Gertruida shakes her head. It seems Virginia ‘overstepped the line‘ (her words) only once, and fell pregnant. She had a miscarriage at about twelve weeks, but soon after that, she noticed her sight diminishing. It got so bad, she had to stop dancing.
“That’s when I…repented. Went to church…prayed. But my eyes…kept on getting…worse.”
There was nothing she could do. Her sin ruined her life. Penniless and destitute once more, the prodigal daughter returned to her mother in Kakamas. Forgiveness was rather slow in coming, but in the end mother and daughter declared peace. However, Virginia still needed to find work, and it was by pure coincidence that a visiting family member mentioned that the school hostel in Calvinia needed a matron.
In those days, the matron only had to supervise – the labourers did the cooking and cleaning. Even with her poor eyesight, Virginia did an excellent job. Eventually she had to retire, and have been living in an old-age home ever since.
“But then I had a…dream. A very clear…dream.”
In her dream, her father appeared in full military uniform. He stood some distance away, but his words carried across the divide to reach her clearly. You have mourned your loss of innocence long enough now, Virginia. In the near future, you will find a new vision for happiness and peace. A new light will shine. This time, don’t waste your chance for a brighter future. I have spoken.
The next day she saw the advert.
“And that’s why I am …here. You under-stand now…?”
Vrede and Daisy have been up since before dawn, playing follow-my-leader up and down Voortrekker Weg. Vrede marked his spot at the disused fire hydrant in front of Sammie’s Shop (the very same one that converted Oudoom to a very different belief than he used to preach on Sundays) and is busy showing Daisy the little graveyard behind the church when the TV van stops in front of Boggel’s Place.
Rita Sandman is a well-known face in South African households. Since she and Edward Volt (Electric Eddie) started broadcasting Carte Blanche, they have been instrumental in bringing the truth about South Africa into every household with a MTN dish. Not afraid to take on any comers, they have a way of exposing fraud and crime like no other TV programme in Africa.
Now, as she steps out of the van on high heels, in a tailored suit and with impeccable makeup, Rita scans the little town with a tingling of alarm. Is this Rolbos? This tiny place?
“Eddie, you must come and have a look. This is a Kalahari town like no other. A shop, a bar, and a church. My, my! What have we landed in this time?”
Now, Mister Volt is no stranger to way-out places. He’;s been to Montreal and Mogadishu, Kampala and Kairo. Nothing in this world can surprise him…or so he thought. Letting out a low whistle, he stands next to Rita, shaking his head.
“This has been a mistake.” He expected a rural town, that is true. But he also expected a thriving little community with lots of older people shuffling around. The programme needed a feel-good episode for the Christmas season, and this…well…there’s absolutely nothing going on here. He looks up sharply when he catches a glimpse of the old man shuffling hastily towards them.
“Are you the camera guys?” Servaas stares at the antennas on the roof of the van. “You must have a power station in there to keep everything going.” Servaas is about to introduce himself when his gaze comes to rest on Rita – and his brain stops working.
Servaas has seen the TV sets on display in the shops in Upington. He’s seen the images of newscasters and sportsmen (mainly soccer, which doesn’t really tickle his fancy) end often wondered what it must be like to have such a thing in his house. Thus, not being completely ignorant, one would expect him to know that TV personalities are chosen for both brains and looks. However, this is the first time he’s seen Rita and for a moment he simply stands there, gaping like a landed carp, as he takes in the beauty of this remarkable woman.
Electric Eddie – who’s seen this reaction in many men – smiles quietly and introduces himself. “And this is Rita, who you may recognise.”
“N-n-no.” Servaas shakes his head. “No, I don’t.” He takes a deep breath while taking in the woman next to the van. She can’t be human…
At this point, Gertruida comes running down the street, shouting a greeting.
“Eddie! Rita! My, you are early! Come on, lets get Boggel to open his bar! Come on now, don’t just stand there…”
Boggel always says that fermented grapes must contain some sort of social equaliser. He’ll smile when he says that, and add that it is also true for fermented wheat, prickly pears and other fruits. Maybe, he reckons, it’s got something to do with the primitive yeast cells that do the fermentation. “They represent, after all, a bit of the origin of life, having been around long before dinosaurs and things like that. So maybe, those cells contain the secret of getting on with others – which is the ultimate survival tool of all.”
Now, whether Louis Pasteur should have included this revelation in his famous Etudes sur la Bière in 1877, is open for debate; but a bare three hours later, Boggel’s Place is abuzz with the sound of happy conversation. Gertruida has latched on to Eddie, bombarding him with questions. His answers draw frequent gasps from the crowd as Boggel serves round after round.
Virginia, well aware that this is the day of he competition and noting the absence of other competitors, is dressed in her finest frock and sports a wide-brimmed church hat with a plastic rose pinned to the side. Most of her wrinkles are hidden behind the dark glasses while the oversized earrings make the tortoise skin of her neck less obvious.
The TV crew busied themselves, setting up the lights on the veranda where they also installed a makeshift little stage, complete with a judges table, several microphones and a fake backdrop depicting a rather skeletal camel.
When the sun dips towards the horizon, Gertruida nudges Mevrou.
“We have to get ready. I’ll tell Vetfaan to keep an eye on Servaas while we change. Remember now: put on that wig I gave you, and stuff some cotton wool in your cheeks. Leave your glasses at home. Our disguises must be perfect – those cameras never lie.”
Fanny and Precilla has been busy with a lamb-neck potjie all afternoon, and now serve the happy gathering in Boggel’s Place. Rita digs in immediately, but Electric Eddie first wants to conclude his demonstration of a hip-swaying, dust-swirling riel-dance on the sidewalk in front of the bar. Not surprisingly, most of the people in Boggel’s Place have joined him…
“This is going to be an evening to remember,” Boggel whispers in awe as he watches his patrons.
How right he’s going to be proved,,,