Moments out of time

2018-10-02 13:09


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“We can’t not go,” said my wife.

This I knew. Invitations to the wedding had gone out at the beginning of the year and together with Ma’s birthday, it had a big DO NOT FORGET tattooed on my conscience.

I was just trying to organise the day to see if I could get to gym, go to the Rosetta craft beer festival and watch the Springbok game as well as do wedding duty. Time management. Perfect weekend.

“So what time do we need to be there?” If I knew that, then I could work backwards. Most places in the world when you’re trying to calculate the duration of a trip you ask how far and you get told kilometres and you can work out your own time. Here, you ask “how far?” and people tell you time. The wedding was beyond Ladysmith so I knew two hours on the road. I didn’t know how many kilometres and the venue wasn’t on the map so Google would have been no use.

“The church service starts at 10, but you know it will carry on all day.”

So I think maybe we can leave at 10.


We agree to be punctual, so in the car before eight. No gym then, but on track for beer and rugby after we’ve shown our faces.

8.45 am I start the engine. “Don’t forget we have to pick up a hay bale on the way,” says my wife. Time is proving to be unruly, and in my head I give up on the church service.

Remind me again who the groom is, I ask. “He’s Gogo’s first husband’s last-born”. We’ve never met him. And the bride? “She’s a Khubeka. We don’t know them.”

Okay then.

Spring’s a good time to get married, I think as we drive, watching newborn calves wobbling in the fields and lambs skip about in their haywire way.

Time eases its grip. I’ve forgotten my phone, and that helps. We get a call. It’s MaZimu. Pick me up in Ladysmith, she says. Time escapes its bounds. I can’t keep it anymore. We take a detour.

We stop in at Gogo’s to say hello and drop off avos and oranges from the garden. Today’s festivities are at the Makhoti household and Gogo’s too infirm to travel. We sit in the lounge and I look up to check how late we’re running. I can see three clocks. The first says 8.30 so I know it’s wrong. The one on the facing wall says 2.25 so I know it’s got ahead of itself. The one through the kitchen says 12.40, closer but no prize. If I were OCD I’d be coming apart about now, dismembered bits scattered across infinite time zones.

What would those clocks be measuring though? All around preparations are being made for tomorrow’s round of festivities. The marquee’s being pitched, the women effortlessly slice up a mountain of vegetables. The old men sit on their bench and nod and drink in somnolent silence. The dogs sleep. The children squeal. Things happen. The clocks are a bauble as life goes on.

We head off again. A dust cloud which is the wedding cavalcade passes in the opposite direction, to have pictures shot. We phone to see if we must follow. No, carry on.

We arrive. No one remarks on our lateness. Of course they don’t. We’re here and that’s what matters. The cars are from all over: GP, ND — as the MC says later, “serious places”. The world’s come together here, swallowed up in the singing, preening, gossiping and minute recalibration of who’s moved up a notch and who’s slid down the social order. Avowals of kinship are asserted by being here, even as the bridal couple take their vows. Measurements are clocked not in minutes and hours but by hearts in conversation. Young women tell the newlyweds that a woman’s needs have to be met as much as a man’s, and cracks in a marriage start in the bedroom. Bold new words for new times among old families. There will be arguments tonight among the old folk, and others besides.

Eventually the gargantuan cooking pots are empty and stomachs full and it’s time to go, spirits high, but ears ringing from the infernal subwoofers.

Back on the road again the vengeful hunt of time resumes. It’s dusk. Tail­gaters claw as close as they can, stealing seconds and maybe a life on a journey who knows how long. Speedsters loom out of nowhere, flash across barrier lines, before ducking back across death’s path. The race against the clock is back on.

The gloom gathers. The game must have ended by now. Who won, I wonder. Will the beer still be flowing? It doesn’t really matter.

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