Fri, 11 March 2016
Weekend Read: In the first instalment of the H-Files, Dwain van Standen, an upright guy, moves to Cape Town from Durban only to find himself south of the lentil curtain.
Part 1: The Labyrinth
The interesting thing about a labyrinth is that they are not meant to trap you. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth has no blind alleys or backtracks. It is a dead end street. There is one way in and one way out, through the same gate. The centre is the destination and the half-way stop. Labyrinths predate formal religion, and are found in many ancient, unrelated cultures. They are as old as mankind itself. Interesting things, labyrinths. And oddly meaningful too, if you’re into that sort of thing.
I recently moved to a suburb of Cape Town. Westhoek lies south of the so-called ‘Lentil Curtain’, meaning I live on the vegetarian side. I am from a small town in KZN, where I lived for most of my life. So, when the opportunity came, I took it right away. I didn’t even hesitate. Perhaps the fact that I was unemployed, broke as a bum and living with my parents influenced my decision.
I have never been one for cold water, Stormers supporters or hordes of bodyboarders, not to mention the unmentionable – those men in grey attire. But here I am: living and working in a small corner of the Western Cape.
Did you know there is a labyrinth in Glencairn, close to where I live? It is the biggest labyrinth in South Africa, maybe Africa. It is so big, you can see it from space (check Google Earth). From start to finish, it is three kilometres long - 1.5 kilometres to the centre and 1.5 kilometres back out.
What makes this labyrinth unique is that it lies in fynbos. It was the first ‘official’ labyrinth I have walked, as recognised by labyrinthsociety.org. As a newbie to Cape Town and labyrinths, I found it very interesting. If you get the chance, you should walk it too – it is free. It was built by a kind Oom called Koos, the husband of one of the tannies I work with at school. Her name is Annamarie – if you pronounce it in English.
Koos built the labyrinth by himself over quite some time at his own expense. It was just something he felt compelled to do. He is not particularly religious, or if he is, he keeps his opinions to himself. When I asked him, he just smiled over the top of his red-rimmed reading glasses, turned down the heat under the potjie he was preparing, and said “why don’t you taste this?”, smiling, “and then we’ll take a walk around the labyrinth. You’ll enjoy it. It is based on the one inside Chartres cathedral, you know, that big medieval church in France.”
“What? France?” I replied, suddenly interested, because to me that means only one thing, beach break barrels ... or perhaps a few more things, like bare boobs and sun. That’s one thing I have noticed about Cape Town; juslikeitis cold ek se. Poes cold, and windy. Cold weather, colder water, coldest women. Excuse the swearing, but I’m a teacher. At work I can’t say shit. Sometimes I got to let it out, you know, for my sanity. Blame it on my Tourette’s syndrome. Twitch.
Where I stay, there are the sickest beach-break barrels you will find on earth, easily comparable, if not surpassing those of Hossegor. But, unlike the French version, women here check you skeef ek se, and many don’t even shave – not that it’s a problem. It’s just not my thing. And I haven’t even mentioned the previously unmentioned grey men.
You see, this is not the first time I have moved here. I tried once before. About five years ago, a friend and I quit our jobs, and hooked a caravan to my car. A few months later, we found ourselves living in a caravan park just outside Stellenbosch working telesales as ‘private wine merchants’ and hating every moment of our miserable, surf-less lives. True story. We had to talk on the phone – all day – and what did we do? We sold wine.
If ever I called you, I’m sorry. The dialogue went something like:
“Hi, John?” “Uh ... yes? Hello, who is this?” “Hi, John, I’m so glad I caught you. I am calling from Vonkel and Coljander, Private Wine Merchants in Stellenbosch, heart of the winelands. Tell me John, you like wine ... yes? Great, tell me John, what type of wine do you prefer? Red or white? Something sweet and sparkling, or something smooth and full bodied? Tell me John, do you like wine?”
Telesales sucks: worst job ever. But that was then. This is now. I am back. I have a real job, where I get paid peanuts as opposed to nothing at all. Telesales was commission based, and I never made a sale.
I work as a teacher at a remedial school. I teach children to become what I could never be. “Be normal. Stand in line. Stop talking. Stop fighting. Stop picking your nose! STOP TALKING!”
I live near the sea. Sometimes, when we don’t have a meeting about some poor kid’s physiological profile, I actually surf. I get to surf near-perfect beach-breaks. And strangely enough, often by myself, while the rest of the guys stand on the beach waiting for the flag to turn green.
The interesting thing about the labyrinth built by Oom Koos is that there are 28 turns on your way to the centre. What else takes 28 turns to complete? Yes, that's right –the moon, and the menstrual cycle of a woman.
And that brings me to my point. The main reason I moved to the Cape is because I am a man. I am a single man. I heard somewhere that Cape Town has millions of single women, with a ratio to men of like 7 to 1. I heard that half the okes were gay, bettering my odds of finding a female life partner.
So here I am, back in the Cape. I have returned to my centre. I went back to where I started from. Who would have guessed that life is like a labyrinth.
The second - possibly the main – reason I moved to the Cape? I am a surfer. I like women, but I love to surf. More particularly, I schmaak big barrels. I love surfing huge waves. Massive and scary - that’s what I like. No, I am not a kamikaze with a death wish. I don’t like surfing with crowds. One way to clear a crowd is with a big clean-up set. You can’t do a 360 chop-hop on a thirty foot wave. That’s the way I see it. That’s the way I surf.
The problem with KZN, or the small bay I am from: there is hardly ever big surf, not enough to clear a crowd anyway. Sure we have cyclone swell, but only now and then. Usually it doesn’t break very clean either – at least not where I lived. And when it did break, my friend Malcolm wanted to mission to where it was supposedly bigger – but never was.
Now Malcom has moved to New Zealand, so I have no big-wave partner to hunt swell with.
I heard there were big waves in Cape Town, and better yet, I heard they won't allow the WSL, or ‘weasels’, to have a competition here – which is awesome. Because that’s another thing I don’t like. I don’t like competitions, especially not in big waves, and especially not if they are run by a bunch of foreigners. Locals only brah!
But I am getting ahead of myself. So far I have only lived here for a brief few weeks. I’m hardly a local. I have yet to meet my future wife, so I’m not sure how long I might stay. I have yet to surf huge waves. Actually, I am not sure if I have what it takes to do so.
The only thing I know is “the corner” I call home. A small cove of cold water, howling wind and other less desirable utterly unmentionable ... I promise. I am not referring to body boarders, but other things that swim with fins.
So let us start at the beginning ... starting next time.
injabulo, ukuthula nothando.
(peace, love and joy)