Observations of a semigrant

2011-05-24 00:00

HAVING moved to the midlands from Johannesburg, there are many positive aspects to this relocation. Clean air, less traffic congestion and a slower pace of life. I have realised that the South African phrase “just now” must have originated in the midlands.

That indeterminate amount of time that has no actual timeframe applies to all service industries in the midlands. Work that would have been undertaken at a frenetic pace in Gauteng, is undertaken with no great hurry. If you get irritated at the amount of time a job takes, you are given that look that speaks volumes and it says: “This person is obviously from Jo’burg.”

I have also come to believe that lovely scenic Howick is actually the Bermuda Triangle of the province. Since I have moved, every electrical appliance has packed up. TV, microwave, cellphone, computer, washing machine and car have all gone on the blink — I was beginning to examine the skies for signs of alien spaceships.

But a colleague scoffed at my supernatural imaginings: “Oh yes,” she said, “it’s the power surges — the electrical power surges cause the appliances to go haywire. At least you have power, in Hilton we count the outages.”

So, I have met many handymen and repair people of all descriptions, and they are all very pleasant and charming. People are very polite in the midlands, and I was deeply amused to hear two colleagues discussing the issue of how to tell a nosey, interfering person to butt out of their business. In Johannesburg this issue would have been speedily resolved with two words. The first begins with “F”.

Yes, in Johannesburg we swear . I am afraid we (generalisation) have a bad tendency to swear a lot.

In fact, since I have relocated I am losing my seedy vocabulary. I might be rehabilitated to acceptable levels once again. But when it comes to cellphone coverage in Howick I am tempted to curse again.

Apparently, there are about five national cellular phone providers and none offers coverage of the greater Howick area. So, if you use a 3G Internet connection you have to move from one hot spot to another. There are very few Telkom ADSL ports in Howick and they often don’t work.

Keeping in touch with Jo’burg friends has become problematic. They imagine I’m out milking cows at dawn or chopping firewood. They wouldn’t believe that a faulty ADSL line has made me incommunicado. They would have spoken to the regional Telkom manager and called in Carte Blanche. In the midlands we just smile and pray. There are a lot of churches for these crises.

If Barack Obama were trying to win Internet votes in Howick he would have to do a door-to-door campaign. Internet is a little problematic. Please observe that I am using the midlands form of tact and diplomacy instead of shrieking like a shrew.

People here are not obsessed with money and they are not out to rob you blind. They believe in earning an honest living, and shylocks and crooks are soon chased away by word of mouth. While fashion leaves a lot to be desired — people are comfortable in their own skins. Bling is frowned upon and comfort rules.

I can see my make-up budget will be halved and I may have to invest in a pair of Wellington boots to deal with the mud that creeps up from nowhere.

People here don’t need a fake mask or a fancy wardrobe to be who they are. In Johannesburg fresh ideas are the currency of the day and everything happens fast and frenetically. But in the midlands, ideas need time to percolate and sometimes it is these ideas that stand the test of time.

I think there are more eccentrics here and they thrive in the climate. In case I start showing symptoms I shall observe myself in the mirror at full moon.

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