Steve on Sunday

14 March 2021

Greetings my fellow strugglers and stragglers,

It has been quite an amazing week or so since the country reverted to a Level 1 situation in regard to the current plague that is sweeping the country and the world. I presume it is still sweeping but it appears to have disappeared completely from the Kalahari region based on what I can see and hear from my residential complex walls covered in razor wire.

What is a mask? No-one appears to have one except in their pockets and they place it on their faces shortly before entering a shop. Some try their luck by not wearing one when entering a shop but so far, from what I have seen, they have not been given permission to continue.

Over the road from my complex is the “trim park”, or to give the correct name, the “Jan van Riebeeck Park”. I seriously wonder if anyone even knows its correct name and if they did I am positive the name would be changed to recognise one of the many jazz musicians who have been crossing the great divide in their dozens these last twelve months. I had no idea there were so many well-known jazz players living (and dying) among us.

Back to the “trim park”. There is definitely no plague hovering in this park as every late afternoon Monday through to Thursday, there are two amateur soccer games in progress, with the accompanying sweating, swearing and expectorating. And no mask worn by any player. There are also dozens doing their own exercise regimen, be it jogging, walking briskly, walking slowly, gyming on the few outside pieces of equipment, or just lolling around in the shade of one of the many trees. Like their fellow soccer players, none of them are wearing a mask.

Nor too are any of the drivers of the long distance taxis all along the main road next to the park where signs every ten paces or so state clearly no parking and no one is allowed to hitchhike. I digress…

There is much joy and happiness in this freedom displayed so openly in the “trim park” which is an absolute pleasure to behold, it really is. What is also quite pleasing to myself is that they must have all been inoculated otherwise they would not be cavorting around like that, surely? Good to know the inoculation of the general public is so advanced here in the desert.

In the grounds of the primary school behind my complex car ports and another fence held together by razor wire is a newly opened hockey field with synthetic grass. Lovely to hear the sounds of the youth running around and the hockey ball being smacked against the metal sides and back of the goal posts. Naturally, none of the players are wearing masks either.

A patrol vehicle painted in the colours of the men and women in blue who protect us in higher levels from strange things swimming in the polluted oceans, stopped to watch the soccer. There were four of them in the vehicle and they were all wearing masks, but the masks were hanging down around their necks. They were happy too, laughing at whatever they had seen or heard.

We are a joyful nation, are we not?

I shall not carry on waffling away about masks except to query if it is still the law of the land to wear one? I am sure it is but only elsewhere and not in the Kalahari nor the fringes of said Kalahari.

Using the word “expectorate” brings back the memory of travelling by passenger train from my old home town Umtali in the then Rhodesia (now Mutare in Zimbabwe) to Durban for holidays. The moment we changed from the Rhodesian carriages into South African Railway coaches, the wording, in English and Afrikaans, on the cabin windows exhorted the inmates to refrain from expectorating out the windows. Someone who took his translation job very seriously indeed was not at all aware that the word expectorate was only used by those who attended Oxford and Cambridge Universities. In southern Africa we all used the word/expression “spitting” or “gobbing” (with the guttural “g”).

Business has picked up a little in the tourism and hospitality world in recent weeks, which is a good sign for those of us with our nostrils barely out of the water. The sudden uplift of internal travellers is most welcome but too late for so many individuals and businesses. It is only a trickle of visitors so it may not even help those still hanging on. But it is better than none at all.

Some of us are waiting for the arrival of the 30 000 or so tourists following the British and Irish Lions on their rugby tour, but as every day passes it looks more and more likely that the rugby will not happen in this land and that it is probable the Springboks will travel elsewhere to play said Lions. End of 30 000 visitors.

Hunting is once more on the go and the vehicles to carry the hunters have suddenly proliferated on the streets of Kimberley. There is no doubt that the arrival of many hunters will boost the coffers of game farms and lodges as well as some local tourist attractions, but only if they visit these attractions during certain hours.

It was quite a shock to realise that Level 1 for most of these government or quasi government run tourist attractions means absolutely nothing. Restricted hours of visiting are being strictly adhered to.

Magersfontein battlefield visiting hours are from 09h00 to 14h00 says the sign at the gate. In normal times it is 08h00 to 16h00. The hours at the museums in town are identical. The Kimberley research library too, only allows researchers in during the morning. They close at 13h00 and the ‘workers’ go home.

Of course all the workers, from high position to low position, are all on full pay. They have been since March 2020. Full pay for half day work, what a lovely job.

The restricted hours nail the tourists who can only visit these places during the morning, a fact they only find out about when they get there in the afternoon. Not good at all…

Some good news is that the Kimberley Club is open and has been for a few months now. Under new management and staff things appear to be picking up and for the first time in a long time I noticed that there were people at the bar counter having a refreshing cold drink or something.

For those not in the know the Kimberley Club, formerly a world-famous gentlemen’s club, is now a four star hotel.

Perhaps there is an upswing in the battered tourist and hospitality industry but it is still only local internal visitors with very few, if any, overseas tourists visiting our shores.

It is to be hoped and prayed for that the third wave of the plague that has been predicted virtually on a daily basis does not happen because if it does it shall surely see a return to Level 3 or worse.

Perhaps it is time to stock up once more on beverages and tobacco, even if you do not drink or smoke. You may just be able to sell your acquired stock for a small fortune during a possible lockdown…better than having shares in businesses!

On that note, have a great week.

I thank you.

By Editor