2009-06-13 00:00

MY mother always used to say I was a bit dippy, like my father, which worried me a bit at the time since in the middle of each month she would Know the Truth, as Christian Scientists do, that the old man would suddenly start sending her more money at the end of that month, which Truth Should Make her Free, but then at the end of each month she would Know the Truth that the old bugger had departed this life and maybe left her all his goeters, which turned out in the event many years later to be no more than a bed and a hot plate and a wardrobe full of smelly clothing and a certain sum of invalid pound notes the old girl had secretly stashed behind the mirror half a century earlier. But I took her point in all fairness because, you know, I had started thinking filthy things about girls at the age of nine, started road running at thirteen, would suddenly disappear on a nice winter morning and reappear at the top of World’s View amongst the vleisbraaiers and people with binoculars. That sort of dippy thing.

Ja. Always there had loomed the menace of lifelong lockup in a lunatic asylum. Until, that is, one day at the top there amongst the merry braais I came upon a citizen by the name of Gizbert Bontebok from Kakop in South West Africa, a headmaster no less, who had resigned his post and set forth into the great unknown on a second-hand bicycle to carry to an uncaring world his Truth, a philosophy known as Metafruitarianism, which is to say in German das Postobstarianismus. And not only was he unlocked up in said asylum, he presently roamed the planet free as the proverbial bird, even unto World’s View, where he had unstrapped from his trusty vehicle certain collected sticks and a certain grille upon which he was now cooking a nasty dark brown porridge with biological-looking lumps. Thick, it wasn’t in a pot. He noted my amazed gaze. It will soon be ready, said Herr Bontebok, and you will be able to have some. He smiled. I smiled back, hypocritically. Hey thanks, man! I exclaimed, but e-e-er um, I’m a vegetarian you see. Then this will be of great delight to you, said he, and explained his ideology.

There is vegetarianism, you see, which disallows the eating of meat. Eggs and cheese and stuff are acceptable because uninformed people believe one needs such protein. Then there’s veganism, which disallows anything coming from any sentient being, you have to eat only vegetable matter, and a ton of nuts daily for protein. Then there’s fruitarianism, which means you can eat only fruit, and don’t throw the pips in the rubbish bin. Then there’s us, metafruitarians, and we believe you can eat only fruit that has fallen from the tree in a natural way. We are against abortion of any kind, you see. We are pro-life. But you can climb up the tree quite innocently and that would shake a few fruits loose, hey? say I. No, says he, that is self-deception, which we abhor. You must just wait.

Well I gave it much thought. Not the metathingummy, I mean just how dippy you can be outside the loony bin. And I was in that frame of mind when I met this auntie called Ariadne who was the missus of a professor of sociology in town but lived in a cottage right under the Drakensberg escarpment where she grew tomatoes with the utmost difficulty because of the frost, snow et cetera. Then why don’t you grow pumpkins or something robust, mealies perhaps? I asked. Because they don’t fall off the vine or stalk, she explained, as tomatoes do all year round. You shouldn’t grow tomatoes in a greenhouse, said she. They did a scientific experiment at the University of Milwaukee, you know, where certain tomatoes were wired up to an electroencephalograph and certain students with scissors came and cut certain fruit off the plant when it was ripe, and next time those students came into the room all the tomato plants gave off electric impulses, which were their way of screaming, whilst other students who hadn’t been in the massacre were always welcome and the tomatoes grew nice and juicy. So you eat only tomatoes? I asked. Well, yes, said she. And tea. From fallen leaves. No milk. No sugar. Well you seem nice and plump on such a staple diet, I observed. Naturally, she replied. I got laid twenty three times in one weekend by an electrician from Estcourt. But what about the pro-life bit? said I. You know, the pips? Well, in the afternoon I prepare an appropriate plot of ground, said she, then after sunset I go and defecate along the furrows so my tomato seeds have a good start in life with plenty of healthful organic nutriments, no chemical fertilisers.

Thus did I recognise my sanity when I was well into middle age. Thus do I owe Ariadne a debt of gratitude.

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