Sunday, January 3, 2010

Lions in the Streets

I see a man. He’s maybe thirty five, dressed in smart new clothes- smart but fashionable. Ties don’t cut it at the agency, so he’s just chosen a shirt that picks up his conservative tan, a tan won by making eye contact with clients on golf days and on Sundays as he goes for a cycle on his feather-weight machine down by the dam just on the outskirts of the hill-suburb where he has set down his roots. It’s not a place he’s particularly fussed about in terms of personal history; just a good spot to ease in three storeys of concrete, steel and glass. He’s in his car today- not that the substantial investment he made in the imported German brand is getting him to work any faster in the impatient lines of traffic clogging the arteries into the city. He’s on his phone. Not speaking, well, not right now, but just stabbing away at the screen as he selects which emails to answer and which he can get away with ignoring. He’s also chatting to friends, intermittently, a distracted series of relationships he maintains to feel part of something more glamorous than the tedium of work, work and home. He went out on the weekend, and met up with some of them, but didn’t stay for dinner- the sushi in the place wasn’t the best he’d experienced, so he opted instead to pick up a steak at a bistro near his house, where the staff know him. Well. They know him as the haunted-looking but handsome man with the jeans that never seemed to fade, who ordered the best foods off the menu without complaining about the prices or the presentation. He tips well. So at work he answers more emails and chats to other people in the office, each giving away enough details about their social lives to hint that they are leading colourful and exciting ones, but not enough that they pick up a reputation. It’s important to this crowd that they can stand out when they need to stand out, and blend when blending is required.

I see a boy. He’s maybe eleven. He is running down a hill to the small house where his mother spends all of her days. His gait is wide and natural, fit for a long-distance racetrack. He’s running to tell his mother about the goat whose ankle shattered on the loose shale at the foot of the mountain, as he knows that she will make arrangements to have the animal brought back and slaughtered. Unfortunate timing- they can ill afford to lose an animal, but the boy is hungry all the same, in the manner of all boys, and he plays absent mindedly with the fraying threads of his sleeves as he runs. In the distance he can see his friends doing somersaults into the small dam, and chasing each other through explosions of panicked hens. He can’t stop, though, and he doesn’t mind. He and his friends are as close as siblings. They will be there tomorrow in this seemingly timeless ritual of inventing games that keep them close to the elements, the rocks, sand and water on which their families have lived for countless generations.

This is South Africa in poles. There is an increasing blending of the two, but still they remain. Poles are like that. They are by nature opposite and yet related, and connected by the vast majority who fill the space between them. You have to love it all. And respect that not all of us look at life with the same values, values maybe superficially different, but made up of histories, cultures, finances, relationships, families and dreams. We do not have lions in the streets, but we do have lions.


  1. i wish to take issue with your label. so far from - another reason why this is one of my favorite stop-overs on my virtual journey.
    thank you. again.

  2. @Cazpi and MamaMeea: Thanks for reading :-)
    @sass: Thank you for the compliment- not being modest, or anything, I don't know how this entry would fit into things. It's like a burger on the menu at a sushi bar.


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