It is fortunate that, whilst I have people living close to me, I don’t have neighbours in the traditional sense of the word, given the happenings around here first thing Monday morning.
We had some much needed rain over the weekend, accompanied by freezing temperatures. There were heavy snowfalls on the Drakensberg mountains of Lesotho and neighbouring kwaZulu-Natal. The winds sweep off these mountains onto the plains and valleys of this little Kingdom, rattiling badly fitting windows, draughting under ill-matched doors, all essential building faults if we are to survive the heat of summer, but a killer at this time of the year.
Unseasonal rain in the middle of the dry season and the inevitable happened. Water got in where it should not have, and the borehole pump went silent. There are five houses drawing water off this borehole so the sound of air emanating from the tap in the kitchen is cause for instant alarm. Torch found, coin tossed as to who would go out in the dark and wet to check if there was anything to be done – that was a no-brainer, the youngest lost the toss!
The pressure gauge was dormant – a quick jiggle of the wire housing and the familiar purr started up. Thank heavens. Not only was it night, it was Saturday night, and in this part of the world weekends are still traditional rest times for the majority of businesses and services, so the chances of finding anyone to help were remote.
We got through Sunday. Monday dawned clear and glorious, rain washed mountains glowing in the pre-dawn light, no smoke, all fires quashed by the weekend rain. I woke up the younger member and we stood enthralled by the view in the early morning chill, then we noticed a strange movement along the side fence of the yard. A heavily garbed man was moving cautiously along the narrow pathway, stopping now and then, crouching, then moving on. This is a farm, there are many workers, maybe he was checking the canal which brings the irrigation water, so we didn’t pay much heed initially.
But his movements were strange, so I left the refuge of the doorway to find out what he was up to. As I rounded the corner of the house, I saw, to my horror, water cascading out of the elevated water tank. From no water to overflow, which was worse? I had to stop it, fast!
I yelled at my son, who said “Switch it off at the DB”.
Now, to get to the DB I had to lose my coffee cup, ideally don a raincoat, and figure out how to open the board. Thinking on my feet I ran and turned on a tap to mitigate the flow cascading earthwards, balanced the coffee cup on the little shelter for the switches, and manfully tried to slid the cover off the db board while being showered from above with freezing water! Bear in mind I am clad in gaily checked winter pyjams, topped with a warm sweater, disreputable crocs on my feet.
Meantime the strange figure on the other side of the fence had now been joined by another. In between trying to stop the deluge I asked them what they were up to.
“I’m looking for my chicken,” replied one.
“What chicken?” I asked. He lives in a room close to me and I had never seen any chickens around.
“My chicken,” he repeated, a slight hint of hysteria in his voice.
“Is it alive, or dead?” I asked (You can tell I was not functioning too well) at which point the poor lad broke into siSwati. “It is a big chicken from the homestead, and it is missing.”
The saga of the missing chicken has continued unabated for two days. Not dumb, this homestead bird, it scarpered at the first chance it got, and is happily buc,buc,bucking around in the sugar cane, and giving the occasional yodel to let us all know it lives yet.
No amount of food throwing or cajoling has convinced it to come home. This morning our creative young man arrived with a dog in tow.
“Have you caught your chicken yet?” we asked.
“No, but I have brought the dog. The dog will find the chicken in the sugar cane and bring it to me!”
It is now late in the day. My friend has disconsolately returned his friend’s dog, and a few minutes ago, I heard a happy squawking from just within the confines of the cane.