Meandering in the midlands

2011-02-08 00:00

ADMIRING the lush green vegetation of the KwaZulu-Natal midlands and thinking how amazing it would be to move here from the concrete jungle, and actually taking the plunge to live here, are two different things.

My ex-husband was a midlands boy but I met him in Johannesburg. Then, to the naked eye, he seemed normal, but that was after a few years of city living and debriefing. Therefore I was little prepared for my immersion in semi-rural life.

People in the midlands are totally loveable but also quite strange. They like to exercise in inclement weather. Driving in heavy mist with my lights on, I never fail to see a few joggers bobbing through the mist — some even look cheerful.

People in the midlands have an obsession with sport, of all varieties, but mostly sports to do with water, I have observed. Mention getting dirty in filthy water where the risk of catching some awful disease is huge, and you will have hundreds of them signing up for it. I am just casually observing the numbers who go nuts for the Midmar Mile and the Dusi. This is not for me.

I notice the fashions are quite different too. Although I am certainly no ramp model, I notice that midlands people dress for comfort and they really like to stick to conservative colours. No flashy bling or neon colours, no exotic prints. It’s quite strange because I see the shops have some cool clothes, but if you are over 30, your fashion days are over. Plain colours on top and bottom, and if there are stripes we are really being daring.

I shall, after a few months, have to get a tan in order to fit in. In Johannesburg, a “tan in a bottle” is the thing because the risk of skin cancer is worse than death or a warning from your plastic surgeon — dahling. Here, people of all shapes and sizes have tans from the sun — that is when the mist is not drenching them.

In Howick, there are lots of old people. In Johannesburg, we have to watch out for speeding taxis, gangsters speeding off with stolen cars, or madmen who might kill us due to roadblocks and road rage. In Howick, I was warned to watch out for the old ducks who stop dead in the road because they have forgotten where they are. It also happens in supermarket aisles, beware.

I notice that in the midlands people actually have their names on their houses.

In Johannesburg, we don’t even have our names in the phone book in case someone tries to con us, rob us or steal the sign.

In Johannesburg, people smile at the latest catastrophe, it’s a coping mechanism. People in the midlands smile because they can. I went to buy some sewing paraphernalia and a lovely woman lent me some magazines … for free. In Johannesburg, to look at the magazine would cost you. I immediately felt out of my depth — would I get a fine if I did not return them?

Midlands people have real mud on their number plates and windscreens. In Johannesburg, people have been known to smear mud on their 4x4 vehicle’s number plates to stop the speed cameras from recording their number.

I’m interested in knowing the ratio of men to women here, and if there are any civilised men available or if they have all fled to Johannesburg. Midlands men seem to be of that old macho variety who think that women are handbrakes and deodorant is for moffies. I had a friend who had her wedding reception broken up because it clashed with a rugby final — the men deserted en masse to a bar.

I may be unkind — perhaps the sales of deodorants have taken off. I dare not mention the fashion sense — if there is one. Shorts, socks and boots — oh, and of course … drum roll — the golf shirt. Farmers are excluded, they don’t need to dress up, I guess. Even the Indians in Johannesburg have gone to town trying to mimic Bollywood but I have seen no evidence of that here.

One oke pitched up for the introductory school parents meeting barefoot. In Jo'burg, he would have been scandal fodder for weeks. But hey, it’s the midlands and as one friend said: “We are allowed to be a bit mad in the midlands.”

So, in my own way, I guess I will fit right in.

•Trish Beaver is a freelance journalist who has relocated from Johannesburg to the

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