Tag: Cape Town

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.

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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.

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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.

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Pining for the pines

I was out walking on the slopes of Table Mountain the other day enjoying the exercise and marveling at the view … oh, who am I kidding. I was out looking for shamanic fungi but I can’t write that or the police will be smashing down my front door before you can say 4-hydroxyl-dimethyltryptamine.

Truth is, nobody can walk anywhere in the Table Mountain National Park these days because a gang of government-backed eco-terrorists are hacking down all the pine and eucalyptus trees. A few days ago, someone spray-painted sad faces onto the ends of some of the executed trees. Then someone else came along and sprayed happy faces onto the rest.

This is how we protest in the Cape. Instead of being like normal people and throwing stones and setting journalists alight, we paint faces onto tree stumps and write angry letters to the local paper.

When I say “we”, I mean white people. Everyone else is “they”. Here in Cape Town, we speak it like it are. But this is not a racist thing. It’s a mountain thing. We take our dogs and our children and our secretaries for walks on the mountain and They don’t. If We see one of Them heading towards us, We stuff our wallet down our pants and try to call the mountain police before They disembowel us with screwdrivers and make overseas calls on our cellphones.

I’m talking rubbish. There is no such thing as the mountain police.

So. Out here in Africa’s last colony, one is either pro-tree or pro-fynbos. There is no middle ground. Stands must be taken and positions defended.

I have given the matter considerable thought – all of three seconds – and have decided to join forces with the tree people. One of their major grievances is that by hacking down all the pines, the Tree Taliban have deprived walkers of any kind of protection from the sun. Apart from a six-pack and a 9mm Parabellum, shade is the next best thing to have on a walk in the Table Mountain National Park.

The Taliban’s argument, which is supported by chainsaws, is that the birds don’t like alien trees. So? They’re fucking birds. They can fly to the Kruger Park if they don’t like it here. Apparently the pines also take too much water. Please. This is Cape Town. Everyone has a drinking problem. It seems unlikely the drought is being caused by a bunch of dipsomaniac pines in Tokai.

Fynbos is not known for its shade-giving qualities. If you’re suffering from heat stroke and desperately need shelter, you could always try to leopard crawl under a Leucospermum lineare and risk having your face slashed to ribbons by its cruel stunted branches. And there is no shortage of options to choose from. In these parts alone there are over 7 000 species of fynbos, ranging from dull to hideous. You can’t miss them. Once you pick up the scent of roadkill, you know you’re in the Cape Floral Kingdom.

Fynbos is not your friend. It will turn on you when you least expect it. Pine trees, on the other hand, are good for all sorts of things. They give you a place to hide when you want to wee. You can also make houses and books out of them. And chopsticks. The only thing you can make out of fynbos is a braai. It can’t even speak English, for god’s sake. Fynbos. What the hell does that even mean?

The Taliban accuse the aliens of being too flammable. So what would you rather watch in a forest fire – a pine tree exploding like a magnificent roman candle or a piece of fynbos popping and crackling like a girly little squib?

The assassins responsible for these killing fields don’t give a damn about what we want. They are fynbosbefok and nothing we say or do will make them see reason. They use made-up words like Afromontane and whine that the fynbos is going the same way as the great white shark. Except that fynbos won’t bite your legs off. But it would, given half a chance.

There’s a charming fellow by the name of Peucedanum galbanum who, if you brush against him, will make your skin erupt in suppurating blisters. Nice.

I haven’t tried it yet, but I imagine that walking through a pine forest instills in one a sense of peace and oneness with the world. I have walked through fynbos. I get agitated and angry and lash out at strangers.

The Taliban say that plantations are not forests and that they were only planted for commercial reasons. This is nothing but arboreal xenophobia. Does the tree know its ancestors came from Europe? Even if it did, would it care? Mine did and I don’t. Come at me with an axe and I’ll have your throat.

Trees are happy to be left alone. Fynbos, on the other hand, has to be set alight every few years if it is to thrive. What kind of demon plant is this? Burn me and I shall rise again, stronger! That’s Satan talking, that is.

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Tap-dancing gorillas and tenants from hell

Did you know that gorillas make up “food songs” while they eat? A German scientist discovered this “fun new fact” while working with the primates in the Congo. I don’t think it’s a fun fact at all. I can’t think of anything more terrifying than coming across a silverback gyrating its hips and singing Purple Rain with a mouth full of bamboo shoots.

Oh, look. Here’s another fun fact. Come November, Donald Trump could well be the 45th president of the United States of America.

While we’re on the subject of fun facts, did you know that 42% of Americans continue to believe that God created humans less than 10 000 years ago? Understand this and you’ll find it easier to understand why that orange maniac is the Republican Party’s presidential nominee.

I read somewhere that the world has experienced five mass extinctions over the last half a billion years and is on the brink of the sixth. Quite frankly, it can’t happen soon enough for me.

I don’t know what the hell this year thinks it’s doing. I went to Cape Town for Christmas and stumbled out three months later. I made an overnight stop in Jeffreys Bay and went to St Francis for lunch. Lunch lasted a month. Then, on my way back to Durban a few days ago, my biological GPS had a nervous breakdown and instead of driving past Rhodes University I found myself outside the University of Fort Hare in that glittering jewel of a town called Alice. Alice? Who the fuck is Alice?

I’m exhausted. If that’s what holidays do to you, then I need a proper job – one that restricts me to 21 days leave a year. It’s for my own good. Even heroin addicts live longer than freelance journalists. They at least have to move around to find money and drugs. We just need a laptop, a comfy chair and a running tab.

Some idiot once said that with great freedom comes great responsibility. This is absolute rubbish. With great freedom comes great freedom. That’s all there is to it.

Freedom is great. I would venture to say that freedom is greater than God because freedom doesn’t threaten to consign your soul to the eternal hellfires of damnation if you covet your neighbour’s ass. But it can be tiring.

So anyway, after eight hours of dodging Transkei road-kill and bent cops, I get home to find my refuge trashed. Not by burglars, but by the people who stayed here last. The thing with Airbnb is that you’re allowing complete strangers to abuse your house in return for nothing more than money. It’s a form of prostitution, really. It’s also a devilishly easy way to make money. This is something that speaks to me. Whoring my home comes naturally to me. I am a property pimp. There are worse things to be. At least I’m not a member of parliament.

Usually there is a domestic worker who gets dropped off by helicopter after a guest leaves, but this time she had been called away on urgent business in the Bahamas and failed to turn up. This meant I had to deal with the situation with no backup whatsoever.

I pulled in to the driveway saturated in road rage, the Land Rover bucking and snorting, and bellied up to the front door with my key in one hand and a Balinese fighting sword in the other. That’s my weapon of choice when I traverse the Transkei. Chopping off an arm here and there sends a clear signal to the local banditry. I learnt this from my Saudi Arabian friends.

The guests, luckily for them, had departed. Less luckily for me, they had left a mound of soiled cutlery and crockery in the sink, three pots of semi-cooked gunk on the stove and bits of half-eaten food in the fridge. I also found a packet of King Size Rizlas and an empty eyedropper of something called Ruthless. I don’t know what it is. The print on the bottle is too small to read. And my bedroom looks like Charlie Sheen was here. This guest from hell was an Afrikaner currently living overseas. He brought his girlfriend, his baby and his mother. It sounds like a sitcom written by the Marquis de Sade.

I suspect this is why Berlin has introduced a law banning homeowners from renting out their properties on Airbnb, although a more plausible reason might be that the city wants to keep random acts of cannibalism under control. Germans like nothing more than getting together on a Saturday night and eating bits of one another over a bottle or two of chianti. The new legislation is called Zweckentfremdungsverbot. Such a mellifluous language.

I returned to not only terrible scenes in my home, but also in parliament. A debate on the Presidency budget vote? That’s not what I saw. I saw a bunch of pot-bellied revolutionaries getting their arses handed to them by a plainclothes posse from the parking lot. Surely the whole point of wearing red is that you don’t care about getting blood on your clothes? I want to see some real fighters in the EFF. I want to see Mikey Schultz and Radovan Krecjir sitting behind Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu. Then we’ll see who gets thrown out of parliament.

Finally, let us not even speak of Matthew Theunissen, Cape Town’s latest contender for a Darwin award. After posting an ill-conceived anti-government diatribe on Facebook that would have made a Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan blush, he said he “didn’t intend to say those words”. Fair enough. I didn’t intend to drink a dozen beers while writing this column either, but it happened nevertheless. Evil forces are clearly at work. Matthew has a Masters from Stellenbosch University, that shining beacon of progressive thought. I wasn’t aware that Maties offered post-graduate degrees in white supremacy. Maybe he thought you needed a Masters to be a fully-fledged member of the master race.

Matthew insisted that he wasn’t a racist; that he had “friends of colour”. By colour, I imagine he means the different shades of red his white friends turned when they realised what an utter fuckwit he is.

Bring on the sixth extinction.

 

 

 

Rent boy goes west

Mosquitoes have begun sending out the recces early this year. They’re coming in at high altitude late at night – not in packs, but in pairs. They split up once they’ve gained entrance to the bedroom. One makes for the head, the other the feet.

Being a reconnaissance mission, they are meant to check out conditions ahead of the summer advance, then leave quietly. But there are always one or two who can’t help themselves. Like some of our recces in 1976 who just had to push on to Luanda, these little suckers are hanging for a hit of blood so bad that they throw caution to the winds and embark upon a frolic of their own. Let it be said that they don’t always make it back to base.

Soon the mosquito queen – there hasn’t been a king since the Great Slapping of 1984 – will summons her wing commanders. The chief spokesmozzie will read out the reports from the scouts who have travelled from Port Edward to Kosi Bay, from Durban to wherever Kwazulu-Natal ends and Mordor begins.

The queen will put it to the vote. Is it properly summer? Are the targets slow enough? Drunk enough? Mosquitoes are easily excited – especially when their blood-blood levels are low – and the vote, conducted by a show of proboscises, will be unanimous. We attack at 3am.

I need to get out before the onslaught begins. Cape Town has three mosquitoes and a summer that doesn’t leave you perpetually drenched in sweat. I spent seventeen years there and only returned to the east coast after Brenda showed signs of being a lot colder and madder than all the winters put together.

My plan, if you can even call it that, is to spend summers in Cape Town and winters in Durban. However, due to the sudden but not altogether unforeseen change in my marital status, I no longer have a home there. This would mean having to rent. Given my budget and the feeding frenzy of greed around Cape Town’s property market, I’d be lucky to get an asbestos box downwind of Koeberg.

I am going to have to rent out my Durban spot and use that money to get something a bit closer to the action. I wouldn’t go so far as to say my place isn’t fit for human habitation, but it will certainly take more than a rug to pull the living room together.

I have four dining room chairs that were ripped to shreds by the cats formerly known as ours but which were really hers. I assume it was the cats. It could just as easily have been the ex sharpening her teeth late at night when the full moon was out. When I took them in to be reupholstered, the dude asked me what colour material I’d like. I told him it didn’t matter because I lived alone. He seemed to understand.

I don’t have a colour scheme. Or a scheme of any kind, really. I bought a microwave oven that’s too small to accommodate a dinner plate. All my meals are on side plates. The bathroom hasn’t had a light for months because I can’t get the cover off. None of the windows have curtains. I hung two metal elephant heads on the wall, knowing their protruding trunks would almost certainly put someone’s eye out. The beds are pushed up against the wall like prostitutes and their bases are naked. The local monkeys seem to think the place is theirs.

I want to advertise it on the accommodation site Airbnb since this would give me the flexibility to return should something unexpected happen, as I fully expect it to. It also means having to make an effort to get it looking more like a B&B and less like the result of senile squalor syndrome. The thing is, I can’t do it on my own. I need a woman. Studies have shown that women are genetically predisposed towards interior decorating. They understand what goes where and why. They understand colours. They understand concepts like flow, light and space. I don’t even understand how my stupid miniature microwave works.

I am, however, currently between women. And should I solicit advice from those with whom I have had dealings and dalliances, I’d be lucky to get more than a two-word response. One of them obviously being ‘off’.

So I did the unthinkable. I had a sex change. No, I didn’t. That wouldn’t help at all. I’d still have my useless man brain. On the other hand, it would allow me to become a lesbian and have sex with women. Hang on. I haven’t thought this through properly.

Anyway. I did the next most awkward thing. I went to the CNA and looked for a home décor magazine. Inexplicably, many of them insist on featuring gardens. I live in a complex. The garden is not my responsibility and plays no part in my life. I have a vague sense it’s out there somewhere, but beyond that I don’t really care what it does.

I wanted ideas on fairly basic stuff. Like how to make a bed look as if Charlie Sheen hadn’t just spent a week in it. And how to use scatter cushions without making Liberace seem butch. Also, where to put two enormous couches and a wooden table that were removed from the huge marital home in a fit of pique but which aren’t altogether suited to the new, reduced circumstances.

There were at least thirty magazines dealing with homes. In the end I settled for a pack of three. One of them was called Beautiful Kitchens. Every one of its 146 pages has to do with kitchens – a room most women hate being alone in and which most men know only as the place where the fridge lives.

I got home and saw they were all British magazines. That’s no good at all. Ooh, what a lovely lamp. And it’s … let me get my calculator … only R48 000 excluding shipping! What a steal. I’ll take a dozen.

After flipping through these magazines, I realised two things. One, that I’m not gay. And two, interior decorating has more to do with the actual structure than it does the decorations. For a start, it helps to have a fireplace, high ceilings, a staircase, wooden floors and bay windows overlooking two horses in a field.

People who peruse these periodicals are presumably looking for ideas. Well, I had one. It involves flying to London, catching a train to Wiltshire, going around to Andrew and Amanda Bannister’s converted 19th-century Baptist chapel, ringing the bell and, in the unlikely event that they open the door instead of unleashing the hounds, saying, “Love what you’ve done with the place. May I have it?”

I found this decorating tip. “Paint all the walls white, then wait a while before choosing a colour. That way you get used to the effect of the changing light.” You would have to be mental to follow this advice, and not only because it’s utter gibberish. I repainted my bedroom a couple of years ago. There was so much screaming and swearing that the body corporate sent someone around to have a word.

I can only assume advice like this is given by people who can afford to pay others to do the painting.

I don’t want to read about “intimate seating areas where you can curl up with a good book”. If I’m going to get intimate, it’s damn sure not going to be with a book. And at my age I want to be able to stretch out on my back at the first signs of intimacy.

“Jane and Roger have a Buddha from Nepal that creates a beautiful focal point.” I have an aggressive gecko from Westbrook. It creates a terrifying focal point for herpetophobics.

Decorating tip: “If you’re unsure about choosing colours for a room, just pick out an accent from a cushion and build the scheme around it.” Bru, I don’t know what you’re smoking, but if your cushions are talking to you in any kind of accent, regardless of what scheme you’ve got going, you need help.

“An off-white wall makes the perfect backdrop for a set of antlers.” Indeed. There is nothing quite like the skull of a dead stag above your bed to get you in the mood for love. Especially if you’re wearing pyjamas made from the foreskins of baby otters.

These magazines are full of attractive white people with perfect teeth and matching dogs and children called Jay, Poppy or Milo. They are constantly stumbling upon run-down farmhouses or barns and turning them into paragons of gorgeousness awash in Louis XIV couches. Here, we have run-down farmworkers sleeping on couches from Louis Fortuin Furnishers there by the bottle store.

Meanwhile, let me know if you want to spend summer in an eclectically furnished simplex on the north coast. Bring your own side plates. And mind the elephants.

Hovel

Ben Trovato takes a break from protesting to redecorate his home.