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Holiday in ‘darkest Africa’


At exactly 10am Eskom switched off the electricity, leaving me with a tub of slightly damp washing.

There is an ancient curse, sometimes known as the Chinese curse, that says: “May you live in interesting times.”

We do live in interesting times. I recently entertained two family members from America, who have been amazed at how interesting South Africa has become since they emigrated 20 years ago.

Last weekend was typically interesting for them.

It started with no running water in the taps, apparently because an Eskom power surge had damaged a municipal water pump near my home.

My guests stoically dusted themselves and dressed for breakfast.

Just before 10am a trickle of water emerged from the taps, so I switched on the washing machine, which was loaded with a week’s dirty laundry.

At exactly 10am Eskom switched off the electricity, leaving me with a tub of slightly damp washing.

I tried using my cellphone to find out when to expect either full water pressure or reliable electricity. I had no cellphone service because the Vodacom tower was out of action. A friend, who is connected to the MTN network, called on my behalf and learnt that technicians were applying their minds to the problem pipes.

My American guests wondered whether it would possibly be more practical to apply some duct tape to the pipes. (Apparently all of America is held together by duct tape.)

Some time during the night, the power came back and the dishwashing machine sprang into action.

Although there was electricity there was only enough water pressure to melt the dishwasher block and turn it into paste.

The next morning the dishes were slightly stickier than they had been when we loaded the machine, but no cleaner.

I noticed my American guests were surreptitiously taking notes and photographing my domestic appliances.

I imagine they will spend several hilarious evenings entertaining their friends back in North Carolina with illustrated stories of their holiday in “darkest Africa”.

That is, assuming they do get home. While they were here SAA announced that many domestic flights had been cancelled.

They were booked to fly from Bloemfontein to Johannesburg to catch their flight back home.

Nobody seemed to know whether that particular flight had been cancelled.

At least they had been treated to some hilarious stage comedy while they were here.

We watched Cyril’s State of the Nation address on TV together and they were highly amused by the antics of the clowns in red overalls.

That should provoke a good deal of American mirth. The American political scene is apparently not half as interesting as ours.

As we bade them farewell at the end of their stay, they assured us they hadn’t ever been bored during their holiday. It had been interesting from start to finish. Interesting times, indeed.

Last Laugh

During a visit to a friend, Charlie remarked: “Gosh, you have a wonderful collection of books. You really should have more bookshelves to store them on.”

“Yes, I know,” said the friend. “The trouble is that none of my friends ever lend me bookshelves.”

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