It’s 4am and the lights are on in 2nd Avenue Belgravia. We’re all in the kitchen as my mother waits for the boiled eggs to cool. This can only mean one thing – a long trip. Once the eggs had cooled she would peel them and place them in a lunchbox along with salt and pepper, wrapped separately in tin foil. Cheese and tomato sandwiches, a flask of coffee and some fruit completed the package we referred to as “padkos”.
“Why can’t we just eat at the Wimpy of the garage?” asked Sharon.
“Dy is gemors kos vir die wit mense,” said my mother as she packed the little cooler bag.
“Ja, we just stop for petrol and a piepie,” chirped my uncle Davie.
I wasn’t going to argue with that, I just wanted to get going. And was so excited I could have done without the petrol and “piepie” stops. The garage toilets on the long road always seemed to be locked anyway. Maybe they were afraid someone would go in and clean them.
It was 1981 and the year of the big wedding. No not the sharing of spoils by the freeloading royal scrounge-lizards called Charles and Di. My uncle Davie was marrying a girl called Eva. He was a building foreman and went to Bellies – so a very eligible bachelor. Eva was from a little town outside Windhoek in what was then South West Africa. She was half coloured and half German. So coloured royalty. Davie had taken his time choosing a bride and the whole family looked forward to the day he finally would. That time had come and Davie was off to get married in SWA. And Sharon and I were invited to travel in Davie’s advance party.
Sharon was going as bridesmaid to Eva. I was going because it was the June school holidays. But it felt like my biggest day. Uncle Davie had chosen me to travel with him to the most anticipated wedding ever. He was cool. He was a foreman. He had owned Minis and a Ford Capri. He had the largest collection of 8-track cassettes – 5. They were rather large. If he was cool, I was Cool Junior. And cool needed to hit the road in Davie’s Chevair.
‘One for the road Davie,’ offered my father while pouring another whisky.
“Aai Boeta Joey. Okay, is ‘n lang pad,’ relented my uncle.
Reserve your judgments and “hooly ha’s’ for later.
Uncle Davie’s belly adequately warmed, we drove off into the cold dark morning. Not without the traditional honking of horns as we left, waking the entire neighbourhood. Our final destination was 1500km away and Sharon and I were more than passengers, we were co-drivers. After about 150km out of Cape Town we were already called upon as Davie’s eyes tired. I was sat in the front passenger seat. I looked to Davie and at the first sign of him nodding off…
My uncle jolted upright and stretched his eyelids as wide open as possible for a few times.
‘Thanks,’ he said before relaxing in his seat. A few kilometres later the scene would repeat itself again. And again.
‘Wha… thanks Ivan.’
‘Okay, stop shouting,’ he said, irritated.
It’s a long and straight road, the landscape featureless. After a few hours I was feeling the strain too. From the backseat would come a voice,
‘Ivan!’ shouted Sharon.
‘Wha… Davie!’ I relayed.
Teamwork. In a few hours another member of the team had his part to play. The charming Andy – a trusted friend of Davie’s. He worked and lived with his family in Nababeep and he was to join us in convoy to Windhoek. He was warned countless times, by Davie, to ensure his tank was full as it was Sunday and petrol stations were closed. And they were only open till 1pm on Saturdays. He also had to fill up a jerry can or two for Davie’s Chevair.
We finally pull up to Andy’s house in the red and dusty town of Nababeep. It’s late morning and quite warm for winter. The windows of the house were closed. No welcoming party to be seen. We walked up to the door and Davie glanced either side to both windows before knocking.
“This is now Andy,’ says Davie annoyed. ‘The bugger’s probably still sleeping.’
He knocked again and with more purpose. Then shouted through it,
‘Kom kom. Ons het ‘n troue!’
We waited a while until finally the door opened. It was Andy’s wife – Faith. Davie greeted quickly and walked in, heading straight for the main bedroom.
‘Hello Faith. Waar’s daai ly vriend van my?’
Faith replies calmly, ‘Die kamer Davie,’ and turns to welcome us, ‘Hello Sharon and Ivan. How’s your mother?’
‘Fine Aunty Faith,’ we replied in unison.
We could hear that Davie had found Andy and we made our to the doorway of the bedroom. We peeked in and saw Andy lying bare-chested in bed, a sheet up to his navel. He was reading a newspaper, now at his side. He peered calmly over his big-framed spectacles as Davie voiced his frustration.
‘Andy! Mense kom al van die kerk af en jy lé nog hier. Jirre, Sharon, Ivan, this is how I know Andy,’ he said, shaking his head.
Andy didn’t seem fazed at all. We knew Andy well and we knew him like that. He waited for Davie to finish and then replied,
‘Bekalm jouself Davie,’ he said softly then turned to Sharon and I at the doorway, ‘And the bridesmaid Sharon? Hello. Lyk nes Boeta Joey. And Ivan, have you grown yet? And your tollie? Is it growing?’
I had no response to that and slunk against the wardrobe with my eyes on the old rug, kicking away imaginary dust balls. Davie thought it deserved an answer and offered one,
‘Hy’s nou ge-circumsised. Boeta Joey decide net so. Areme kind. Sorry… young man.’
‘Wat het Boeta Joey nou slams gedraai?’ chuckled Andy.
I was feeling pity for Andy until then. But looked forward to his response for what my uncle was going to ask next.
‘Kom Andy. Faith, are you packed? Petrol gesort?’ asked Davie impatiently.
There was a long awkward silence as Andy scanned the depths of his scheming brain for an answer. A voice from the kitchen exposed yet another of Andy’s follies.
‘Hy het alles uitgery van Oranjemond af,’ shouted Faith. ‘Sharon, Ivan, Oros?’
Sharon and I were relieved to have a reason to leave the room. There was much stomping and a barrage of choice words that would be best left in the room of a little house in Naba “beep’. None of which fazed Andy. He had a plan. Well, another one as Davie had already spelt out the plan to which Andy never stuck. His plan was to ask the police to give him special permission to purchase petrol on a Sunday. Under certain circumstances you could. But there weren’t any. Andy’s plan was to lie about an illness in the family. He was going to tell the police that there was a very sick aunt on her deathbed in Rehoboth and we had to get there before the angel of death. Rehoboth was in South West Africa and a long way away. Even further than the truth.
‘Wat, ons moet die boere gaan vra? En lieg? said Davie in disbelief then turned to us, ‘that’s Andy, his plan is to lie to the police.’
We were coloureds. You don’t want to see policemen. And we were upcountry without the backing of the whole Cape Flats. You didn’t want to be questioned by them. Or give them a questionable story. But that was Andy’s plan,
‘Ag Davie. We’ll just tell them there’s sickness in the family in South West. Daar’s mos altyd siekte. En die’s nie die Kaapse verkrampte boere nie Davie. Hulle’s alright,’ said Andy calmly. He got up and dressed. On his way out he calls to his wife,
‘Faith kom saam.’
‘Los my uit. Jy gaan alleen tronk toe,’ replied Faith, with no faith at all. We sat down at our orange-like drinks while Faith poured a glass of beer from a 750ml bottle of Lion Lager for Davie, who thanked Faith,
‘Daai blerrie Andy. See, he can buy beer at the smokkie but can’t buy petrol.’
A half hour had passed before Andy pulled up outside and jumped out of his light green Datsun 160Y, the engine still idling. He rushed inside with an urgency that surprised Davie and the rest of us. Andy was never flustered so we grabbed what we could and ran to the cars. While all this was happening, Andy explained,
‘Ek het die boere gesé dat daar siekte in Rehoboth is.’
‘Wie se siekte Andy?’ asked Faith.
‘Jou familie Faith, die dominee’s se vrou,’ replied Andy.
‘Jirre Andy. Kan jy nie eers reg lieg nie?’ huffed Faith. ‘Sy’s lank al dood!’
The police in Nababeep had given Andy the necessary permit but not without Andy’s written explanation and a contact number in Rehoboth. There was a good chance that they would call to check out the story. Andy did not have a telephone and we drove around the little town to find one. A foreman friend of Andy’s had one and we rushed over to his house. Andy placed ten cents on the table next to the phone and called Rehoboth,
‘… en dis wat jy moet asseblief sé dominee,’ pleads Andy.
‘..ek moet wat? Vra jy my om te lieg seun? Het jy geen skaamte nie. Ek kom nou net uit die kerk en nagmaal bedien,’ replied the dominee, aghast.
Andy explained to the reverend the predicament we had found ourselves in. And apologised for the lie he had been rushed into. He passed on belated condolences, which didn’t really help the situation. But Andy felt that the good reverend would play along if the police did indeed go to the trouble of calling his home in Rehoboth. But we had to leave Nababeep immediately. After hastily filling the cars with petrol we drove out of town very slowly. The two cars crept past the police station. We winced as the gravel crunched under the weight of the Chevair. Davie, Sharon and myself looked nervously ahead. Behind us were Andy and Faith in their green Datsun 160Y. Faith too, stared nervously forward as we passed the open door of the police station. Andy however, smiled broadly while craning his neck trying to see inside. He rides his luck that Andy.
We whooped and hollered as we finally hit the tar of the national road. It was only 114 kilometres to the South West African border. And once over, although you could travel freely and without passport at the time, surely the cops would not be bothered with us anymore. But Andy must have really bothered them. When we finally arrived in Rehoboth we were met with an icy cold reception. Hope – the reverend’s daughter and Faith’s sister told us what had transpired. The reverend was still on the phone with Andy when the Rehoboth police pulled up in a cloud of red dust. Hope stood at the window and alerted her father,
‘Die polies pa, hulle’s hier!’
The reverend slammed down the phone and instructed his daughter,
‘In die bed nou. Jou dood bed. Die kanker soos jou ma. Bless haar siel.’
Hope sprung into action without questioning and dashed to the main bedroom. She heard the loud knocking on the door as she took her place in the bed. With the bedcovers up to her chest and arms limp at her sides, she lay still and stared at the ceiling with vacant eyes. The reverend walked in with two white constables. He shuffled solemnly to a chair at the bedside and sat down, and reached for Hope’s hand.
“Ja, sy is haar ma. Soos sy gelewe het. En nou soos sy ons gaan verlaat. Haar ma is inderdaad hier, om haar te vat na die hemel toe. Sal u saam ‘n gebed sé?
The constables removed their hats then backed out slowly and respectfully.
“Verskoon ons dominee. Sterkte,’ and left.
The reverend sighed with relief. He put his hands together and looked to the ceiling,
‘Vergewe my God.’
Hope was still playing the part when the reverend got up and looked at her, and with fire in his eyes spat,
‘Daai Andy, daar’s ‘n hel wat vir hom wag.’
Although it involved police in two countries, a great deception and a dash for the border – we completed the trip to Windhoek as a wedding party and not fugitives. Not quite the big car chase scene. But giving a man of God no option but to lie? Surely someone’s life would end in a climactic fiery ball of flames.