them. Very sophisticated. I also discovered Patricia Lewis was in the dressing room next to mine. What else I discovered was a fist-sized hole in the wall and I looked at it long and hard, then thought: ‘You’re a respectable married man, you should cover that.’

But then I thought, if she wants to look, let her! There are so few pleasures left in life.

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