Harold Strachan's Last Word

Berea. Human nature


Along my front garden on our Durban Berea hillside is a low brick wall, whereon in the sun lies a beaut big Golden Throat lizard, storing energy for her day as reptiles do. But why her day? Why female? Because she’s preggersfontein, that’s clear. And clearly needs nourishment; I slam cockroaches with a rolled-up Noseweek and she takes them from my fingers, that’s how tame she’s become. It occurs to me that for wildlife I don’t need to go to Kruger and watch bloody crocodiles dragging beasts into a river, here is a creature of oh such dignity and elegance, her ancestry going way back before the dinosaurs.

All this I tell you because of the scorn I have for motor cars. I agree with David Attenborough, you see, who says if I deplore the damage done by exhaust gases to our environment then I shouldn’t run a car. He doesn’t and I don’t. Also I think the motor car is death to urban culture. I walk, I see the small living things of our city habitat. Not just the wildlife, our fellow monkeys and feral cats, raptors flying off with the cats’ kittens, the cats prowling the monkey babies, all that stuff of game rangers, according to whose 18th Century bullshit Nature is in Balance. If nature were in balance there’d be no evolution. Indeed there’d be no universe.

I wonder at this universe, including the minuscule world of it, see. How the hell does that fern find nutrients in a solid brick wall, how do those ants lay down such a faint pheromone trail on such loose sand? Also I stop to gaze at peoples’ gardens, and let me tell you dear readers if you’ve never seen a Colvillea Racemosa in full flower your life hasn’t started; but you’re not going to see it from a car, your attention is focused on the other cars or you’re dead, such are our urban traffic skills.

Also walking here of course, but just a little bit, are the big bulbous beasts of our city habitat. From the upper parking level at the mall to the boutiques below, excluding time in the lift. Monstrous fat H. sapienses with golden teeth and steatopygia, huge wads of blubber on bum and thigh; symbols, these, of new power. Your car plus your blubber, you see, make status. Virtue. (BMW+b=sv) And let me tell you, dear readers, if you’ve never seen a big bulbous H. sapiens female paying R2,000 for a pair of spiky high-heeled shoes in the Berea’s most appalling mall your life’s been lucky so far, now explore elsewhere.

Aha! Just up the way from this mall is a small calm community in a small cul de sac, Bonair Road, with its own quiet culture and modest drama. Here live David and Jenny in a quiet cosy house with a nice little pool at the back and a little garden in front, with a bamboo hedge. Bamboo is best because you can see through it all right but it’s quite impregnable, better than blade wire any day. The only ugly round here is a grim Dobe type monstrous dog name of Strudel, who flings himself bodily at this hedge snarling hideously roaring and baring his fangs at passers-by fit to rip out their guts, but Jenny says he also is better than blade wire and I dare say she has a point. Other than that all is polite and peaceful.

Up top of the cul de sac is a fine British colonial house, facing outwards but having a rear entrance on Bonair Road, and there dwells a fine mid-aged upper-class French colonial gentleman of refined presence, delicate, and impeccable etiquette. He wears a colonial light linen jacket and a tie and his trousers are well ironed. He has a trim moustache and a walking cane and a Panama hat which he raises to ladies. He takes short cuts down Bonair Road to the Checkers over the way.

I pull in at the Jen and David home one morning for a cuppa and buzz the street intercom to be let in, and as I stand there waiting M’sieur comes along, Strudel threatens to tear M’sieur’s throat open and M’sieur sidles over to him and says: Fick eff. And e’en as he utters these words he espies Jenny in the garden. A lady! And she’s heard him speak such unspeakable filth! Aauuggh! He pulls his panama over his eyes and scurries off to Checkers and nevermore is seen in Bonair Road.

But where was I just now? Ummm… aah yes, with Liz. I’m watching her quietly and carefully, waiting for the eggs. Never to worry, readers will be kept up to date with all developments.

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