Not Another Peep

I’m back. I have to apologise for the radio silence, but I had the minor challenge of birthing a child to attend to. Anyway, that’s done. I’m fab, if a little flabby. And he, well, he is just perfection.

STOP!

Wait just one more sentence before you hit that little ‘X’, and you’ll see that I’ve decided to spare you the details of every new gurgle and cooh. I have, instead, decided to tell you about the time I arrived home to a house filled with hot, thick summer air…

It was just sitting there being its suffocating self. Something I was becoming fairly accustomed to. It’s what happens when you live in a tin-roofed Bo Kaap house and the temperature soars above 30.

I went around flinging open all the windows and doors. It sluggishly began to saunter out, making room for the BANG, DOOF, DSH that unexpectedly bombarded its way in.

“No! That can’t have been. Surely not. Not in my neighbourhood. Not right next door. Please say it’s not…” DSH, DSH, BANG. “…drums.”

The thing about the houses in Bo Kaap is that they’re like snuggle buddies. Personal space was clearly not an issue for the pioneer Bo Kaap peeps who laid the first bricks all those years ago. It’s handy if you want to nip over to your neighbour to borrow a cup of brown sugar. But if said neighbour’s playing, I don’t know, let’s say, DRUMS, then it’s kind of like they’re sitting in your living room laughing in your face while doing it.

It’s not pleasant.

The windows trembled with every BANG, DOOF and my mind started going mental. “How long is this going to go on for? What if it’s everyday? What if it’s everyday until 3 in the morning? What of it’s everyday until 3 in the morning and he’s tone deaf or can’t hold a beat? Should I complain? Should I call the police? Maybe I should just… move?”

Just as I had resigned myself to the fact that I had no other option but to put my house on the market, a bass guitar started to loosen up its strings. The intruding CRASH, BOOM, BANG then promptly fell into a rhythm and all of a sudden I was in the cheap seats at a Cranberries concert with a brick wall instead of a ‘brick shit house’ obscuring my view.

OK, so maybe I overreacted. Slightly.

This wasn’t too bad. This wasn’t too bad at all. The first song was leaning on the edge of old school, but the man redeemed himself with the next. And the next. And the next. I applauded loudly from my kitchen between chopping chicken and draining peas. Then just as it became far more preferable to pour another glass of wine than finish cooking dinner, it stopped. I glanced at the time, it was a very respectable 8 o’clock.

So started the Summer Sessions with Bo Kaap’s ‘Faceless Neighbour and his (and I’m assuming here) Funky Bunch.’

From that evening on, Wednesdays became a treat. We started to plan our social calendar around them, declining invitations out, preferring rather to invite people round so they too could enjoy a glass of wine whilst listening to Bo Kaap’s finest. No cover charge needed. We even went as far as to holler out requests (after one too many glasses usually) which at times were even entertained.

Then came the show of all shows. The Faceless Neighbour performed his heart out, giving it everything he had for an enthusiastic audience of 4. That was just before the Cape Town Idols auditions took place. Funny that, we haven’t heard a peep since.

Coincidence? Maybe.

I.O.U.

I love my car. It’s one of the first purchases I made when I came back from travelling. One of the first real “roots” I had put down in years – I have debt therefore I belong. Well, to the bank anyway.

But winter’s made me a bad car mom. I’d like to blame it on the regular impromptu downpours we have that leave your car looking like it’s been shat on by a flock of rabbits in flight. But really, the short days have just made me trés lazy.

So, and I’m abashed to say it, my car came close to being one of those people join the dirty brown dots on to spell out uninspired messages meant to guilt-trip the owner into washing it.

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Until one day…

I walked out of my door, only to be met by a car that appeared to have just rolled out of a car wash. And not just the wash-and-go kind of car wash. I’m talking the proper elbow-grease-was-put-in-here kind. I stood there admiring its sheer sparkliness.

And then the confusion set in.

How had this immaculate car come to be? Had I been paid a visit by the more than generous “Wash & Glow” fairy? Did some Good Samaritan take pity on my dusty ride? Had an obsessive-compulsive neighbour finally cracked (kind of like the guy who mowed my lawn that one time)?

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I wasn’t imagining it. All the signs that it had been freshly bathed were there. The brown swamp-like puddles making islands of my tires. The last of the soapy bubbles being swallowed by the street’s gutter. Someone had most definitely given my car a good once-over. But that someone was no longer there.

It was one of those days that wouldn’t allow me to contemplate my good fortune. I was in a hurry. And whatever it was that I had to do obviously couldn’t wait because, despite my delight at my car’s just-like-new lustre, I can’t remember giving it another thought.

And then…

A couple of days after the mysterious makeover, my husband came home from work and asked me if I had recently requested the services of the (previously mentioned) ‘misfit youths’ to wash my car?

“No,” came my honest reply. “Why?”

“Well, I’ve just bumped into our neighbour from next door. She’s a bit pissed off with the kids.

They asked if they could wash her car a few days ago to make money to go to the movies. So she gave them the soap and rags and everything. They were out there for a couple of hours and then they returned her stuff and collected their money.

The thing is, when she went outside a little later to check it, it was still dirty. The little buggers hadn’t done a thing except throw water and soap around. Apparently there was a big dirty puddle in front of her car, but that was it. I don’t think we should use them anymore…”

And suddenly, it all fell into place…

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.

Don’t judge a street by its ‘feral’ youths

In a couple of days my older brother’s coming to stay with us for the first time. He’s bringing his little family from Jozi. I’m super excited, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say there was an element of anxiety there too.

You see, we’re a bit different him and I, and I have a feeling he might not appreciate the more shabby than chic appearance my street’s going for as much as I do. To be honest, I’m hoping the severe lack of manicured greenery and manufactured houses doesn’t send him packing to the nearest Hilton Hotel.

I wouldn’t blame him. I mean, it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve had a somewhat dramatic reaction to our hood. On the contrary, we’ve had a few. In fact most people think they’ve taken a wrong turn when they arrive on our street. It’s an endless source of entertainment and one of the reasons I love living here.

The first time my dad visited he took one look at our little lane and refused point blank to park his rental on it. It concerned him so much that he wouldn’t leave someone else’s car there, let alone his own. He ended up parking in the Hilton Hotel’s lot for his entire stay and probably could have bought the rental for what he paid for the 3x6m space. At least his car had a 5-star stay.

To be fair though most people who come to our house are nervous about parking their cars on our street. They use the view from our balcony (we have a pretty decent view) as an excuse to glance over and check if their humble steeds are still awaiting them. Fortunately, for our social lives,  all of them have been. Touch wood.

Our Spectacular View

To be honest though, if I was a thief I’d be too scared to steal a car off our road. A nice car on a street like ours either belongs to a gangster or is a trap set up by the police. Well, that’s what Hollywood has taught me anyway.

Our street is always littered with little ones; feeding the birds, playing games, doing odd jobs to earn an extra buck. And I love it. But it’s not the suburban lemonade stand, rock painting for a pittance pretty picture you’re imagining. The backdrop has the ability to make even the most well-to-do youths look like one of Artful Dodger’s little wayward misfits. It’s unfortunate, but true.

Friends of ours swung by to pick us up one day when they saw a group of kids at my neighbour’s door. When we got in the car they seemed rather perturbed. Apparently they had witnessed something dodgy going down at the house next door. The oldest kid in the group had given our neighbour a rolled up rag and he, in turn, had handed over some folded notes.  “It must have been drugs,” they said.

Well, I just couldn’t contain my laughter. I don’t blame them. Had I not lived there I probably would have assumed the same. I mean, how could they have possibly guessed that these little ‘misfits’ were returning the cloth they had used to wash my neighbour’s car with, and the money he was giving them was for an honest couple of ours work. I mean how? Really. A dodgy deal indeed.

Look, I’m under no illusion our street wouldn’t be a big collector at a beauty pageant. Hell, it would be hard-pressed to take the medal in the Most Improved category. But I guess I look at it the same way a new mother looks at her newborn baby with a slightly crooked nose, with rose-tinted glasses. My dad once told me that I have an ability to find beauty in the strangest places. I guess our street is just one of those places.