I caught sight of the new moon on Thursday and it was a thing of such fragile beauty that I instinctively began celebrating with a bottle of cheap rum and the cheeseburger I keep hidden at the back of the fridge for emergencies.
It has been so long since Brenda cooked for me that it felt like I was coming out of a marathon fast. Spraying bits of dead animal and Red Heart across the dining room table, I tried to explain the poetry of the moment to the old cow. But would she listen? Of course not.
Instead, she pretended to leave the room and then snuck back in and whacked me three, maybe four, times over the head with a frozen bratwurst, the whole time threatening me with legal action should I even think of converting to Islam.
The day before the bratwurst incident was the day of the eclipse. Brenda tried to get me to watch it through the binoculars, but I had read that teabags worked even better. However, the experts never said anything about the bag leaking into your tear ducts so that one side of your face is left permanently stained from the tannin weeping from one eye.
I gave up on the bags and tried opening and closing my eyes at one thousandth of a second. Brenda came outside and saw me lying spread-eagled and motionless on the lawn. She thought I had passed out, not realising that I was witnessing this spectacular event by using my ravaged retinas like a cheap second-hand Pentax from Cash Converters. Although I couldn’t see anything, I heard the weed-eater start up and was able to move out of Brenda’s path of totality just in time.
I was a little disillusioned, to be honest. The only good that ever came of an eclipse was in 1974 when Tintin’s life was saved after he accidentally entered the Temple of the Sun and was about to be burnt at the stake when (using inside information) he appeared to make the sun “hide its face” and completely blew away the high priest who was left with no alternative but to pardon the boy reporter on the grounds that he was clearly well connected. I suppose you had to be there.
Personally, I found the new moon far more memorable than the eclipse. But since Brenda had so brutally disabused me of the notion that I could celebrate the event with a bucket of fried chicken, a jug of high-octane punch and seven vestal virgins, I was left with no alternative but to turn to that tired old tart, Christianity.
It’s a damn shame that pilgrims were given such a bad name by those extremists who boarded the Mayflower and sat with lips pursed and legs closed all the way from England to Massachusetts, where they set in motion a process that would ultimately lead to the rape of Pocahontas, the birth of George Bush and many other atrocities.
But should I ever be press-ganged into a mainstream religion and forced to go on a pilgrimage beyond Brian’s Late-Nite Tavern in Sea Point, I would choose to go to Saudi Arabia. Buses don’t spontaneously combust in Mecca. The humidity is acceptable and nobody tries to sell you a second-hand gas mask. But the Christians? They have to go to Jerusalem. Trust me, it is no longer the place that it was in the time of Brian.
These days I consider myself to be half-Muslim and half-Catholic. The top half is Muslim. Confession gives Catholics a lot of leeway with the bottom half. The trick is to keep the mind pure while allowing the body to do what it does best.
Actually, the worst part of being Christian, apart from having to sit in a joyless church on a fine Sunday morning while the heathens take all the parking at Llandudno, is having to go to a shopping mall to buy Christmas presents.
The only way to survive this horror is to arm yourself with a Tazer capable of pumping six thousand volts into anyone who gets in your way. Don’t be afraid to use it. In years to come, historians will talk about the Battle of the Waterfront in the same hushed tones that they use when they talk about My Lai.
I am rather keen on another quaint Christian tradition around this time of year. This entails going into one of the many nature reserves around the peninsular and hacking down a Christmas tree. I have found that protected species tend to last longer.
The best part is what the Americans call “dressing the tree”. But don’t try putting a puffy pink skirt on it and taking it to a club. Not even Cape Town is ready for this.
Decorating the tree with sparkly things is a rite of passage for all men. Wives immediately think they are on safe ground and go off to baste the turkey, blissfully unaware that the guiding principle is one bauble, one beer. By the time the tree is garnished with tinsel and plastic snowmen, you should be struggling to stand. This is a condition easily passed off as vertigo.
If you are a Type A personality, you can quite plausibly excuse yourself and go and lie down.
If you are a Type B personality, you are more likely to say that you’re going for a walk to clear your head and then cut through the park, take a taxi to the harbour and spend the rest of the night sucking on an opium pipe while a Korean immigrant rubs baby oil into your thighs.
Then there’s the Type C personality …
10 December 2002