“They’re doing Swan Lake in Cape Town – on ice, nogal!” Gertruida sighs as she puts down the newspaper and stares out of the window. Oh, how she longs for the days when she could waltz in to the State Theatre in her best evening gown, excited about another excellent performance of ballet or opera! Out here in the Kalahari, she seems so far removed from those moments.
Servaas frowns at this. It doesn’t make sense! “I though global warming was melting everything down there.”
“It’s a ballet, Servaas. With skates. On ice.” Gertruida tries her best to be patient, but old Servaas really gets to her when he’s so ignorant.
“It’s sinful, then,” he retorts. “Short skirts and those tight-fitting pants! I don’t like ballet.”
“Oh, shush! Shut your trap! Ballet is the most graceful of all the performing arts. And to do it on ice, requires years of experience and practice. It says here that the troupe is one of the best in the world.”
“Ja, maybe, whatever. But I’ll have you know that our troops used to be the best, way back then. Nothing lasts forever, I suppose. Look at our cricket team.”
Vetfaan comes to the rescue. “It would have been nice to see it, Gertruida. I agree. But we can only dream of it, can’t we? Cape Town is too far and the tickets seem a bit pricey, don’t they?”
“Ag, I don’t know. Travelling all that distance for a show is way above my budget. And my sheep needs shearing.” Kleinpiet sips his beer, thinking how nice it would have been. “Tell us about the ballet, Gertruida?”
“Well, it’s a fascinating story. Odette is a beautiful girl, transformed into a swan until she meets a man, falls in love with him…somebody who’ll remain faithful to her forever. This almost happens when she meets Prince Siegfried, but he is tricked into declaring his love for Odile, who he thinks is Odette. This is, of course, a major mistake and banishes Odette to swanhood forever. When Siegfried realises his mistake, he is devastated. The only way he could be with Odette, is to die with her. So they decide to drown in the lake and live happily ever after in the hereafter.”
This doesn’t improve Servaas’ mood. “Who thinks out such farfetched plots? Huh? Swans and suicide? It’s ridiculous.”
Even Vetfaan gets upsets with Servaas now. “Look, it’s only a story. And a good one, at that, I’ll have you know.” He remains silent for a few moments, lost in thought. “It’s much like our politics these days, Servaas. Think about it.”
Serfaas knits his bushy brows together, shakes his head and grunts. “What are you talking about?”
“It’s like this. We have a country that wants the most beautiful future for all. Then a prince comes along – in the form of our beloved prez – and everybody wants him to love them. With him at their side, the people thought they’d have a chicken on every table, every Sunday. For a while it seemed as if was going to work out just fine. Then a certain Mister Gupta comes along and upsets the apple cart. The prez, it seemed, didn’t love the country as much as the new admirer in his life. So prez teams up with Gupta, see, and the people are left grieving the loss.
“Well, one shouldn’t underestimate the Guptas of the world. He’s just using the prez for free landing rights at Waterkloof and the business contracts he can wrangle out of the system. Well, by the time the prez finds out he’s made a mistake, he – and the people who kept him in power – will realise they’ve committed political suicide. So they drown in a sea of corruption and crime, and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men will never be able to put them together again.” Vetfaan raises his glass in a mock salute when Gertruida offers a modest applause.
“Oh.” Servaas brightens. “So it’s a true story? No short skirts and tight pants?”
“Yes, Servaas, with rumpled suits and extra XXXX size long pants. About the skirts I’m not sure, but probably nothing above the knees. As for the troupe: you’re actually part of it, as well. A minor part, but still…you did vote, didn’t you?”
The old man contemplates all of this while he finishes his beer. “It’s a tragedy, isn’t it?”
“Yes Servaas. It’s a sad, sad affair.”
“I think – after having given it some thought – that I’d rather prefer the version on ice.”
That’s the nice thing about Rolbos: the townsfolk tend to think along the strangest lines, come up with the most ridiculous ideas and somehow manage to be convincing as well as entertaining at the same time. Tchaikovsky would have fitted in quite nicely, come to think about it.
(Only watch the video if you understand South African humour – and the art of exiting the political scene gracefully…sort of!)