getting close to joining the circus

April 17, 2008

And so, on to later in departure day minus one; back in the afternoon get a call from Bettina of Cirque asking where I am and if I had received a voice mail from the Canadian Consulate informing me that the visa was ready from the 25th already. No, no voice mail. But whatever, what happens now? Now what happens is Bettina gets onto the travel agent and tries to get me on the same flights as Daniel except that I have to stop in Pretoria and pick up my visa. So she gets busy and I start to seriously pack in anticipation of the suddenly-so-soon departure. In a way a relief knowing when, but a bit sudden for Janet. I fetch her after her theatre making class at 5.30. ‘Brace yourself’ I say; ‘news has come. We both go tomorrow.’ She guesses and tears creep into the edges of her eyes. Has been in denial she says. I think, writing now at the airport and 36 hours after leaving, that it won’t hit for a while because she has had someone with her since I left; Cassie and now Karen. Well I need to stay in touch. I mean not for her exclusively but for me as well. Quanita used to mock me over my Janet Skype cold turkey.


The first time I get to call Janet from the hotel in Pretoria she is very upset. In fact did she call me? She had had to take the car back to the garage because the battery folded. Who knew? And so she then took the golf, the trusty golf, just serviced, new tyres, freshly washed and prepared for my absence. And she takes some time off work to buy a gift for her friend who is visiting and in the Pick n Pay the keys disappear- house keys, remote, car keys remote etc. Janet has to phone the security company to take her home and let her in to find the spares. In the mean time the other car is ready… oh but not quite because of the radio and then the remote doesn’t work but by then the keys have been found and more and more kak from the mechanic at the garage. So by this time Janet is holding back the hysteria (which would have exploded the planet a few years ago). Under impossible pressure she bears up. And goes to gym and feels better. She has Cassie to help her. I keep reassuring her of my plan to write and complain. Finally I go to bed after an expensive dinner in the hotel and a whiskey spelt the Irish way. Finally get to watch Wah Wah, Richard E Grant’s film about growing up in Swaziland. My god what a growing up it was too. Hectic. Couldn’t make the end but then couldn’t sleep. Took a few pages of notes from a fractured country by Jonny Steinberg to send me off.


Then day two. Friday. Woke up at six. Light creeping in from the Union buildings across the road. Got up and started writing this.


So now waiting for another three hours to pass before boarding. A bit tired now. Okay so yeah. A short queue at the consulate then in and visa and passport in the hand. I take a walk round the corner to buy something so as to get change to give to the car guard who seems a nice guy. Perhaps more to do with my generous feelings of good will related to my… but wait, let’s go back. The whole day seemed like a series of near disasters nearly averted. The day of our departure I mean the one in which Janet experienced her car issues. So Daniel and I get up and prepare to leave at seven. The guy arrives at ten to and we load up his conquest. Can you pay me now he says as I need to put two pints of oil to get to th airport in PE. Sure I say lets just get to the ATM at Pick n Pay. We make our painful drive out the driveway and down the road, stop at the garage and Dan and I walk down to the Pick n Pay as he fills up with oil. We get there and see – load shedding – no power = no operating ATM. No money. Sydney the driver has none and he has already put in the oil. I empty my wallet with the 37 rand and get 50 cents from Daniel. We climb in and go. Get to the airport I go got find ATM draw money. Go back to the car and luggage has been unloaded onto a trolley. Fond farewells and into the airport both of us very early Daniel hung over with two more hours than me to wait. We breakfast together and in the queue I am approached by a man who recognizes me and quickly steps over to me. I smile that special smile which he recognizes as much as I don’t recognize him and helps me out ‘Peter Hoffman.’ ‘Peter!’ I blurt, still blank. He says ‘Shit the last time I saw you…’ oh thank you for saying those redemptive words… wait for it; ‘was at Lewellyn Barracks’. My god someone from the army! searching his face; he calls me Andy and we obviously knew each other well – I still draw a blank. He reminds me of the moment when I learnt of the birth of Luke. More about that later.


We part and Daniel and I have breakfast. He, a great horribly murdered plate of fried eggs and bacon and chips. He eats most of it anyway. His hangover seems to have the upper hand when decisions are being made. I have a plate of muesli and fruit. What a woes. But the bowels are worth caring for at this stage. And tea. Anyway we chat and then I go through security and settle to get ready. Fifteen minutes later realize that I don’t have my thick black jacket brought specially for the Montreal winter. Must have left it in the car. Frantic phone call to Janet please call the taxi guy Sydney at lunch and secure it. Then as the flight is called I follow a hunch and check my phone… yes Sydney called me there’s his number. I call him. What?! He’s in the arrivals lounge. I say please check in your car for the jacket… ‘erm yes I’m going there and I’m nearly there’ and the people are boarding and ‘yes its here’. ‘Please take it into the arrivals and Daniel will fetch it from you’. okay. Call Daniel. No answer… voice mail. Call seven times. Finally answers. Queue getting smaller. ‘Please go to arrivals get my jacket from Sydney.’ Rush to security Dan arrives; sight for sore eyes. Jacket in hand. Buggar, was quite enjoying not having it. Carrying too much. Anyway get on board. First leg of epic journey. Some guy in my seat. Has the fashion sense and bling of a Nigerian gangster. I ask him to shift; I really like the window. Crap food and little sleep then on to j burg. Uneventful hired car drive to Pretoria. A while to find the hotel driving around down town Pretoria  but then reception at the Sheraton oh la di da. Very comfortable room wifi and whiskey and mini bar. 


This morning, the car guard; I give him twenty bucks because things are going so well and my heart full of generosity that my red bank balance belies. But always the promise of earning proper money come June. He very moved and then points out a woman who stands on the side of the street and who has been mysteriously deserted by her husband. I offer her my cell to call him she does. Thanks me. The car guard moved even more. ‘Hey man I like your style’. I say, like a prick, ‘ long live the revolution of kindness’ he shakes my hand awkwardly through the half opened window and I leave feeling very pleased with myself.


Just the drive to the airport now and then a short wait for departure. Onto the n1 and then the r 21 and then traffic slows and finally stops and two hours later we are fifteen metres from where we stopped. Then these people, (doesn’t this piss you off in a way incommensurate with the deed?) Some people just zoom down the safety lane the yellow line line whatever thing it’s called and whiz past us patient law abiding ones and then can you believe it when the going gets tough again they start to ask to be let back in to my lane in front of me. After several doing this; purposefully avoiding my eye but with vague hand gestures, I decide ‘actually no, fuck this’. I pull forward and stop him just pushing back in. He looks back frustrated- I gesture and ask ‘why? Why should I?’ He starts shaking his head in disbelief and anger and disdain at my lack of charity. I repeat out the window; ‘you tell me one good reason why I should let you in to this lane that I have kept patiently and legally to while you have illegally zoomed from way back and now want to be given a place What? Is your life more important than mine? why should you jump the queue and then be politely given a place?’ He swears some more and then exasperatedly gestures me on; ‘okay then go’ I find a mischievous voice inside that says ‘fuck you. Now I made my point I won’t give you the satisfaction of swearing at me as I drift past you and have you constantly looking at the back of my head and me only seeing you in my rear view mirror. I would rather have you in front where I can see you and address my bile at the back of your head.’ And I revel in my moral victory. ‘Ha See? Even though you backed down and let me go I still stood back and let you go. So drive on mother fucker and don’t be so selfish next time citizen.’ This is how the two and a half hours of traffic jam passed.

One Response to “getting close to joining the circus”

  1. charlotte Says:

    Hi Andrew, It is great to read all your stuff and to know what you are doing. Keep it up and remember he’s my brother!

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