Monday, 20 July 2009

Special Mom, August 17th 2007

I shall be visiting mum from the coming week-end. My son will drive me up from London and my mother will be anxiously awaiting our arrival so that we can take her to the supermarket to stock up for her sister’s visit next week. My brother is away camping with his family but tells me that a leg of lamb has already been purchased and is in the freezer and I know that mum will want to spend some time at the fresh veg. counter, sorting over the carrots to find those with the most ground on them and greenest tops to ensure that they are the freshest. Not for her the convenience of frozen veg. The hardest thing of her old age has been the necessity to give up her fruit and vegetable garden. She used to love going outside to “pull up a few carrots” and “pick a few beans” for dinner. Still, I know that apple pie and custard will be on the menu, made by her own fair hand. Although I shall peel and cook the veg, I’ve never managed to make the pastry like she can.

Spit ‘n Polish, Barry Ronge, August 17th 2007

When I came to South Africa in 1975, Barry Ronge was just starting his column in the Sunday Times Magazine. I have been a devotee ever since and so was delighted when he chose some of his favourite columns over the years and put them together in this book. I especially liked his comment in the first one : “I am not really into the immigration thing. It’s a costly way to travel, and the idea that there is a place on earth where you can evade corporate greed or the misrule of corrupt officials is an illusion, in the pursuit of which I will not waste my money.” And so he has stayed. All due credit to him! I have never understood the argument that if you disapprove of a corrupt system, the best way to confront it is to leave and find yourself a safe haven somewhere else. I have only been in the UK for two days and the horror stories of burglaries, racial attacks etc. that have affected my own close family are too shocking to want to write about. Only last week, a youngster where my son works was attacked by a gang of yobos and hospitalized for a week….Anyway, Barry’s book is full of funny, ascerbic, witty and apposite looks at life in South Africa – just like the best blogs! Isn’t the following the way we feel when we sit down to blog? “You find yourself turning into a topic kleptomaniac, jotting down phrases from conversations, noting articles of dress and eavesdropping shamelessly to snitch comments from unsuspecting diners, theatergoers, or people behind you in the supermarket queue.” OK, so he moves in different circles from most of us, and he has been ‘blogging’ for 32 years, so it must be quite difficult to meet his weekly deadline (which, mercifully we don’t have).

Spit ‘n Polish cont…, August 17th 2007

I particularly enjoyed these two sections in Barry Ronge’s book, Books, Words & Magazines, and All Things South African. From the former he relates having to stand in front of his class at school to read out the following from a Jane Austen novel, “At 15 appearances were mending. Her complexion improved, she began to curl her hair and long for balls.” Needless to say, no-one in his class had ever heard of the old-fashioned word for a formal dance. As Barry himself certainly had not. “I did not have a privileged childhood. It was not so much a question of being on the wrong side of the tracks as of needing binoculars to even spot the tracks.” Perhaps we should all re-read Jane Austen with a modern eye and get some laughs. The other bits I especially liked were about the plastic shopping bag scandal of 2002, when the government decided we should have to pay for what South Africans regarded as an “inalienable Human Right”, Barry’s hilarious account of trying to get his new plastic driver’s licence (2002) and a fascinating analysis of the differences in pretensions between Johannesburg and Cape Town societies. I was just glad that I don’t have a ‘social circle’ at all.

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