Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Big Herd Syndrome

image-large_trans++qVzuuqpFlyLIwiB6NTmJwfSVWeZ_vEN7c6bHu2jJnT8.png“I thought England would choose to remain in the European Union,” Servaas says as hy sips his beer. It’s been a quiet morning in Boggel’s Place; Vetfaan is tinkering with the tractor’s engine again and Gertruida must still return from Upington, where she went to get more wool. The blanket she’s crocheting is coming on nicely indeed;  it’s going to be another long, cold winter.

“Ag, I don’t know, Servaas. Whether they’re in or out doesn’t bother me. But you know the English – they’re a proud nation. Or at least…they were. There was a time they ruled the world and now they’re just a small island. Who cares?”

“Money cares, that’s what. The City of London is an economic hub, Boggel. They pull a lot of strings and expect a lot of people to jump when they do. This isn’t good news for the financial world – and we’re not going to escape the effects of this vote.”

They fall silent as the lorry from Kalahari Vervoer stops in front of Sammy’s Shop. When Gertruida gets out on the passenger side, Servaas brightens.

“She’s bummed a lift back! Vetfaan will be pleased; he was supposed to fetch her tomorrow. And…I’d love to hear what her opinion is.”

Within minutes, Gertruida has to listen to a barrage of questions.

“Okay, okay, you guys. Let me tell you a story. ”

***

Once upon a time – long ago – Zebra had a bright idea.

“Look, we are always scared of Lion and Leopard. Why, as soon as I lower my head to eat some grass, I have to look up again to check out the vicinity.  And when I want to drink water, I can only manage the tiniest mouthful before I have to do the same.

“Now you, Giraffe and Kudu, you have the same problem. So do you, Springbuck and Klipspringer. Even big, strong, Buffalo suffers the same fate.The threat, my friends, is universal – we all are in danger of being the main dish on the supper table of our enemies every day.

“Now, here’s what I suggest: let’s group together and become one big, happy herd. Some could be on the lookout while the others eat and drink in peace. We’ll share feeding, drinking and lookout duties amongst us rather than having to do it all by ourselves. Huh? What do you say?”

The other animals thought about Zebra’s suggestion and couldn’t decide.

“Well, then we’ll vote on this.That’s the only way we’d know whether it’s a good idea or not.” Little Duiker, the most agile of them all, didn’t like such long meetings. There were places to go, things to do.

The animals voted. Yes, the majority said, it’s better if they herd together.

Zebra’s plan worked well for a while. The animals shared lookout duties and they felt safe. Then, something strange happened. Due to a drought in the Baboon Territory, the baboons started looking for a better place to live. When they heard about the Big Herd, they headed that way in big numbers.

“We want what you have,” Baboon told Zebra. “It’s only fair. We are all animals, aren’t we? Go on, share your good fortune with us.”

“But you’re not an antelope, Mister Baboon. You guys don’t eat like us; you dig up the soil to get to scorpions and things that live underground. We only eat bits of grass here and there, allowing the veld to recover again. But…once you’re finished eating, the veld won’t be the same until after it rains once more.

“No, Mister Baboon, I’m sorry but we can’t allow you here.”

“Gee, how selfish!” Gentle Eland shook his head. “How can you be like that? Poor Baboon has nowhere to go; you can’t refuse to give him some shelter and food? No, I think Baboon deserves some compassion. He should stay.”

Now, by that time, the herd had become extremely large. Antelopes of all shapes and sizes grazed alongside each other and the news of Baboon’s plight soon became a topic of serious discussion. Most of the animals seemed to be in favour of allowing Baboon to stay, but Zebra put his hoof down.

“Then I’ll leave. I’ll take my chances. You guys want Baboon to stay? Why, go ahead and be my guest. I shall find my own piece of veld to graze. Goodbye and good riddance!”

The other animals thought Zebra was being stupid and welcomed Baboon with bright smiles.

“Shame, we feel sorry for you,” they told Baboon. “Come, we’ve gathered some berries for you.”

Now, it didn’t take too long for them to realise that Zebra was right. Baboon’s destructive way of feeding soon had the veld bare of grass. Worse, Baboon even started telling them that the veld was his, and they had no right to tell him where to feed. When the animals grumbled about this, Baboon threatened to fill up the watering hole with stones.

“He’ll never do that,” Kudu said. “Did we not help when he was starving? No, he’s just bluffing.”

But Baboon wasn’t bluffing. When the animals went for a drink the next day, they found a great heap of stones where the water once was.  The Big Herd was disappointed, angry and disillusioned all at once.

“It’s your fault,” Kudu told Eland.

“But…I thought Buffalo was supposed to guard the hole?”

“No, it was Klipspringer’s turn…or was it Duiker?”

The herd had become too big. While Zebra was there, he kept an orderly roster of guard duties; but when he left, nobody stepped up to do that. In the ensuing argument, Kudu butted Eland with his giant horns. Eland stomped on Klipspringer. And Duiker, the most agile of them all, simply ran off to search for Zebra.

***

“You see, the idea of a communal unity seemed like a great idea in the beginning. But the animals ignored one important aspect: they were all different. They ate different sorts of plants. Every specie had it’s own habits. And they all liked the company of their own type. Antelopes come in different sizes, shapes and colours. Zebra has stripes for camouflage, Kudu has horns to fight with and Buffalo is big and strong. Herding them together was a mistake – while they felt safer, they had to give up who and what they were.

“Then, when Baboon showed up, he not only ruined their peaceful co-existence, he also made them aware of their differences.

“A big herd, Servaas, can’t last forever. At some point they have to split up to retain their identities and ways of life. Today you’ll find small herds scattered here and there, because that is the way to deal with outside threats. A smaller herd needs less water and grass, escapes danger with greater ease and can travel farther with less problems.

“It is true for animals. It is true for the UK. It will be true for the European Union…and eventually, after the veld has been destroyed, for South Africa.”

 

 

 

Whatever happened to Old School?

man-opening-door-for-lady-e1313090426170“That was close,” Vetfaan says as he sits down at the bar. “I was almost arrested in Prieska, man! Gimme a beer!”

Now, anybody who knows Vetfaan, knows he likes to stay on the right side of the law. Policemen and lawyers tend to make him nervous, especially when he returns from his biltong-gathering excursions. He maintains he has never poached a single Kudu – he only uses the meat from recently deceased animals. Although the cause of death might be disputed, he insists it should be listed as another case of lead poisoning.

“Been out hunting again, have you?”  Boggel’s secret admiration for Yoda surfaces from time to time. “Trouble you should have.”

“Nah, it’s not that.” The burly farmer swallows half to contents of the glass, burps with gusto and plonks down his drink. “Sexual harassment! Can you believe that? At my age!”

“Pleased, you should be.”

“Ag, Boggel, snap out of it! I only told the girl at KFC she has beautiful eyes. Next thing I know, Constable Kiewiet arrives and gives me a talking-to. He would have arrested me, but I reminded him of the last time we met.”

That story had done the rounds a few months ago. Kiewiet stopped Vetfaan’s pick-up one evening and found two recently deceased Springbok carcasses under a tarpaulin. When he got excited about his discovery, Vetfaan cleverly diverted his attention by reminding the constable of the fact that he – the policeman – would not be able to pin the demise of the poor animals on him, the innocent farmer who came across their pathetic remains. Why, he – Vetfaan – was on his way to the police station with the evidence of some individual’s (or individuals’) dastardly deed to shoot at defenceless and unarmed creatures.

The constable agreed that, indeed, Vetfaan had made a strong case for further investigation. Vetfaan suggested that they discuss the matter like gentlemen should, over a beer and maybe a bite to eat. This they did, right there, next to the road. Afterwards, Vetfaan mentioned the fact that Kiewiet had partaken in the unlawful act of consuming evidence. It was then mutually agreed that maybe – just maybe – it would be unwise to pursue the matter further. Case closed.

“Lucky, you were.”

“You know, Boggel, I don’t get it. What happened to good old chivalry? These days you dare not compliment a lady. You may not even sneak a peek at a shapely figure – it’s called invasion of privacy these days, and put on the same pedestal as abuse. Laying a comforting hand on an upset shoulder, is suddenly equal to fondling. Where is this all going to end?”

“Called gender equality, it is. Rights for humans. Laws for privacy. Not allowed to abuse, you are.”

Vetfaan shrugs. “You’re right, of course. Society seems to think that everybody is the same. If you say somebody is black, you’re a racist. If you smile at a woman, you’re a sexist. When you talk about labourers, you’re elitist. And…you are completely politically incorrect to talk about blindness, physical impairments or mental instability.

“Everybody suddenly got on the Discrimination Wagon. It’s as if society became so oversensitive about…issues…that we dare not mention them anymore. No, society wants us all to believe there are no differences in colour, gender or ability. Society wants us all the be the same; but let me remind you: equality has nothing to do with being the same. Unlike politicians want to tell us, we’re not a colourless, cultureless society believing in every religion ever invented. I’m white. Kiewiet is black. He’s a Muslim, I’m Christian. He votes for the ANC and I’d rather die than do that. We are, Boggel, and never will be, the same.”

“But respect him, you do?”

“Of course! He’s a human just like me. He has dreams and goals. He lives, loves and functions just like I do. What I’m saying, Boggel, is that the human race consists of two sexes, a multitude of cultures and a spectrum of colours. Each of us are precious. But…why make us fit into the same little box? Why can’t we stand back in wonder, celebrating diversity and acknowledging obvious differences without adding the word ‘discrimination’ to everything?”

“Everything backward, we have?”

“Yes, Boggel. There was a time when a compliment didn’t land you in trouble. When a handsome man or a beautiful woman didn’t feel threatened when somebody said something nice. When opening a door for a lady wasn’t called abuse, or when being courteous and friendly didn’t imply sexal impropriety.”

“Old school, you are.”

“Yep, Boggel. And very much out of fashion I am. Another beer you give.”

 

Alive and Well…

ams-history“It’s been awfully quiet lately.” Servaas burps as he orders a fresh beer.

“Ja, people think nothing happens here any more.” Raising a questioning eyebrow, Vetfaan turns to Gertruida. “What’s up? Has he stopped writing? Gone walkabout? Emigrated? Long holiday? Contemplating his navel?”

“Oh no!” As usual, Gertruida has all the answers. “He’s been spending lots of time at his keyboard. Lots! But, he says, it’ll all be revealed soon.”

“Oh?” Boggel closes the empty drawer of the till. “That’s nice. I’m sorry to interrupt, guys, but it’s the end of the month. You have to settle your tabs.”

They ignore the little bent man…like they always do when he reminds them that the only thing in life you get for free, is the Vrede’s landmine in the middle of Voortrekker Weg every morning.

“So what is he writing?”

“Ah, it’s the story of a man who made international history a few years back. It’s got everything. Poor boy, an outcast, struggles with politics, love and rejection. He gets a chance to change the world…and then he does.”

“Is he a local chappie?” Vetfaan loves to hear that not everything in South Africa is falling apart. “Please don’t tell me it’s about Zuma of Malema?”

“Oh no! Not a political figure, although politics features quite prominently in the man’s life. No – he was just a kid from the wrong side of the tracks who  made good. Like our stories, it’s a feel-good tale of determination, perseverance, a bit of good luck and a breakthrough. Oh, and love against all odds. It makes fascinating reading.”

“Yeah?” Servaas isn’t impressed. “That sounds rather common to all men, I’d say. I had a tough time convincing Siena to shack up with me, too…”

“Which is quite understandable, given your looks.” They all laugh at Kleinpiet’s interjection before turning to Gertruida again.

“And there’s a small chance – maybe more than that – of a movie. In fact, the storyline is so intriguing, it’d be a crime not to film it.”  Even Servaas sits up when Gertruida informs them about this. “Yes, a movie. We have such wonderful, real-life South African stories. People read about our economy going for junk status. They watch our parliament becoming a joke. Our president single handedly wins the competition to be the most ridiculed man in the country. Malema frightens the whites and Zuma scares the blacks.

“But where – oh where! – are the good stories? We need to be reminded of a once-proud nation which produced remarkable men – sometimes against all odds. Instead of allowing us to sink deeper into a muddy depression, we should be reminded that no situation – no political rhetoric – has the right to dump the nation into junk status. If it happens to the economy, that’s beyond your and my control. But…each of us is the captain of his own ship.

“That’s what the story is all about. Maybe you’ll read about it soon. Maybe you’ll see it on the big screen. It’s a  story we must all take note of. Essential reading, I’ll call it.”

“Well…who is it about? A real person?”

“Yes, Vetfaan. He’s real.” Gertruida suddenly looks sad. “But he won’t tell me the name. I can guess, but I really don’t know…”

The group at the bar stares at Gertruida in shocked silence. Gertruida doesn’t know? That’s a first!

“…But I’ll find out, believe you me! I’ve got my ear on the ground. Pretty soon I’ll know his name – then I’ll tell you.”

“Don’t you have a clue?”

“I do, Servaas. I’ll play you a song … ”

The Wounded Buffalo of Society

Alfred_Jacob_Miller_-_Wounded_Buffalo_-_Walters_37194056

Wounded Buffalo: Alfred J Miller

“Told you.” Gertruida switches off the radio. “The ANC is in a corner. No way they can afford to fire their own president – they’ll just create an impossible situation for themselves. I mean: he’s also the president of the ANC, remember? He dishes out the goodies and they all want some.  On the other hand, the ANC isn’t stupid; they are all too aware of the fall-out of the series of scandals Zuma has landed them in. The only thing they can do now, is damage control.”

“Shew, Gertruida. Why can’t he just resign, like the Iceland guy did? Take the honourable way out and get it over with. As things stand now, we’re in for mass action, strikes, marches, protests and civil unrest. The government has prodded the sleeping giant of society for too long and they’re waking up with a headache – and they don’t like that. The cost of mass action is going to be more than the mere building of a private home in Nkandla.”

“Resign, Servaas? After the way they got rid of Mbeki? No, Zuma will sing his songs, dance his dances and giggle his way through all this. I’m guessing, but the cost of the upgrades at Nkandla won’t even put a dent in the savings he’s accumulated after 1994 – and especially after he became president.. Money isn’t the object. Remember, he used to be in charge of intelligence in the ANC – he knows all the secrets and he’s wielding that knowledge with great finesse. You cross that man at your own peril. He’s got the power, the contacts, the money and don’t forget: he holds the keys to many opportunities. He’s in the game for all the wrong reasons – and that’s why they can’t get rid of him.”

Servaas sighs. The great promise of democracy has turned into a curse of a one-party state. Whichever way he looks at the future, he simply cannot see much hope. And if he feels like this, how much more would the poverty stricken masses be despondent at the prospect of a bleak future?

“They’ll burn a few more libraries, I suppose.”

“Yes, Servaas, just like the government burnt the constitution. Tit for tat.”

“It’s like that buffalo the hunter wounded a few years back, remember?”

Gertruida looks up sharply. Yes, she remembers the incident that happened  on the farm in Limpopo. Vetfaan’s distant nephew owned a hunting farm in the Bushveld, where overseas hunters paid handsomely to hunt a variety of game. During the hunting season of 2013, a hunter got excited and shot at a huge buffalo, wounding it in the shoulder area. The buffalo went for the hunter. Vetfaan’s nephew realised what was happening and tried to bring the charging beast down with a head shot. The bullet glanced off a horn. Another shot went wide. This all happened in a fraction of a second.

The buffalo, enraged and in pain, wasn’t going to stop. The foreign hunter was going to die. Vetfaan’s nephew then ran from his hiding place, positioning himself for a better shot – the very last chance to save the hunter. The buffalo swerved, suddenly focussing on the new adversary.

“He died heroically, didn’t he? Poor chap. But at least he saved that stupid hunter’s life.”

Servaas nods. “That’s exactly my point. A good man died to save a stupid one. And now the ANC is doing the same thing. They’re positioning themselves between a wounded  society and a stupid hunter. Only: this political buffalo is not as fast as that one in the Bushveld. It’s a slow, ponderous animal – but once it focusses on a prey, it won’t give up until it’s trampled its enemy to death. It happened to every empire you can think of – from Babylon to the Romans and the British Empire. King Leopoldt, Reagan, prime ministers and presidents – history is littered with the corpses of men and women who thought they could outsmart the system. Fortunately, the buffalo always wins…”

He gets a fondly surprised smile from Gertruida. Yes, old Servaas has seen governments and parties come and go. He, like the rest of the population, is no stranger to change.

Vetfaan walks in, dusts his hat and sits down with an expectant wink. Time for a beer; he’s been servicing his old Landy and it’s hot out there.

“The weather is changing,” he says conversationally. “The wind is picking up.”

“It is, Vetfaan. It surely is…”

When Panama comes to Prieska

panama-papers.jpgEverybody knows Kroek Knoetze – although they’ll never use his gossip name whenever he’s introduced. He’s one of those guys blessed with both physical as well as legal muscles. A former Mister Monster (an unofficial barefisted competition with no holds barred, resulting in several contenders facing hefty medical bills.), it is also said (but never verified) that he also holds a PhD in law. He never chose to practice as an advocate, however. He simply set up a small office on the outskirts of Prieska, where he refused to see the occasional desperate housewife or disgruntled spouse. His main activity – according to local know-it-all, Hessie Houdtbeck – concerns shady deals involving land distribution to BEE companies.

“Has he been back?” Servaas glances at Vetfaan when he walks in. “I believe he saw you two days ago?”

Vetfaan smiles back. “No, and he won’t be. He’s in Switzerland now, according to what Gertruida tells me.”

“But he wanted to buy up your farm. Land redistribution, as I understand it.”

“Ja, that’s right.But I think he’s lost interest.”

Gertruida comes to the rescue. “Come on, Vetfaan, tell him the whole story. You know Servaas has been to Upington for the past few days – in fact, he left just before your meeting with Kroek. Be nice and tell him the story.”

The burly farmer sighs – he doesn’t like to brag; but when Gertruida tells you to speak up, you’d better do it. Otherwise she’ll inform Servaas about the events, and she has a way of dramatising things.

“Well, it went like this: he rocked up with a stack of papers, telling me to sign. I told him there was no claim on my farm. He disagreed, using a lot of Latin I didn’t understand, and kept on insisting that I sign the documents. I told him I lost my glasses and couldn’t read the fine print. He said I needn’t worry about it. I said I always worry about fine print. He offered to read it – more Latin.

“At that point I became fed up and asked him to leave. He wasn’t keen. Now he’s having a sort-of animal operation in Switzerland.”

“It’s called a rhinoplasty, Vetfaan. It’s for his nose.”

“Well, we know he’s not there for his nose alone, Gertruida. It’s about that chap they arrested at the airport when he tried to leave for London. The one that was going to tell the world about the family that hijacked our president – and his family – and the political party. That happened right after I convinced him to return to Prieska. And just before the Panama Papers got in the news. That’s why he’s there, not his nose. Anyway, it wasn’t broken that bad – just a bit out of shape, if you asked me.”

“Whoa! Did you break Kroek’s nose? And you haven’t got a bruise to show? Now that’s impressive!” Servaas raises his bushy eyebrows in appreciation. “Most impressive, I’d say.”

“You haven’t been listening, Servaas. Here’s the South African link with Mossack Fonseca. There was bound to be one, don’t you think? With Zuma’s family allegedly leaking millions out of the country, they had to have somebody locally to help them with the transactions. And if Kroek was involved, it explains his rapid exit…” Gertruida still loves international intrigue and is regularly updated by her former colleagues.

“You actually broke his nose? Shees, man, it should be on the TV! To beat Kroek in a fistfight….wow!” Servaas winks at Boggel. “That deserves a round on the house.”

***

Rolbos is like this. The world is filled with Kroeks and Fonsecas and people who explore every which way to corrupt the system – and they get away with it, just like our own leaders in parliament do.

But to break Mister Monster’s nose? Now that really is big news.

And deserves a round on the house.

***

“Big day in Parliament today,” Gertruida tries to get the conversation going amidst the free drinks. “They’re trying to get rid of Zuma.”

“What….?” Servaas peers myopically at her. “Oh.” He shakes his head, trying to focus, gives up and smiles. “Won’t happen. Not until Vetfaan talks to Kroek again…”

Weekly Photo Challenge – Half-light…

The Challenge: Share a  half-light photo inspired by a poem, verse, song lyric or story.

 

Okay: here’s the Rolbos entry, titled: Zuma Sunset.

zuma sunset_edited-2

It is the evening of the day,
I sit and watch the children play.
Smiling faces I can see
But not for me,
I sit and watch as tears go by.                                                    M Faithful

 

Moody Blues and the Gupta Gallop

Moodys+XXX“So…you were right all along?” Servaas lifts his glass in a silent salute to Gertruida. “Must say, I’m not surprised. The writing on the wall was there for everybody to see.”

“Yep. Our prez has dropped us in the doodoo properly – but he did it slowly, like the frog in the saucepan. Only now, the water is so hot, the frog wants out.” Vetfaan never liked the analogy – frogs don’t deserve being boiled alive, anyway. “The ANC simply can’t defend his shenanigans any longer.” He frowns, shaking his head. “They’re in a Catch-22  situation. If they rally around the prez, they’re exposing themselves to future legal scrutiny – which is sure to follow. If they go against him, they’re basically saying their government has failed – they appointed the man in the first instance, didn’t they? So it implies complete incompetence.”

“So what’s new, Vetfaan? Didn’t you follow the news for the last few years? Name three…no, name one…state-run institution that is a complete success. No, my friend, they’ve dropped the ball a long time ago.”

“What worries me, is how deep the rot really runs.” Boggel serves another round as he joins the conversation. “Nene, Jonas, Vygie…I tell you, they’re just the tip of the iceberg. If somebody sits down to make a list of our ministers and politicians who have ..er….relations…with the Guptas, I think it’ll take a long time. And, of course, if the Guptas did it, there’ll be other businesses that did the same. I’ll bet that a lot of shady deals have taken place – the part of the corruption iceberg below the surface involves much more than one Indian family.”

“I think it’s a good thing. I mean, let’s get it out in the open, once and for all. For months and months we’ve been sitting here, talking about the corruption in our government. We’ve even anticipated the departure of our prez.” Pausing to take an appreciating sip, Servaas continues: “This weekend the ANC is going to gather to discuss the whole debacle; a most unfortunate situation with Moody’s being around to downgrade us to economical junk status. I’m sure sparks are going to fly. What gives me hope, is that those who spoke out against corruption – like dear Vygie – must have sufficient  support within the ANC to have spoken out like she did. Zuma is in deep trouble.”

“You’re right Servaas. The ANC is not the united party it used to be. Some have their fingers in the Gupta purse, others not. So this weekend you’ll see some serious accusations and convincing denials. Whatever happens, there’ll be new alliances  – and new life-long enemies after the weekend. This’ll hurt the ANC, no matter what they do.”

2478512_131204203756_Pretoria_01“Yep. It’s called democracy – at least that is still functioning, even if it has been crippled over the last few years. That’s the funny thing about South Africa: we’ve been through some troubled times in the past – and here we are, still doing our own thing. England tried to rule us…and they failed. So will the Guptas.” Vetfaan takes  a handful of peanuts from the Voortrekker Monument bowl, smiling at the thought of somebody being so bold (or stupid) as to think South Africans will simply accept everything they hear on the SABC.

“You want to know what’s going to happen over the weekend?” Gertruida puts on her all-knowing face. “I’ll tell you. The ANC is going to do a lot of window dressing. They’ll pretend to be very concerned and tell the nation they’ll appoint commissions of enquiry – a lot of them – hoping the taxpayers won’t realise they’re just forking out more money to cover the ANC’s blunders. Then they’ll say the matter is sub judice and they can’t comment. That’ll be the public stance. Behind the closed doors of that meeting, things are going to be super hot. Uncle Zum won’t be able to laugh a lot. They’ll tell him that they’re planning his exit in the most diplomatic way, so as to cause as little damage to the party as possible.

“On Monday a few terse press releases will try to reassure the country that the ANC is set to root out corruption and blahblah fishpaste. But the press – thank goodness for journalists – won’t give up. Guptagate, Zumagate, stalemate, get it straight before it’s too late.

“Moody’s will say they’re considering the downgrade, but nothing definite yet.

“And the Gupta-gallop will start. There’ll be more accusations as politicians try to distance themselves from the stink. It’ll be  a St Peter’s moment with those with red hands trying to deny they know the family, with others pointing fingers.

“The lid is off the can of worms, my friends. We’re in for a bumpy ride…”

Why do we never get an answer
When we’re knocking at the door?
With a thousand million questions
About hate and death and war.

Our very own Firefrorefiddle, the ultimate Fiend…

51Z7RPtdZkL._AC_UL320_SR240,320_“Funny, isn’t it?” Gertruida, true to her nature, doesn’t elaborate for a while. She wants a response and won’t continue until she gets it.

“Um?” Vetfaan gives her the obligatory quizzing look.

“Life runs around us in circles, Vetfaan. What goes up, must come down. Today’s losers are tomorrow’s winners. History repeats itself over and over again.” She busies herself with her beer, knowing she’s done enough to pique interest. She gets it with the second “Um…?”

“The world has been oscillating between Radical and Conservative,” she goes on. “Ever since the beginning of time, the real war on earth has been between the aggressors and the pacifists. Then, of course, the pacifists become the aggressors and everything goes up in flames for a while. After a suitable period of time, the pot gets taken from the stove, everything settles down…and then we do it all over again.”

“Depressing, Gertruida. That’s all I can say about that. Talk about something nice for a change.”

Gertruida stares at the ceiling for a full minute before saying anything. “You think life is a musical, Vetfaan? Dancing girls and happy endings? Well, wake up, will you?” Suddenly feeling a bit guilty about her rebuke, she continues in a kinder note. “Have you heard about Firefrorefiddle, the Fiend of the Fell?”

***

It wasn’t Lloyd Webber who created Gus, the theatre cat, but T.S. Elliot, who described the old cat in  Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. Gus, originally called Asparagus, used to be a great actor once. Now, old, decrepit and no longer the darling of the stage, poor Gus is left with the memories of his previous successes.

His best ever performance, he remembers well, was when he played the role of Firefrorefiddle, the Fiend of the Fell. That scoundrel cat broke into every house and stole everything he wanted. He used to be so good, Gus recalls, that he thought he could never be caught.

And he likes to relate his success on the Halls,
Where the Gallery once gave him seven cat-calls.
But his grandest creation, as he loves to tell,
Was Firefrorefiddle, the Fiend of the Fell.

Gus used to have what is called the gift of the gab. He could talk in a way his audience simply couldn’t ignore.

“I have played,” so he says, “every possible part,
And I used to know seventy speeches by heart.
I’d extemporize back-chat, I knew how to gag,
And I knew how to let the cat out of the bag.
I knew how to act with my back and my tail;
With an hour of rehearsal, I never could fail.
I’d a voice that would soften the hardest of hearts,
Whether I took the lead, or in character parts.

Now, his fiery performances are a thing of the past, and Gus – the Theatre Cat – can only dream about his glory days. The younger generation is taking over, something Gus finds a bit unacceptable.

“Well, the Theatre’s certainly not what it was.
These modern productions are all very well,
But there’s nothing to equal, from what I hear tell,
That moment of mystery
When I made history
As Firefrorefiddle, the Fiend of the Fell.”

***

“That’s much better, Gertruida. I like it when you talk about something different for a change.” Vetfaan winks, sips his beer and then suddenly looks up. “So, what happened to Firefrorefiddle?”

Gertruida smiles – he’s put his foot right in the trap.

“You see, Vetfaan, life has a way of turning the wheel. Firefrorefiddle tried one last daring heist. He  broke into the bank and opened the safe. And then, while he was staring at the stacks of gold that soon would be his, his admiration for his own special abilities made him drop his guard. He didn’t see the security guards approaching. And that was the end of his thieving ways, much to the relief of the people of the Fell.”

“Firefrorefiddle brought about his own downfall? His ego got in the way?”

“That’s right, Vetfaan.”

Vetfaan sighs. He’s been tricked again. Gertruida’s story wasn’t about T.S. Elliot after all. He should have known better.

“Did Eliot really create that story? I mean the one about the bank and the safe?”

Gertruida flashes him a condescending smile. “No, Vetfaan, he only invented Gus. The ending is the South African version by our very own president.”

“What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”                                                                                                       T.S. Eliot.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Life in Harmony

“Every event in Nature has a unique harmony and rhythm.” ― Joseph Rain.

Harmony fills the residual vacuum after emotion is removed from a situation – if we’re lucky. When only the facts of a matter is considered, one is left with one of two possible outcomes. Anger and acceptance cannot coexist in the same space, after all.

Harmony – the holy grail so lacking in society – has proven to be an extremely illusive goal. In my search for harmony, I have found some striking pointers in nature to chart the way into the unknown.

IMG_4302.JPGIt seems as if the younger members of most species are quite prepared to be unafraid and to share whatever they have. We, on the other hand, thrive on fear (why else do we listen to the politicians?) and tend to hoard. Innocence lost, indeed…IMG_4353.JPGTenacity…we’ve lost the will to persist. If at first we don’t succeed, we give up. Harmony so often requires a sustained effort  – and then rewards us with grace.IMG_3619.JPGHarmony is a reflection of the state of mind. It is the product of the past. In the tranquility of acceptance, we can reach for the sky.IMG_4753.JPGHarmony is the balance between sun and shade. Once we allow the sun to shine on others, we are often surprised at the response. Individuals who are also striving towards joy and beauty will respond in kind – even though they are rare. But…we’ll never know who they are until we reach out, will we?IMG_4881.JPGHarmony has always been there, waiting patiently. It is there, even now. The turmoil burdening the journey to contentment, frequently only exists in the eye of the beholder. A favourite quote attributed to Paulo Coelho: ‘Everything will be okay in the end. And if it isn’t okay, it’s not the end…yet.IMG_5490.JPGSadly, harmony sometimes only reveals itself in the later stages of life. When the day is done, the sword safely back in the scabbard and tranquility finally is allowed to surface – that’s when, at last, we discover the liberating joy of dancing to the rhythm of Life.

 

The Scorpion that didn’t die.

Sidney_Hall_-_Urania's_Mirror_-_Sagittarius_and_Corona_Australis,_Microscopium,_and_TelescopiumThe latest rumours (or are they more than that?) have so upset Vetfaan that he took to the dunes again. He does this from time to time; to create distance between himself and the dark reality of South Africa, to clear his mind….and to seek encouragement from his old friend, !Kung. Truth be told, !Kung has the strangest way of putting things into a new perspective, despite the fact that he never reads a paper, still believes that there are small people trapped inside the TV (he just might be right on that score!) and has never heard our president speak. This last attribute also could be seen as a point in his favour.Or maybe he’s just fortunate..

Vetfaan finds the wizened old man waiting patiently in the shade of the camelthorn tree near the big red dune. Vetfaan is never sure whether !Kung always stays in the vicinity or only comes when he knows Vetfaan’s visit is imminent. When he asked him about it once, !Kung simply smiled and told Vetfaan that there are many things he’d never understand and therefore wouldn’t believe. “The problem with Outside People is they ask too many questions,” !Kung said quietly, and left it at that. Outside People, in !Kung’s language, is anybody that lives beyond the shifting dunes of the Kalahari.

After their customary greeting, lighting the fire and sharing the comfortable silence between them, Vetfaan gets up, fetches the Kudu liver he had brought along and roasts it on the glowing embers.

“You are much troubled,” Kung says eventually, running his small hand over the white stubbles of his remaining hair.

How do you explain the chaos in the country to somebody who has never even voted? Doesn’t read, cannot write and is unable to understand the term ‘corruption’? Who can simply not understand  that senior officials are involved in criminal activities; smuggling everything from cigarettes to rhino horn, raping the treasury and consider lying as part of their job descriptions? !Kung has never even heard of ambassadors, nor of the ‘doctor’ we have in Japan or the embarrassment of our emissary in the United States.

“There are hyenas in the country, !Kung. They are eating our people.” Vetfaan stares into the flames, knowing this is enough. !Kung will hear all the things he hasn’t said.

The old man nods. “The drought has come.”

Vetfaan waits. He knows there is more. !Kung gets up to fetch the calabash of honey beer, which he offers to Vetfaan before drinking himself.

“When the grass is this high,” he lifts his hand above his head, “there is enough for the oryx and the kudu and the hare. Some eat of the trees, some of the grass. When there is plenty, everybody is fat. But sometimes there are too many of the one, more than the other. And then the trees can’t make leaves fast enough and the bigger animals will start feeding on the grass the hare needs to eat. Hare will not be happy.

“‘Now look here, Kudu and Oryx, you are eating my grass,'” Hare will say. “‘You have to stop.'”

“‘But we can’t, can you not see? We have bigger bodies than you – we need the grass. Anyway, we are much stronger, so go away.'”

“But, Mister Vetfaan, Hare doesn’t want to. Where can he go? The drought is everywhere, remember? Also, this is his home, his place. And so Hare sits down to think about how the bigger animals are trying to cheat him out of his food.”

!Kung falls silent again, gathering his thoughts. Why can Vetfaan not work it out himself? It is so simple…

“Hare then does what he does best. He starts digging a hole. A big one. And he gets Baboon to cover it with branches and twigs. And he puts some nice, green grass on the other side of the hole and then he sits down to wait.”

!Kung gets up, stretches, and starts scooping out a hollow in the sand. At his age, his hips tend to be painful at night. To get a good night’s sleep, he must prepare his bed carefully.

“And…” Vetfaan arches an eyebrow. “What happened?”

!Kung looks up, surprised at Vetfaan’s question.

“What must happen, Mister Vetfaan. That’s what.”

They sit in silence for a while before turning in. Overhead the stars glitter against the cold black of the sky. Vetfaan identifies Sagittarius, the mythical archer, with his arrow aimed at Scorpius’s heart. The arrow, however, never gets to be released, will never hit its mark. The real victor, Vetfaan realises, is the scorpion.

Yes, he thinks before drifting off to sleep. !Kung is one hundred percent right.

Of course!

“…. see a bad moon rising.
I see trouble on the way…”