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Having to stick a finger in

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Can you imagine the looks on all those girls’ faces when I would ask them, “Are you germ free?”

Picture: PxHere

The other day I bumped into the lady that – back in 1978 – taught me how unhygienic it is to chew your fingernails and how unsanitary it was to put the back of my pencil in my gob, seeing as there are germs lurking that could make me ill.

She was my standard three teacher and back in those days what teacher said mattered. In fact even today I am not a fan of putting strange objects in my mouth come to think of it, Teacher ruined French kissing for me.

Can you imagine the looks on all those girls’ faces when I would ask them, “Are you germ free?”

Anyway, this same teacher one day told us the story of the hero of Haarlem.

It was a tale of a little Dutch boy who noticed a leak in the dike – the massive wall that kept the North Sea from flooding the low-lying countryside where he lived.

Seeing the leak, he scaled the steep wall and, without thinking twice, jammed his chubby finger into the crack, plugging the leak.

But then he was left in a quandary; he needed to tell someone about the leak, but if he ran off the crack might widen and the dike could give way.

He called for help, but the howling wind carried his desperate cries away. He tried to whistle, but the night had brought a chill, and he could not whistle through his chattering teeth. Soon his finger turned blue from the icy water and his arm began to cramp, as did his legs as he clung to the steep wall.

But just when it seemed that he was about to give up Teacher was called to the office and she left the class in suspense!

According to Dutch folklore the boy was never named, but many people in the country know him as Hans Brinker, Hansie Brinkers or Peter van Haarlem and I felt like Hansie while teacher was out of the class – the wait was agonising!

Because of Teacher I couldn’t chew my nails, gobble the back of my pencil or French kiss one of the girls in the room to pass the time – I had to just sit there and wait.

However, when Teacher eventually returned, she told us how the boy was found by a clergyman who was walking along the top of the dike early the next morning.

Haarlem was saved, the boy was hailed as a hero.

It is said that today that little boy represents the spirit of the whole country. Not a leak can show itself anywhere either in its politics, honour, or public safety, that a million fingers are not ready to stop it, at any cost.

We can learn from this story too, even here in Kimberley, thousands of miles from the dikes. Already the city’s residents are being deprived of water at night and over weekends; yet the residents are not the only consumers of water.

We have leaks all around the city where streams of fresh, clean water bubble out 24 hours a day.

Then there’s Kimberley’s litter catastrophe. There is a handful of good citizens doing their bit to clean up the city – which is admirable and noble and worth applause; however, their efforts could very well end up in frustration if something drastic is not done about the thousands of indifferent litterbugs who are dropping dirt, trash and rubble without a second thought.

Someone reminded me last week that, according to the South African Constitution, everyone has the right to have access to sufficient water.

I also know that the same Constitution states that everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being; and to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that prevent pollution and ecological degradation.

The question I ask, when I stand in front of a dry tap or a pile of litter on a sidewalk, is: Does the Constitution even mean anything any more, and what “reasonable measures” can be put in place to prevent Kimberley’s “dike” from collapsing?