Sunday. New Year’s Day. The beast that was 2016 has finally been buried, but not before claiming my bra, Jo Naidoo, a couple of days before. Jo was a top man.
Jo’s death took away any interest I had in a New Year’s Eve party, so I’m in showroom condition as I lie on the couch pondering how to wrestle the remote from the Big Lahnee (that’s Mrs Harper to you) and the Small Lahnee (our 10-year-old son) for long enough to watch the Arsenal game later in the day and live to tell the tale.
By about 3pm, it’s clear that all I’m gonna be watching are the highlights. It is what it is. It’s also pig hot. The Durban air’s like treacle. The ceiling fan just nudges the humidity around the room. The Big Lahnee and the Small Lahnee are squabbling about whether to watch cartoons or paranormal investigators on TV.
The Big Lahnee’s winning the argument. The Small Lahnee’s almost in tears. There’s only one solution: the beach. The Small Lahnee’s eyes dry up. He sprints off to get his swimming costume and, 20 minutes later, we’re on North Beach.
The sand and the promenade are packed. So is pretty much every blade of grass and centimetre of concrete between OR Tambo Parade and the water. The Small Lahnee takes off like a rocket into the mass of humanity jumping up and down in the moshy surf.
The water banishes the day’s sweat in a millisecond. It’s beautiful. But it’s rough as hell. The lifesavers are blowing on their whistles like madmen, trying to keep the mass of swimmers in a place where they can stop them from drowning.
I head deeper and roll on to my back. I take a look towards the beach, hoping to see the Small Lahnee. There’s this massive ribbon of black and brown bodies of every conceivable hue bobbing up and down in the ocean as the waves roll in. There are screams of joy in what must be every official language and half a dozen continental ones every time a wave breaks. There are no wit ous. Their loss. F**k you, Penny Sparrow.
I head for the shore in search of the Small Lahnee. Instead, I run into Sipho Mabuse. “Hotstix” is barefoot in the sand at the water’s edge. The timer’s chilling with Durban activist Skiddo Naidoo. Skiddo’s my bra and, according to some, President Jacob Zuma’s eleventy-third son.
Hotstix is beaming. “This is beautiful, man,” he says.
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