People who migrate to foreign climes to avoid winter in their home country are known as swallows. I am more of an eagle than a swallow. I don’t migrate so much as swoop in and take occupation. Like Hitler, without the moustache, uniform, harsh guttural tongue and hatred for Jews and gypsies. Nothing like Hitler, then. It was the eagle image that set me off. Perhaps I should have a tequila to calm down.
My plan to decamp from Durban to Cape Town for the summer has nothing to do with wanting to spend time in a city with clean streets, enforced bylaws and an almost complete absence of Indians and Zulus. That would be Eurocentric and racist and an almost certain career killer. Not that you can call this a career.
One of the reasons I’m heading south is because right outside my bedroom window a pair of hadedas have set up whatever it is these antichrists of the avian world live in. All hadedas get up early, probably because they stop drinking at a reasonable hour, but then, after waking everyone within an 800m radius, they generally take off and head for the wealthier suburbs to stab children in the eyes and suck their brains out. That’s where hadedas get their power from. So if one of your children is acting stupider than usual, you should know that a hadeda has got to him. They prefer boy children because girls’ brains tend to be on the acerbic side.
My hadedas are different. They start shouting at first light, sometimes earlier if one of them has had a bad dream. First light in Durban is ridiculously early. Like 4.45am. I can’t be sure because I keep throwing the alarm clock into the tree. Not the same clock, obviously. I live in a security complex with a body corporate trained by the Gestapo and I can’t afford to be found on my hands and knees beneath the mango tree in a pre-dawn raid by (name omitted).
“Who are you? Hande hoch!”
“Don’t shoot! I’m looking for my alarm clock.”
So I buy a new alarm clock each time. It’s costing me a fortune. I should probably throw something else. Fragmentation grenades would be ideal.
Unlike most hadedas, mine don’t fly off after first cry. In fact, they don’t fly off at all. Ever. I think they operate as some sort of navigational beacon for their brethren who do fly.
My hadedas: “AAAHHKKUUAHHAAHHHKKK!”
Hadedas passing by: “We know we’re passing Westbrook. We’ve been doing this for years. One of us should tell those idiots.” But because hadedas are morons, the message never gets passed on.
I am currently in Cape Town. I flew here to not only get away from the hadedas, but also to escape the tilers. A year ago I replaced a few square metres of tiles. The chaos was unimaginable. The shouting, the banging, the drinking, the half-naked women. It was too terrible. Now I have had to have the entire place redone professionally and I couldn’t bear to be in the vicinity of so much manual labour. The other reason I’m here is to find a place for the summer.
You might think it would be a simple matter to rent something in Cape Town for six months, but you’d be wrong. The city isn’t what it used to be. There was a time you could arrive at any time of year and stay for as long as you wanted for virtually nothing at all. But things have changed since Jan van Riebeeck sailed into Table Bay. The good news is that you can still negotiate a pretty good deal for two bottles of whisky and a bag of salt. Not property, obviously. But certainly an hour or two with one of Muizenberg’s finest, for sure. Or so I’ve heard.
I’m writing this on Wednesday. I should probably spell it out for some of you. I’m talking about last Wednesday, not next. I am not a time traveller. I’m just a guy standing in front of a waiter, asking him to bring me another beer.
I’m at Fisherman’s, one of only three bars in the deep south enclave of Kommetjie. The temperature has plummeted to minus seventeen and I’m wondering if I am not jumping the gun insofar as my eagling plans are concerned. I’m quite possibly the only person in the province who goes out at night wearing slops instead of fur-lined boots. I have Durban written all over me.
It’s 7.15pm and a kid in a wetsuit carrying a surfboard and dripping arctic water just walked past the bar. If you saw a surfer in Durban on the street at this time of night, he’d be carrying his kidneys and dripping blood.
I have now moved from Fisherman’s down the road to a bar called the Green Room. It’s 300m closer to Durban and feels much warmer.
My attempts to secure a summer lease in the deep south are not going well. The spirit of Gordon Gekko is strong. Greed is good. Not for me, though. Or for anyone trying to rent in these parts. For this, I blame the Germans. Just to be clear, when I say Germans I mean any white person who lives outside Africa.
They come here with their dollars and euros and pounds and buy up entire suburbs. I don’t have a problem with this. But instead of renting these properties out, they put them on Airbnb to gouge maximum dinero from the swallows, eagles and whatever well-heeled pilgrims might wander into their web. Now, for the first time, I understand why Berlin banned Airbnb from operating in the city. It shuts it down for people who want to rent for longer than a dirty weekend.
I’ve been here for almost two weeks and I still haven’t found anything. Not because I’m fussy. There are a handful of places available outside Airbnb, but I’m not convinced that R10 000 a month for a granny flat with a view of a Vibracrete wall, if not the actual granny herself, is worth it.
Airbnb has all but destroyed the rental market for students, young lovers wishing to cohabit against their parents’ wishes and itinerant freelance journalists of a certain age. This is nothing short of a travesty.
Aside from escaping the hadedas and the insufferable summer, I also have to get out of my home in Durban because I’ve, er, listed it on Airbnb and there are people coming to stay.
That’s right. We all need to stop kicking against the pricks and subscribe to our government’s new motto, “If you can’t beat them, fleece them.”