An Eyeful for our Neighbourhood Watch

I have an inflated sense of paranoia. I need to be told constantly that everything is, in deed, ok. It’s something that I’ve developed over time.

I placate myself by having regular check-ins with one of our loveliest neighbours who plays an integral roll in Bo Kaap’s Neighbourhood Watch. They patrol the streets for drastic displays of antisocial behavior and violent villainous disregard for the law, although they are few and far between (she says touching the large wooden dining room tabletop with one hand and her head with the other).

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Nonetheless, he gives me an outline of what went down on the latest ‘crime-watch’ walks. Usually it’s nothing too hectic. They caught a guy trying to break into a car. A drunk girl got mugged walking home ALONE from town (seriously, who does that?) They found a knife on a junkie. And so it goes. And in the end I go home feeling safe and secure and reassured.

But the last update was a little bit different…

It was a dark and stormy night. Jokes, it wasn’t. It was pretty ordinary actually. The men set out at their normal patrol time and their night began much like most. They encountered the usual suspects, drunken-disorderly students making their way back to their digs, a few scabengas hanging around on street corners, a couple of opportunistic so-and-sos biding their time and so on. As the night drew on the streets emptied and all seemed safe and sound in the darkness. Until they heard a loud, guttural grunt…

The group stopped in unison and the street fell silent. They looked at each other, eyes confirming whether they had all heard the same thing, and where it had come from without the hush of a sound. Standing there together, like statues of war heroes never to be forgotten, they waited, until it came again. And again. And again.

The leader signaled for the men to ready themselves, and slowly the unit moved forward, edging towards the alley to confront what could only have been a maniacal ‘animal’ on the prowl for human flesh. As they got closer, it became apparent that ‘it’ wasn’t alone. There were two of them. And they didn’t sound like they wanted company.

The men rounded the corner. Prepared themselves for the worst. Illuminated their torches in 3, 2, 1… And there they were. Chalk white arms. Pale, plump legs. Pasty stark freaking butt naked bodies, going at it full throttle in the alleyway (no, I wasn’t meaning that alleyway, you’re just wrong). And there stood our lovely bunch of Muslim granddads, dads, uncles and sons. Upstanding citizens and respected members of the Bo Kaap community, with their mouths glued firmly to the ground, and their eyes darting every which way but THERE.

When the two finally realised that they had an unexpected audience, they managed to untangle themselves for a moment to retrieve their passports, naked, walk towards our shocked Neighbourhood Watch-men, naked, and attempt to explain, naked, that they were indeed visiting our lovely country, naked, which they loved. Naked.

“Apparently” severe public displays of affection and seriously indecent exposure is not a crime in the UK or Germany, which, so the passports revealed, is where these lax lovers were from.

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*Disclaimer: Ok, I have to be a little honest about something, my neighbour told the story somewhat differently to the version I’ve just recounted. Being a middle-aged man of Muslim faith talking to a young(ish) blonde woman, well, lets just say he’s too much of a gentleman to have gone into that much detail. So forgive me for embellishing the story somewhat. It was, merely, for your entertainment value.

The thing is, the cold, hard facts remain the same. Grunting or no grunting, our Neighbourhood Watch guys bust two foreigners having sex stark-naked down a dirty ally. Call me a prude, but that’s just downright disgusting.

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I’m not entirely sure what happened to the two of them. I was too taken aback by the whole thing to ask. I wish I had now, because I’m a little intrigued to say the least.

Who knows, maybe one of these days I’ll be walking down the street when I come across a little GerBrit eyeing his place of conception in an attempt to gather clues about who is father ‘really’ is. Because let’s be honest, anyone who can shamelessly have sex butt naked down a dark dirty alley in a foreign country with someone they’ve clearly just met, surely doesn’t care much for details.

An Aside

These men who take to our streets in the dead of night aren’t superheroes in possession of crazy cool powers. They don’t have an arsenal of high-tech gadgetry to aid them in their continuous fight against crime. In fact, they’re not even real-life crime-fighters. They’re regular dads and husbands and uncles and brothers, just like you, or the ones that belong to your family. And they make up our Neighbourhood Watch.

They don’t get paid for it. In fact they hardly get recognized for it. But they do it anyway, because they want their wives and mothers and sons and daughters and strangers like me to be safe. To feel safe. To live in a neighbourhood free of the worldly horrors that unfortunately affect so many.

All their equipment from torches to safety gear is sponsored, or they fundraise to be able to afford it. If anyone reading this would like to donate to the cause or sponsor any equipment or safety gear, from rain jackets to reflective gear, please let me know.

Knock, knock, who is really there?

So, by the title of my blog page you’ve probably guessed that I live in Bo Kaap, or as some ‘posh’ people like to call it, the ‘Upper Cape’. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, it’s a predominantly Muslim area nestled on the belly of the lion in Cape Town on the City Bowl side.

Most people know it for its vibrantly colourful houses and beautiful pebbled streets. Its little lanes and quirky coffee shops have this magical ability to sneakily trick your mind into thinking you’re wandering around a quaint European village. My street’s not like that. No, my street makes you want to lock your car doors and turn your rings around.

I guess it’s the combination of the few houses that appear to have taken a pounding by a lifetime of angry South Easters (and in some cases a wrecking ball) and the gangster cats that look like they’ve seen more shit go down than Al Capone. Amongst other things.

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Why do I live in a place that would send most people packing to greener Green Point pastures? Well, because I’m a bad ass blonde that don’t take no shit from no one. Ok, not really. But I did survive Brixton in London YO. Bo Kaap, huh, I laugh in the face of Bo Kaap. Again, not really. Seriously though, I live here because I wanted to buy a place in the city and it was the only area I could afford that had houses big enough to swing both my cats in.

Our friends and family looked at us like they would lambs being sent to slaughter when we told them we were considering buying a house here. But we did it anyway. And you know what, a very strange thing happened the day we moved in. Our next-door neighbour knocked on our door, introduced himself and invited us around for a drink. Not quite the gangsta’ welcome I was expecting. So we accepted, gratefully, considered taking the Taser with, briefly, and headed over.

That was a year ago, and I have since become acquainted if not, dare I say it, friendly with a lot of the people that live on our street. Turns out they’re not the criminal kingpins we had been warned about. Well, not all of them anyway. So I can happily and childishly say “I told you so” to all those doomsayers on two accounts. One: my car (or Marc’s car rather) has only been broken into once, and two: we are both still alive.

In fact, I’m going to go a step further and say that this happens to be the most community-orientated place I’ve ever lived. I have neighbours who care, and I’m not just talking about your average curtain twitcher who creepily spies your daily activities with an unhealthy obsession. I mean real-life people who show genuine concern when your alarm goes off or if your cat goes missing. A concept that I thought had died with the birth of prison-high walls and electric fences.

Let me tell you a little story to show you what I mean. We’d been living here for about 3 months when we decided to go away for the weekend. Whilst unpacking on our return we were approached by one of our neighbours. “Katie,” he said sternly “I am very cross with you.”

“I’m so sorry. Um, why? What did I do?” came my rather confused reply.

“You went away and never asked me to watch your house!”

Yes, this shit actually happens here. But this is starting to go on a bit, so let me get to the point.

We all live in our own little bubbles; too scared or just too unwilling to say a simple ‘hi’ or even make eye contact with the ‘stranger’ we pass in the street everyday. This world has made us very hard people. People who think everyone’s out to get us or screw us over. We battle to trust and have been conditioned to be suspicious of even the kindest gesture. We have an inflated sense of paranoia, and the saddest part about it is, it’s all warranted.

But moving here has shown me that we don’t have to live like that. Sure, be vigilant and aware of what’s going on in your street, but maybe next time you see your neighbour, say hi. Or hell, be daring and go around there. Take your pepper spray with you if it will make you feel better, but just go and introduce yourself. And you might find they’re not the axe-wielding serial killer you thought them to be. That bone-chilling drilling sound was just, in fact, him putting up pictures for his lovely wife who’s dedicated her life to finding a cure for cancer.

Ok, I’m getting carried away. But all I’m saying is your neighbours could be pretty normal people. The kind of people who wouldn’t mind lending you a cup of sugar every now and again. Who knows, and I’m just putting it out there, they may even be the type of people you could actually be friends with.