2010-02-13 00:00

I STAND pondering a forestation problem in our wee front garden. Next door the municipality owns an even wee-er patch of property with an electricity sub-station on it, and there they have allowed an enormous syringa tree to grow, which so overshadows a corner on our side of the fence that nothing will survive here. No grass, no flowers. Maybe I’ll get an indigenous deep-shade tree, that thing called a Forest Toad, with small white blooms. One is supposed to hate syringas as exotic invaders, but I don’t, nor do I hate the exotic Bougainvillea, which hangs like a great purple blanket over this one. I think this is what’s known as a blaze of colour.

And suddenly as I do this pondering a voice from the street exclaims Ooo what a lovely tree! and there other side the anti-crime spear-topped palisade stands a widely grinning old bird who is an exact replica of my late lamentable mother-in-law. It gives me quite a start, I tell you.

We talk about deep-shade plants and stuff and I realise she is a happy gardener. Gardening is the great tranquilliser, it makes for gentle pleasure about the whole world, flora, fauna, rocks, big trees, small caterpillars, butterflies, people, everything.

Do you have Angolans living in your flats here? she asks. Hell, I don’t know, say I, but why do you ask? Because I see a used earbud on your grass there, says she; Angolans go about cleaning their ears and they think they can chuck their dirty earbuds wherever they please. I go to pick this one up. Sis! she cries, don’t touch it, you don’t know what you’ll catch! Dig a hole with your trowel there and push it in. So I give this thing a decent Christian burial where it lies. How’s that? say I. The country is falling apart says she in a moaning sort of voice. There’s no rule of law. But if the Angolan is living here it isn’t unlawful for him or her to chuck his or her expended earbuds in his or her own garden, say I, just untidy that’s all. And I don’t think you’d find a policeman anywhere in the world who’d arrest somebody for chucking earbuds over other folks’ fences.

She sneers gruesomely. And what about our lovely president’s sexual behaviour, hey? says she. O animal! animal! say I. And he dresses in those animal skins in Zulu places and does Zulu dances and kicks up his legs, says she, and you can’t even be sure he wears underpants. We should get a nice handsome president like John F Kennedy, say I, who was nice and slender and wore underpants and once said, well privately of course, that he felt unfulfilled if he didn’t have a woman every day, and he didn’t mean his missus every day and he didn’t mean the same other woman every day, he meant a brand new one every day whom he hadn’t ever done before. And I don’t mean any old ugly one he hadn’t done before, lordy no, there was a sort of quality control, starting with the quality of Marilyn Monroe.

That same M M who became inexplicably dead, and there are some who say she was becoming inconveniently emotional and refused to go for removal of any part of her insides, thanks.

Earlier on Papa Kennedy, who was on Hitler’s side in the war, you will remember, he and his three jolly sons had decided one day they’d had enough of the sister’s emotional condition, and they’d taken her off as one might take off one’s female cat to the vet for spaying, took her off I say to get a hole drilled in her forehead and the prefrontal lobe cut out of her brain so she became an instant pampoen and never had another emotion again in her remaining life. This JFK view of gender is okay in the US of A, you understand, because they have rule of law there. Capisco?

Well I can’t stand it, they’re so noisy and vulgar, says the lady who looks like my ma-in-law. It’s the old “they” she’s talking about. Ja, say I, they are sort of uninhibited, hey, like Italians. I don’t care about Italians, says she, my husband and I are cutting loose, selling up, we’re going far, far away to some decent peaceful place. You could try Orania, say I, no theys there. The hotel has a sign up saying All White People are Welcome. By law they can’t say unwhite people aren’t welcome, because this alas is still part of SA, though they see themselves as a dinky little republic where anyone selling property to an unwhite person would be deep-frozen out of town. Why is it called Orania? she asks. Because that old name applied to Holland, and these are the descendants of Dutch settlers. As in the Orange Free State. You mean these are AFRIKAANS people? she exclaims. Yes of course, say I, I’m sure you can speak it. Ooo, says she, I don’t like Afrikaners!

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