It all started before Christmas. I was on my way home from Nelspruit when I did something really stupid.
On a previous trip, during winter, I had caught glimpse of a gulley that looked as if it was on fire. It was aloes, in full bloom, clinging precariously, victorious in their ability to hold themselves fast in the rock clefts. There is nowhere to stop easily at that point, so I had to imprint the picture on my mind because I knew I wanted to paint it.
A few months later, after playing with the picture in my mind, I decided I needed to take a picture of the spot. I had to go to Nelspruit, so I knew I would have my chance. I have learnt over the years that even the simplest of cameras takes a pretty good snapshot from a moving vehicle. As I turned onto the stretch of road leading to my ‘Flaming Kloof’ there was a line of fairly slow moving vehicles in front of me. Aha! My chance!
I would put my swanky new cell to the test. A little problem – my driving glasses reduce everything within the car to a mild blur, most particularly anything on the screen of a mobile. While I was squinting, trying to figure out where the camera icon was, something felt a little off. I looked up to find myself trundling merrily off-road, down a pretty steep hill straight towards a small dam!
A quick manoeuvre brought me around. But. There was brick edging to the road at that point, and I crunched over it with a sickening thud, followed immediately by a screeching scrape. At the point where I steered back onto the road was a small but deadly rock! It had completely massacred my front passenger wheel. Yes, wheel. The tyre was shredded, the wheel buckled, the hub cap protruding at an odd angle.
Shaking like a leaf, I called the friend with whom I had spent the night. Her husband immediately made a plan to rescue me, until reason prevailed and I told him to wait a while, surely some intrepid soul would stop to assist. A minibus trundled by, hooted in greeting. Didn’t stop. The ubiquitous white Fortuna, much loved by most of the population in this part of the world, slowed, took one look at me, and drove off.
Pray! That small still voice penetrated my panic. I did. Within minutes a spiffy white Audi appeared. I tentatively put out my hand to flag it down. Relief allowed some moisture back into my mouth as It pulled over. The man behind the wheel assured me he had been in the tyre business for decades and proceeded to change the wheel for me.
The first quote I got put the damage far beyond what I had in my budget for “whatevers” – oh the cost of folly! I made it through Christmas, determinedly ignoring the fact that I was driving around with no spare tyre.
As we do every year, I determined that 2017 is going to be a good year. I lost my way in 2016, largely due to taking on the chair of our local equestrian federation. Writing schedules went out the window, the days became substantially shorter, a new system, accepted by some, agreed to begrudgingly by others, took huge mental effort to understand, and resolving age-old differences tested my conciliatory skills to the nth degree. I was tired, irritable, desperate to get my writing back on track, and 2017, that magical number for whatever reason, was going to do it for me.
Until I came home from work, opened the car door to get out, realised the windows were open, turned the key in the ignition to close them, got out and went to talk to the gardener. The next morning keys stubbornly missing, I decided to look in the car. I saw them in the ignition through the window, and was turning away when a mournful beep, beep, beep, made me open the door. I hadn’t only left them in the ignition, but left the ignition turned on.
A kindly neighbour, who agreed to let his watch of the cricket be interrupted, got me jump-started, but an annoying yellow light, reflecting the letters ABS persisted in mocking me.
Things happened in quick sequence hereafter. A phone call asking me for a reference for a domestic helper who had once worked for me. Except it wasn’t once, she was currently working for me. How dumb is that? Giving my name as reference when you haven’t given notice? I now had to lock my poor Lexie into the house when I had to shop, or work, or whatever.
My life took a swift turn to the stressed. Washing I can handle, vacuuming I can manage, but ironing and mopping floors are a challenge as yet unattained. Then there is Lexie. With none to keep an eye on him he has refined his skills as a worthy follower of Houdini to a fine craft. He has my cat as teacher, so windows are to be jumped through, the gate scaled, and furniture is there to be chewed when boredom threatens.
Trying to make him feel better after one day of long incarceration in the kitchen, I bought him a new ball and a hide bone. He immediately buried the bone with great ceremony and secret ritual. When he was done he returned, and eyed the ball with an expectant glitter in his eyes. I went to cut off the label, and get rid of plastic bags and life continued.
Until two days later when I needed my spare house keys. I searched, and searched. I went around the garden thinking Lexie may have made off with them. at last I decided I must have thrown them away with the label of the ball. The packet with the hide bone had two in it – I only gave him one – the other is also missing. Conundrum: Lexie or the refuse bag?
It was refuse collection day, so I decided to go and check through the bag I had deposited there a couple of hours earlier. I knew exactly where it was, to the side of the pile. It would be messy but quick. So I thought.
But no. Life in this cycle is not that simple. In this country we have people, men mostly, who eschewing the psychiatric facilities live on the streets, where they laugh and sing and dance to whatever beat they alone can hear. Our resident chap was having a whale of a time going through all our stinking bags, and mine was no longer where I placed it. I stood for a couple of minutes trying to recognise it, confident I had tied mine differently to those I was looking at.
I mean, really?!
By the time I had opened the third one, been covered in flies and sickened with stench, I gave up. My decision was hastened by one of my neighbours driving past and waving cheerfully. Then the farm manager rode past on his bicycle.
“Afternoon, Madam,” without a change of expression.
I took stock. Here I was, with the village imbecile, looking through refuse bags in full view of all the world on a Tuesday afternoon.
Is 2017 going to be a better year? With a start like this, it has to be!