Back in those days you didn’t have to be found guilty in a court of law to get stuck in a prison, the Minister of Justice could sommer imprison you in your own home at your own expense on advice or whim of his police Security Branch, which is to say Gestapo.
Also there was this thing called a Banning Order; among other uglies, the minister would declare you were not allowed to converse with anybody at all unless for business purposes or with your own family. Conversation was legally defined as Social Intercourse.
Now I’m scarce a day out of boep when a certain SB officer Viljoen arrives at my home with many documents declaring all the above for ten years, also a heavy ou of sergeant rank, name of Steen, which is apt because he’s built like the proverbial brick shithouse. He is here as witness to the delivery of the docs, you see, also just in case things get physical, laaik. I read. Meneer Viljoen, sê ek, wat beteken nou eintlik Social Intercourse? Nou men Herrilt, says he, that’s when they don’t do it for money.
Well buggered if I’m going overseas, think I, to dream dreams of revolutionary grandeur, I have a staunch missus who brings home her teacher’s cheque each month and I settle down to being a househusband. Problem solved. I thought I knew a bit about housekeeping until I got down to washing babies’ nappies, that’s enough to rid a lad of any machismo, so now I set to with a will. In the long years of solitary at Pretoria Central Prison where the really bad bastards go, e.g. MK explosives crims, in a small cell with a felt mat to sleep on and an army blanket I’d dream often enough of such a garden as I now have. Mine all mine!
Indigenous, exotic, what the hell, within the year or so my plot of urban agriculture is ablaze with flower and fruit, hens and plump ducks laying eggs all about, and above all for glory a Catawba grape vine spreading wild o’er branch, bough and garden wall. Deep purple, almost black, with a fine white dusting on the skin, and a strange luscious smoky flavour, this is not one of your Cape winter rainfall grapes, it’s a North American summer rainfall berry, and it occurs to me there’s no reason it shouldn’t make a fine sweet red California wine.
So I get some breadmaking yeast from PnP and I fill a big plastic tub with grapes, also stems for flavour, and go to the bathroom to wash my feet with hot hot water and clip my toenails and brush them clean clean and jump about Italian peasant style on the grapes/yeast plus some sugar, and come away with a good two litres of fine fluid which I set aside to ferment in one of those big wide-top glass jars like my granny used for bottling peaches. I give it a month or two before swirling it about in a tall-stem wine glass and sipping it and spitting in a bucket.
Trouble is, it just goes on fermenting. Eventually it gets so thick I find I can spread it like jam and I think whatthehell man, jam is as necessary as wine in this life and I reclassify it as such and use it on my laaitie Joe’s school saamies. Okay. Another problem solved. But after another month or so young Joe comes home with a polite note from his headmaster saying Dear Sir, your son’s classroom has suffered an infestation of cockroaches of late and the PestLess vermin control people have traced the source of the problem to his desk which was full of festering sandwiches among his books. Would you please be so kind as to use something without sugar for his lunch perhaps Marmite. Yours faithfully.
Well come on, man, I could just fling this jam on the banana plants, but I do think it unconscionable to waste food when so many poor souls in this country are stricken with hunger. It’s about bedtime when I make a decision and gently place the jar on the pavement outside my front gate. I gently fall asleep and violently wake up an hour or so later to the great roaring of a truck engine outside my gate. I peep over my front wall. The SB hou my nog dop, it seems. What must that jar contain from a convicted opblaser? The Bomb Squad has arrived with a great heavy army-type vehicle carrying a ferro-concrete block with a conical cavity up top. A man in bomb-proof gear carefully steers a hydraulic crane gently to pick up the jar and place it in the conical cavity. They gently drive it down to that army firing range other side the Umgeni River Mouth and blow it up with dynamite.
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