False Bay mandelbrots into a scalloping of smaller bays, and one of these, just around the corner from where we are living, is Fish Hoek. The swimming beach at Fish Hoek has a lot to recommend it -- it's protected from south-easters, a wind that adds chewing sandpaper to an afternoon's swim at the other east side beaches. It has a shark net, and as sharks do patrol here, (and unlike WA or Queensland, the Western Cape hasn't taken to slaughtering its great whites) a net's not a bad thing. It also has a shark siren -- which I love -- sounded on the nod from shark spotters perched in the surrounding hills. When it goes, it's 'everyone outta the pool' and we all stand around pointing out kelp masses in the shape of four-metre shark silhouettes to one another.
Anyways, here we are at Fish Hoek, and one of the things I'm realising I love about South Africa is about to happen. I'm coming out of the showers, making my way back to one of the brightly painted rock benches, and I see, on the concrete seawalk, making his painful way toward me, an old man, 80 if he's a day, white hair, cane, crabbed arthritic hands, and liver spots I can pick out at 50 metres. And in front of me, just about to pass him, are two young vibrant Black women. They've been chatting with animation for the short time I've been following them, and I've been quietly admiring the way they talk; they touch each other's arms for affirmation, they glance into each other's faces to see the reflections of their own smiles. They are happy and alive and the world is their oyster. That's what it feels like to me, anyways, on this bright sunny day.
And you can see the inevitable metaphor for the new South Africa coming, can't you? The old white man hobbling his way out; the fresh Black women etc etc. Except… As they pass him, they both exclaim, and greet him, and there are smiles, laughter, genuine pleasure. It's not a perfunctory greeting or a falsely enthusiastic one. He was working so hard at walking, he wouldn't have seen them pass him by, if they'd have preferred to. But they're happy to see him. And as he slowly relinquishes the fearful care that has been his second crutch along the crowded sea walk, he lets a little smile onto his face. He is happy too.
And that is one of the things I've loved about being here. Lazy thinking gets hijacked. I'm always trying to work out the story around me, because, after all, how often do you get to witness the before/after of a revolution? South Africa is busy writing itself, and I can't help but get caught up in trying to read it. And I can't help but hope it might be helping lure me back to writing. I so hope so. When I'm not writing, my brain gets lazy. When I am writing, the world gets much more interesting. Writing fiction: better than psychedelics.