Tag: Cape Town

Day Zero’s bubble bursting bonanza


The water crisis in Cape Town isn’t all doom and gloom.

I saw a newspaper headline this week that said, “Drought could damage property values.” This is excellent news for everyone who isn’t an estate agent or a homeowner who might be thinking of selling. I don’t own property in Cape Town because I never listened to my mother when I left school and became a journalist instead and now it’s too late.

I couldn’t afford to buy a place when I first came to the Mother City in 1998 to help start up e.tv news, so I became a serial renter. Then, in 2004, just when I thought I might be able to get a small place of my own, property prices went utterly berserk. Virtually overnight, estate agents went from vulpine Mazda-driving gin junkies to vulpine BMW-driving champagne junkies. Not all of them, obviously, but certainly the ones who scavenge along the Atlantic Seaboard.

Over the festive season Pam Golding sold property along this gilded seam of ocean frontage worth R167-million. That’s pretty damn festive. It was their busiest December ever. A parking bay was sold for R1.65-million.

The agency’s area manager said despite the water crisis they were still seeing “keen interest from buyers looking for trophy properties”. And why not? If foreigners with tiny willies can bag a lion as a trophy, why can’t they also bag a mansion in Clifton? Actually, many of the buyers are from Gauteng. A trophy house to go with the trophy wife, perhaps.

Since arriving in Cape Town I’ve been behind the curve in every successive property boom. Truth is, it’s just been one long endless sonic boom driven by a real estate industry gone insane with hubris and greed.

Owner: My place isn’t much but I’m hoping to get R700-thousand.

Agent: Don’t be ridiculous. There are people who will pay R3-million for it.

Owner: Are you on drugs?

Agent: Shut up and take the money.

And so the bar for entry was raised sharply and savagely, quickly outstripping the ability of workers, shirkers, revolutionaries and right-brained romantics to get a foot in the door. Hell, by the time the rapacious feeding frenzy had subsided to a dull roar, we couldn’t even get a toehold.

Now, thanks to the lack of divine intervention, things are looking up.

“Drought could damage property values.”

That headline, were it written by a well marinated subeditor with anarchist tendencies, might just as easily have read, “Drought could slash property prices to realistic levels.” But there are no more anarchist subeditors. In fact, there are no more subeditors. They’ve all been darted and sent to the knacker’s yard in the unholy name of cutting back on costs. Let me not get distracted.

The story started off well. There were no typos or grammatical errors. Perhaps there is one subeditor left, banished to a corner of the newsroom where he sits rotting quietly from prolonged exposure to weak grammar and strong alcohol.

However, before the paragraph was out, I was reeling and confused. Because I had been drinking? Perhaps. I prefer to blame the paragraph. Let’s see what you make of it.

“For as long as the Western Cape’s water situation remains unresolved, the property market could take a knock in the short term and first-time buyers could face even higher prices.”

Perhaps it is the alcohol. It has, after all, a bit of a reputation for interfering with one’s thought processes, especially those deployed to the common sense department.

I have become increasingly reluctant to read beyond the first paragraph of any news story. No good can come of it. It will leave you feeling homicidal or suicidal. Sometimes both. Most of the time I get by on a quick scan of the headlines. So it was with long teeth that I read further.

“The influx of property investors is expected to slow.” All well and good. I’ve never been a big fan of these people. They rarely live in their investments, preferring to leave them shuttered up and empty or rented out to nouveau riche white trash who made their money through contract killings, wine farms or medical aid schemes.

Right off the bat, the director of a real estate company said there was “little evidence” that the drought would affect “Cape Town’s buoyant property market”. He would say that, though, wouldn’t he? If you were thinking of buying a house in Cape Town, isn’t this the kind of reassurance you’d want to hear? As opposed to, say, reading a notice from the municipality that from April everyone in the city will be expected to defecate in a bag and wash themselves with sand.

It’s no secret that estate agents have their own unique conception of ethics and truth – a crack house is a renovator’s dream, a vibrant neighbourhood is one where the police and ambulance sirens play all night long and a slight sea view involves standing on the bog and leaning out of the window in the guest toilet.

Claiming the drought won’t affect the property market is like the black knight in Monty Python’s Holy Grail getting his arm chopped off and insisting that it’s just a flesh wound.

Perhaps sensing the need to dilute his denial with a dash of honesty, the director admitted that sales in the middle to upper end of the market might start to slow. “This means we’re not going to have as many affluent Joburgers and Durbanites driving demand for luxury property and prices could take a slight knock in the short term,” he conceded through clenched teeth.

Affluent Durbanites? Oxymorons notwithstanding, anyone properly born and bred in Durban isn’t driving demand for luxury property in Cape Town. They are driving to Blue Lagoon for a bunny or to the airport to emigrate to Australia.

Then he said something that had me scratching my head, bollocks and cat. Not all at once, obviously. He said that if the “double-figure capitalisation in property over the last two years is left unchecked, there is a risk that property values would lose touch with their underlying economic fundamentals and we’d end up in a bubble situation”.

The reporter, I imagine, reacted much like I did. A bit of slow nodding, some drooling, a vegetative state and then brain death. The reporter dragged himself back from the brink. Something had been troubling him from the start. Why would a water crisis mean even higher prices for first-time buyers?

“The first is the likely influx of people that we’re going to see coming to Cape Town to look for work, as our outlying rural and agricultural areas take strain.”

Either the subeditor blacked out at this point and deleted a bunch of words with his face or the reporter, like me, abandoned all hope of making sense of anything and went drinking. The story wrapped up with quotes from the regional head of another agency.

Hedging his bets like a true professional, he said it was too soon to say whether the crisis would affect people’s decisions to buy in Cape Town. “A contained situation for a few months will not impact the long-term desirability of living in Cape Town, but a prolonged situation would temporarily impact sentiment and valuations in the short term.”

It’s a sentence wringing its hands, drenched in false optimism and crippled with contradictions. For a start, the situation is nowhere near contained. If anything, we have a container situation. I don’t even have a bucket.

The chairman of a Western Cape property forum had the last word. “For now things are still good, but we expect that it might change for the worse as the industry is water dependent.” Nonsense. If anything, the real estate industry is tonic dependent.

Gin and water is an abomination.



The new dorsland draadtrekkers

I find it hard to take things too seriously because in a hundred years from now everyone on the planet will have vanished and been replaced by eight billion people who don’t currently exist. Also, we live on a giant rock floating in space.

So when people come to me with fear in their eyes and say that Cape Town – where I am at the moment – is about to become the first city in the world to run out of water, I guzzle tequila shots and do cartwheels until they go away.

And while everyone is whispering in urgent tones about the water crisis, I haven’t heard anyone talking about a shortage of beer. That’s because there isn’t one. The solution is obvious. Stop using water and switch to beer. After all, beer is, like, 50% water. The other 50% is supernatural happy juice. You can drink it, soak your clothes in it and even use it to wash your face and gentleman bits. Ladies should wash in wine.

Actually, I did have cause to panic earlier in the week when Western Cape Premier Helen Zille tweeted, “Talking to @WorldOfBeer about bottling 12 million quarts of water (instead of beer) to help us in the event of day zero.” What is wrong with this woman? Beer is the only thing that is going to get everyone through this nasty business.

After Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille went berserk and blamed everyone except herself and her party for the crisis, she was fitted with a muzzle and led away. Zille is now in charge of saving us all from certain death with a series of well-placed tweets. Like this one. “If everyone using water in greater Cape Town, Drakenstein and Stellenbosch sticks to upper limit of 50 litres per person per day, the dams will reach a low of 15%. Day Zero is 13,5%. We can still prevent it by the skin of our teeth.”

By then we won’t have any skin on our teeth. Not being able to brush will have us walking about with mouths seemingly filled with small marsupials.

As princess of the province Zille gets to live in Leeuwenhof, a lavish 17th-century estate lounging elegantly on the slopes of Table Mountain. This week she posted a picture of a tomato in a quarter of a cup of water. “Washing a tomato for supper in a cup. I will use it for other fruit (nectarines and grapes) as well. Then the water left in the cup goes into the toilet cistern.”


Another tweet had a photo of her standing in a tin basin having a wash – mercifully showing only her bare feet. In response, Mududzi tweeted a photo of himself bathing with kitchen utensils. Zille responded, “No no no! No baths, not even with your pots and pans. Take them into a 90-second shower instead.”


In an effort to shame the city’s top 100 water abusers, a list of addresses from Camps Bay to Crossroads was released. Just the name of the street, suburb and water consumption. In other words, no shaming at all, really. Topping the list is someone in Haywood Road, Crawford, using 702 000 litres a month. That’s got to be a clandestine grow house. Thanks to this list, everyone in Haywood Road is now a suspect.

So far there is no technical strategy in place for dealing with Day Zero. The city’s only plan seems to be to urge residents not to use more than 50 litres a day. What a brilliant idea. Let’s rely on the inherent goodness in people. On their willingness to sacrifice for a common cause. Does Zille even know what people are like? It reminds me of the time Neville Chamberlain met Hitler and made him pinky swear that he wouldn’t start a war.

Oh, wait. That’s not the only plan. Zille has also suggested that to relieve the pressure on the municipal water system, people could book into hotels for the duration of the drought. I’m not joking. She really said this. That’s fine for Jacob Zuma’s bagmen in the state-owned enterprises – they can go and stay at the Oberoi Hotel in Dubai for free, thanks to the generosity of the adorable Gupta family.

At least 60% of city residents aren’t sticking to the daily limit. That’s because most people don’t care about anyone they’re not related to or have no chance of sleeping with. They’re not going to suffer for the benefit of strangers. They care only about themselves. Cape Town has plenty of them. They are called The Rich. So when you overhear someone droning on about the state of the Salukis (the Range Rover is in such a mess!) because the doggy parlours have closed down, you need to go up to them and say, “Shut your borehole.” You may wish to deliver a light slapping. Apart from hard currency, it’s the only language they understand.

One thing is certain, though. While we the people are wearing edible broeks, pooing in the bushes, eating off open fires, drinking our own urine and rutting like wild animals, The Rich will carry on as if nothing is amiss. The lowering of standards does not come easily to them. They are different to us. They will fill their pools with Perrier and drink cocktails on their verdant lawns. They will also know that we are coming for them. Well, for their water, anyway. Nobody wants the French Revolution.

The chattering classes – those of the metropolitan middle – have it that the problem is not one of too little water but rather too many people. What they really mean is too many immigrants. And by immigrants they mean people from the Eastern Cape.

There are moves afoot to impose a series of incremental fines on households that use more than their fair share. Obviously if you don’t have a water meter you can’t be fined. And who doesn’t have water meters? The poor, that’s who. They get to sit around their communal taps and drink all day long, then wash their goats and hose down their shacks when they catch fire and there’s nothing we can do about it. Damn their selfish eyes.

It hasn’t escaped the attention of Zille’s followers. This from a white rugby player from Kraaifontein, “Why should we that pay for water save if the people that doesnt pay water dont save? And what is the DA doing? Nothing instead of fixing the crisis you guys fight under each other.” At least his privileged education is finally paying off.

The city has issued an online map showing all the plots in Cape Town – apart from the plot to destroy Patricia de Lille’s career, obviously. An incredibly complex system involving coloured dots indicates who is saving water and who needs to be ashamed of themselves. I’m colour blind so it makes no sense to me at all.

I’m not the only one. “What I don’t understand is why the city still tolerates households consuming more than 10k litres? Why is the water map not showing red dots? If I would see my neighbor with a red dot I would go over and have a talk to help them to use less water!” Have a talk, eh? I reckon once that chat was over there’d be red dots of arterial spray all over the house.

Another suggested that watershedding should start now. You’d think, right? Before Day Zero kicks in, there really ought to be a dry run. Haha. “Shut it down now except for essential services … bring in the bowsers now.”

For those who aren’t familiar, bowsers are St Bernard dogs crossed with pitbulls. They are trained to distribute water to the needy and attack the wasteful. Unlike many of us, they are able to interpret the water map. However, they do need help accessing the internet.

Alexandra suggested that people should stop complaining because it does nothing to provide water. “Do your part, be wise with water and prayer. Pray for our government, our leaders and the poor. When God brings the floods they will be mostly impacted.”

It was probably excessive praying for sunny weather that caused the drought in the first place. God has been known to overreact at times so please tone down the prayers for rain.

Meanwhile, another tweet from Zille, complimenting some or other shiny-eyed family of do-gooders on their increasingly ludicrous water-saving measures, said, “Some people are really catching the “gees” of saving water.” Ah, yes. The old “gees”. The spirit. The last time we had it was during the 2010 Soccer World Cup, except this time we’re all going to die at the hands of thirst-crazed gangs with names like the H2 Ous. That’s if the Black Death doesn’t get us first.

By April the taps will be turned off and people will be lining up at one of the 200 distribution points around Cape Town. This could mean at least 10 000 people arriving at each point every day. I’m not going to be able to do it. I can’t be in a queue of ten people without being consumed by homicidal fantasies. Fights over bottled water are already breaking out in supermarkets.

Armageddon outta here.

Swallowing is good for you

The European swallow stands about five-foot-six in its socks, burns easily in the sun and enjoys a pint or two with the lads. It is also a small migratory bird.

In our summer months, the European swallow of the featherless variety can be spotted in coastal towns from Umhlanga to Hermanus. Come winter, he returns to his natural habitat and can be spotted in The Cock and Balls in Fulham High Street.

I am an African swallow. We prefer to conserve our energy – not to mention our limited financial resources – and migrate within the country. Winters in Durban, summers in Cape Town. Sprawled in my nest in Westbrook on the east coast, nursing a damaged wing after attempting to fly home from a friend’s house one unhinged Friday night, it struck me that the seasons had turned. My instincts said it was time to head west. My instincts have never been wrong, give or take a couple of marriages and a career in journalism.

And so I find myself hunkered down in a shack in the milkwoods of Kommetjie typing with fingers crippled from frostbite. I am clothed in a stinking onesie stitched from the fur of a dozen dassies and lined with the skins of two careless Cape seals.

I appear to have mistimed the migration. Cape Town alone decides when to call it summer. There’s nothing I can do about it now. I’d rather die of hypothermia than head back down the Transkei’s Roadkill Road.

A cloud of panic hangs over this southern tip of Africa. It used to be bong smoke, but now it’s panic. Word on the street is that Cape Town will run out of water by March next year. This is good news. I should be back in Durban by then. What? Don’t look at me like that. Okay, fine. It’s bad news for the people who live here. They could always move to Durban. By next Christmas we’ll all be drinking Chardonnay and paying R5m for a roach-infested rat hole in Gillespie Street.

I’ve never been a huge fan of water. Salt water, yes, but only because the ocean is made of it. I can understand why people would buy bottled water in a country where landmine victims outnumber cars, but nobody ever died in South Africa from drinking tap water. Unless maybe the tap belonged to a neighbour who suspected you of trying to turn him into a frog and shot you in the back while you were bent over drinking. Which probably happens fairly often in Limpopo.

Every day there are fresh statistics to scare the living hell out of everyone in Cape Town. The six dams that supply the city are currently at 38% capacity. Isn’t this quite good? It’s more than I got for maths in matric and I turned out okay.

In the old days when rain was a thing, consumption in the metropole was at 1.1 billion litres per day. It now stands at 585 million litres. A massive reduction. But the number is still too big for us to fully udnerstand. Look at it this way. We’re consuming the equivalent of 292 Windhoek draughts for every man, woman and child. Per day. That’s a reasonable average for the Cape Flats, but you’re not going to get those heroic levels in Constantia and Bishops Court.

I suppose not all of it is getting chucked down people’s throats. There’s bathing and watering gardens and washing cars and a lot gets wasted in places like workshops and hospitals where staff get grease and blood under their fingernails.

But apparently that’s still too much. The city wants people to shower for no longer than a minute. If you get caught running a bath, you’re stripped naked and publicly flogged in Adderley Street. I tried showering for one minute. At six-foot-four, there’s a lot of ground to cover. Sixty seconds was just enough to lather up into a striking resemblance of the abominable snowman. So no rinsing then? Seems unduly harsh. I went and stood outside, letting the freezing wind blow the suds from my quivering body. I didn’t want to use a towel because that would’ve meant having to wash it at some point. The penalty for washing towels is a light stoning. For now. I expect it will be escalated to the amputation of a hand by January. I went to the mall later with flaking patches of dried soap on my face and arms. Mothers covered their children’s eyes. I saw one woman gag.

It has also been recommended that you don’t flush the toilet if you’ve only had a wee. This isn’t a problem for me because I wee outside. Not in the street. In my garden. It’s a territorial thing. When I was married I’d sometimes do it indoors if it was very cold outside. One night my wife caught me in the act of marking my territory in the lounge. I stood there with my willy out, telling her it was the cat. That I was the cat. And the cat was me. Luckily she was hallucinating on benzos and found it all quite plausible. She poured me a saucer of milk and went back to bed. Actually, she didn’t even bother with the saucer.

In Cape Town, you’re also supposed to stand in a bucket when you shower, then use that water to wash the children who have to stand in their lunch boxes, then use that water to wash the baby in a soup bowl, then use whatever’s left over to water the one plant you have chosen to save.

On the rare occasion it does rain, the roads of suddenly full of people driving around aimlessly.

“Quick, get in the car. We’re going to Knysna.”

“Are you mad? Why?”

“They’re having rain. The car’s filthy.”

People are advised to close the toilet lid when flushing, presumably to save the seven drops that might splash onto the floor. They are also encouraged to use disinfectants, face masks and gloves where required. I don’t know about you, but once I’ve done my ablutions I generally don’t need to have the crime scene cleaners around.

Apparently Phase 1 of the disaster plan had been implemented. I didn’t even know there was a plan. A better one might have been to make provision for this crisis several years ago. They knew. Oh, yes. They knew alright. But there’s nothing sexy about desalination and groundwater abstraction projects. Not when you live in a city of mountains and beaches and a waterfront that makes Durban’s look like a dumping ground for junkies, vagrants and medical waste. Which is what it is.

We are warned that supply might be disrupted during peak water usage times. Being ‘self-employed’ I don’t know what this means but it seems unlikely I’ll be affected. People who live in high-lying areas will experience outages. I live two metres above sea level. I’ll be fine up until Donald Trump melts Antarctica and, in the middle of a drought, I drown in my sleep.

The city has appealed to people in low-lying areas – like Mitchell’s Plain and Gugulethu – to curb their usage to help their less fortunate brothers and sisters who are suffering terribly up on the slopes of Clifton and Camps Bay. Seems fair.

The city has also installed seven thousand “water management devices” on the properties of “delinquent” water uses. These are not juvenile delinquents. These are grown-ass people who just don’t give a damn. So their pipes are fitted with the equivalent of ankle monitors.

The city is divided into pressure zones. For instance, there’s no pressure in Observatory. You can wake up at midday, smoke a blunt and get a tattoo or a shot of tequila right there in the main road. No pressure at all.

There’s been talk of remotely manipulating valves in the reticulation network, but this seems to be some sort of code and nobody understands what it means. Apparently it reassures people. Not the paranoiacs, obviously.

If an area is using water above the daily limit, pressure will be reduced to force consumption down. Once consumption is reduced, pressure will be restored. It’s the old “I’ll have sex with you when you give up drinking” ploy. It’s the carrot and stick method, although I’ve never used either during sex, and it doesn’t work because there’s always one guy who wants to fill up his pool and wash his Range Rover, racehorse and trophy wife.

On my way for a surf at Muizenberg the other day, I passed two lots of people down on their hands and knees on the side of the road. This being Cape Town, I reckoned they were drunk, praying or doing yoga. Being the deep south, it could easily have been all three. But no. They were hunkered around an outlet from a mountain stream, desperately filling bottles and drums.

One of them looked a bit like Immortan Joe, the disgruntled civil servant who featured in Mad Max: Fury Road, a documentary about water shortages and how even a woman from Benoni can survive without an arm or leg or even a sense of humour.

Let’s end on a history lesson. Who said this? “It has only been through a century of dedication and a commitment to engineering excellence that the City of Cape Town has been able to guarantee clean water for an ever-expanding population. We are more than up to the task.”

a. Jan van Riebeeck in 1652.

b. Cecil John Rhodes in 1890.

c. Patricia de Lille in 2013.

It wasn’t Jan or Cecil.

It just occurred to me that a water shortage might also mean a beer shortage. Let the stockpiling begin.


To not swallow or split

Last Wednesday was International Migratory Bird Day and I speak for the indigenous avian community when I say we’re happy to see the back of those annoying ingrates. I have never seen such arrogance and entitlement. Disrespecting international borders, they come over here every summer, exploit our good weather and do absolutely nothing to uplift the local economy.

I’m sorry, but it’s just not good enough to fly in on a balmy October morning and start shouting about your brilliant sense of direction when some of us struggle to find our way out of shopping malls. We won’t even speak of the flitting about hither and yon in the hope that someone will catch a glimpse of your florid undercarriage and cry out in delight.

Who do they think they are? They come from dinosaurs, for god’s sake. They’re pterodactyls. Sure, they have a better attitude, but only because they know that if they started snatching our children, we wouldn’t hesitate to make them extinct. Like we did with the pterodactyls.

Then, at the first sign of a chill in the air, they close their nests and bugger off to somewhere warmer without so much as a thank you. I spent the entire summer throwing my bread and spilling my seed into the garden and making sure the little bastards had water to bath their filthy lice-infested bodies.

Living alone as I do, they were the only friends I had. I was learning their language. Do you think they ever bothered to learn mine? Of course not. They are like the British who spend hundreds of winters on the Costa del Sol and still the only Spanish they know is, “Una mas cerveza and a steak, egg and chips, pronto Tonto.”

I’m not asking for a debate on Rabelaisian architecture – quite frankly I’m not sure Rabel was an architect at all – but a simple good morning would have been nice. There was one bird who appeared on the telephone wire at sunset who had a lot to say. He’s gone, now. Probably to the Canary Islands, where, if there’s any justice in this world, he won’t be allowed in because he’s not a canary. I suppose there’s a chance he is a local and can’t afford to migrate, in which case his sudden disappearance is quite likely linked to the neighbour’s cat.

I prefer to think that he was concerned about my well-being and was advising me to leave post haste because winter was drawing dangerously near.

“But where should I go?” I shouted into the twilight.

“Durban,” he tweeted. It’s true. He has a Twitter account. All birds do. They’ve just learnt not to follow anyone after that nasty business with Alfred Hitchcock when nobody got paid even though they totally carried the movie.

My feathered friend had been with me for most of the summer, arriving at dusk every day to see that I was okay. Or, more likely, to gloat. If I could fly I would so gloat at creatures that can’t fly.

He saw my living conditions, there in my shack in the milkwoods of Kommetjie, and must have known I couldn’t afford to migrate to the warmer breeding grounds in the north. He wasn’t even sure I was capable of breeding at all. Nor am I, quite frankly.

I had already been thinking about migrating to Durban for the winter, so please don’t assume that I take my instructions from birds. That would be mad. Unless, of course, it’s crows. You’d be a reckless fool to ignore advice dispensed by crows.

And so it was that on International Migratory Bird Day I fled my shack ahead of looming frontal attacks by wild arctic storms and clawless otters crazed from the cold. I snuck through the crippled milkwoods under cover of darkness and folded myself into the Subaru, hitting the road at 6.15am, the earliest recorded motorised departure in human history.

Apparently it wasn’t. Apparently there are other people on the road at this godless hour. Not one or two, either. Hundreds. Thousands. The entire M3 was backed up for 30kms. It was still night. I wasn’t even able to make out the occupants of the other cars. They could have been flightless birds – ostriches behind the wheel with hysterical penguins gibbering in the back seat – all desperate to migrate to Durban. Boots stuffed with illegal emus and cassowaries who came over by boat but lost their money gambling and can’t get back to Australia or wherever the hell they come from.

What a terrible world this is becoming. I want you here by 8am. But sir, the taxis are on strike, the buses aren’t running, the trains are burning, the roads are jammed, the robots are out, a stoned dodo drove into me … I don’t care. 8am or you’re fired.

We need another industrial revolution but with a lot less emphasis on the industrial. The original idea was eight hours work, eight hours play and eight hours sleep. Heavy traffic, exploitative bosses, watered down tequila and barking dogs have screwed with this formula.

Anyway. I don’t care. I’m in a bar in Jeffreys Bay drinking gallons of The Bird lager. It’s made by a mob of east coast reprobates at Poison City Brewing. I see it as part of the essential refuelling process, much like what the red-faced warblers do when they stop off in Morocco for a hit on the hash pipe before shacking up with those cute Portuguese birds on the Algarve.

Besides, one doesn’t simply spend summer in Cape Town and return to Durban in winter without stopping off in Jeffreys Bay to acclimatise. By acclimatise, I obviously mean surf and drink and gird one’s loins for the hell run through the Transkei. I can’t call it the Eastern Cape because it doesn’t behave like a normal province. There’s no corruption because the entire budget is stolen within minutes of being allocated. The traffic cops are trained in new and unusual methods of soliciting bribes – “Sorry sir. On this section of road, you are forbidden from wearing seat belts”. Dogs run into the street hoping to be put out of their misery.

Look, the notion of spending summers in Cape Town and winters in Durban appeals to me on a deep and primal level. Just don’t call me a swallow. Swallows are people who have a home in London and another in Hermanus. Swallows are wealthy and generally retired. I’m neither, as evidenced by the fact that you’re reading this.

It’s quite simple, really. After spending seventeen winters in Cape Town, nine of them in a terrible state of marriage, I never again want to be cold. Or married.

Privates on parade

Ted called me this morning and said there was a parade in Cape Town. He suggested that we get onto it right away. As former military men, Ted and I always have enormous fun at parades.

During the war Ted was a sniper and I was a signalman. This is a perfect combination in times of peace and whenever we find ourselves in a large, unruly crowd of young people high on drugs we split up and use the old Zulu pincer movement to isolate the vulnerable females and herd them into the nearest bar where we ply them with cheap philosophy and offers that they hardly ever refuse.

I strapped on the old boots, boshoed and bayonet, went round to Ted’s place and hid in the garden giving the coded signal that in our army days meant “we attack the refugee camp at dawn”. I waited for the appropriate response – “women and children first” – but it never came. This time, I heard a signal with a chorus line. Something about raining men.

All thoughts of Cassinga were driven from my mind as Ted stepped out of his front door. He was wearing some kind of floral lilac dressing gown affair with one of his wife’s brassieres strapped to the outside. I was rooted to the spot, incapable of moving or even speaking. The entire course of the war could have changed had Swapo gone into battle dressed like Ted.

Come along, old chap,” he shouted. “We’re off to the parade.” I hadn’t even got my voice back and Ted was congratulating me on my uniform. “Military,” he said. “Very sexy.” He started humming the theme tune to Yentl.

Enough!” I barked, and ordered him to tell me what the hell was going on. He looked at me in surprise. “We’re going to the Gay Pride Parade,” he said. “I thought you knew. You’re certainly dressed for it.”

I was outraged. You don’t get more heterosexual than a former SADF signalman. Obviously I can’t say the same for the snipers, but I always believed that they were real men, too. I could perhaps understand it if Ted had been one of those parabatty boys, what with all that leaping from aircraft and drifting through the sky like big brown snowflakes. It’s just not natural.

Then they were upon us. Boys dressed as girls, girls dressed as hermaphrodites, flagellants dressed as Lutherans, preachers dressed as prostitutes, dogs dressed as cats.

This was pretty wild stuff, even for Green Point. I grabbed Ted’s arm to make sure we wouldn’t get separated. “That’s the spirit,” he said, taking me by the hand. I smacked him sharply on the side of the head, setting off a chorus of high-pitched squealing from a passing pack of sadomasochists.

I backed up against a wall, breathing heavily, fearing that someone would smell the testosterone on me and hand me over to this outlandish authority figure in a skin-tight camouflage skirt carrying what looked like a flexible pink plastic truncheon. “Relax,” said Ted. “Strapadictomy. Quite harmless.”

It might not have been Haiti, but I began to get an idea of how Jean-Bertrand Aristide must have felt in 2004. He was trapped in Port-au-Prince by roaming gangs of blood-crazed voodoo merchants. I was trapped in Green Point by roaming gangs of sex-crazed methylenedioxymethamphetamine merchants. At least Aristide had the option of exile.

Ted broke away and sashayed into the crowd, swinging his hips like a damn schoolgirl and shouting something about beers for queers.

Then an eyeballing situation began developing. People representing at least three separate genders started trying to make eye contact with me. I kept averting my eyes until I realised that this could also create the impression I was being coy. And nothing gets a deviant salivating quicker than the prospect of gnawing on the flesh of a shy virgin in combat boots.

I quickly changed my strategy and began darting stern no-nonsense looks at the perpetrators before letting my gaze trail away to the nearest woman. However, homosexuals operate on a secret code of mixed signals so there was a very good chance that I was letting them know that I would be available upstairs at Cafe Manhattan in twenty minutes. Anyway, the strategy was doomed from the start. I looked around and there wasn’t a woman in sight who would have been prepared to step in and save me from being licked to death by a baying mob of erotomaniacs in leather suspenders and fishnet stockings.

Just then Ted broke through the crowd and grabbed me by the shirt. “Let’s get the hell out of here,” he shouted. I saw that he had lost half of his dressing gown and his bra was hanging from one strap. He still won’t tell me what happened out there. Whatever it was, it turned him right back into the irascible old homophobe that he always was. He says he is organising a Straight Pride March. It’s open to anyone who owns a gun and is prepared to take a polygraph test in a controlled environment.


Going nowhere fast

I have been rudely ejected from my own home by complete strangers who want to give me money in return for the front door keys and me not being there. It’s outrageous. Sure, the outrage dissipated slightly when their filthy lucre landed in my account, but still. This is the problem with capitalism. We do the most degrading things – journalism being just one of them – in order to be able to survive in a system that’s not of our making. There has to be a better way. Got it. Make everything free. #Payingforstuffmustfall.

Temporarily losing my home meant embarking on a road trip from the east coast to the west and road trips are always good, except when they’re not. I generally set off with the notion that somewhere along the road I’ll either have a spectacularly torrid affair or die in a giant fireball. Admittedly, I have had the odd carnal encounter where, in hindsight, the fireball would have been a better option.

I set my alarm for half past hadeda, thinking I’d be the only person on the road at 6am. The M4 was jammed so I veered onto the N2, which was even worse. What the hell was going on here? Is it like this every day? These people should have still been in bed at that hour. I at least was on a cross-country expedition, even if it did only involve sitting on my arse for eight hours, yawning and scratching my nuts and trying not to fall asleep. Mind you, I suppose it’s the same for a lot of them, especially the ones who work for the municipality.

I recently did this trip in the opposite direction in my ancient Land Rover. It took me over a week and cost me dearly in physical, financial and emotional terms. I sold the beast shortly after and went out to test drive a Suzuki Vitara. I came home with a Subaru Forester. It’s like when you go to the SPCA to look for a kitten and fall in love with a pit bull instead. Not that I’m in love with the Subaru, but she responds well to my touch and hasn’t let me down. Unlike certain exes I could name but won’t.

She also goes a lot faster than the Landy, which means a lot more speeding fines and a lot more of not answering the door. Summons. What an ugly word. No hint of a please or thank you. Until the criminal justice system learns some manners, I shan’t be complying.

After filling up in the blot on the landscape that constitutes Kokstad, I pointed the Subaru’s snout at the Transkei and floored it. A lot of people won’t drive through the province of the damned without a bag of phosphorous grenades and a brace of high-powered handguns. All I had was a short-handled Zulu stabbing spear. Yes, I know. Culturally insensitive considering I was on Xhosa turf, but I reckoned that wouldn’t be the chief complaint were I forced to use it. Anyway, missionaries came here in the 1800s and told the locals they’d burn in an invisible subterranean pit if they didn’t start covering up their willies and going to church. That’s way ruder than getting poked with a pointy stick, even if it was invented by a rival tribe.

I swarmed into my usual stop in Cintsa – a backpackers offering top end accommodation with bottom end service – threw my bags into my room and ran for the bar. Celebrations are called for after one has successfully negotiated the unholy trinity of Mthatha, Dutywa and Butterworth without having to deploy one’s short-handled stabbing spear.

A gaggle of gawky flatfooted slackpackers loped past en route to share lodgings and bodily fluids. Each carried half a litre of bottled water. Listen, tourists. Don’t come to our country and drink all our water. We need it to make beer.

The wifi doesn’t quite extend all the way to the bar because the modem is at reception, a good fifteen metres away. Wifi is like crack to backpackers. If this was Europe, there’d be a riot. Actually, there’d be nobody staying here. Sure, the view over the lagoon and ocean is spectacular, but if you can’t get wifi in the bar, it doesn’t matter if you’re looking at unicorns and mermaids fornicating beneath a perpetual waterfall of free money.

The following day I was, not for the first or even second time, sucked into the chaotic maw of King William’s Town. Desperate to escape its gravitational pull, I switched on Google Maps. A tiny woman living inside my cellphone started babbling about non-existent roundabouts, then directed me deep into the taxi rank where I became trapped in an electronic black hole. The taxi rank in King William’s Town is South Africa’s Bermuda Triangle. That’s where all our missing people are.

Later I drove through the longest stretch of roadworks since construction began on the Great Wall of China. It goes from before Grahamstown all the way to Port Elizabeth. I waited so long at a stop and go that I had to fetch a beer from my boot or risk perishing from thirst. The boot of my car. I don’t keep beers in my footwear.

It was a darkling sky by the time I reached Knysna and I checked in to a place with walls so thin I could hear my neighbour sighing heavily. To avoid overhearing a suicide, I drove down to the waterfront where I came across a copy of one of my books. At a bookshop, of all places. It was marked down to R40. I was so embarrassed that I bought it myself. Then I was so depressed that I went to a bar and ordered a double gin and tonic. It cost R40. Basically, I write so that I can afford alcohol. One book, one drink. What a time to be alive.

Soon enough I found myself in Cape Town flailing helplessly in the diabolical netherworld inhabited by estate agents. A world where the sands of reality shift treacherously beneath your feet and nothing is as it seems. Where double volume means you can stand upright and contemporary means it was built this century. Where cosy means you can cook, shower and defecate simultaneously. A world where a distant glimpse of the ocean adds another R5000 onto the already heinously rapacious rent.

I put my name down for a one-bedroom hovel in Fish Hoek’s avenues of the doomed. There were thirty names above mine. The application ran to a dozen pages requiring everything from six months’ of bank statements to three DNA samples and my grandmother’s birth certificate. Also, a R150 non-refundable fee for a preliminary credit check. I suggested the agent notify the owner that I am a Famous Writer, gambling that this would rocket me to the top of the list. The agent came back, saying the owner is indeed familiar with my writing and that I should definitely apply (and pay the R150). A week later the agent called and said the owner had chosen someone else. I suppose it’s possible that name-dropping myself actually worked against me, but I suspect the more likely scenario is that the agency is making a tidy amount from all the non-refundables everyone has to pay for their application to even be considered.

I was on the point of resigning myself to a few months in the Haven night shelter when Hestia, the virgin goddess of accommodation among other things, came through. A friend knew of a cottage in Kommetjie that might be available. It was. And it was cheap. Best of all, it’s one row back from the beach. It’s also set deep in the milkwoods and completely secluded, which means I can be murdered without any interruptions. It’s a bit like the cabin in which Henry David Thoreau wrote On Walden Pond. Then again, it’s also very much like the shack in which Ted Kaczynski wrote his Unabomber manifesto.

Perhaps I shall do my best work here. Not that you can call this work.