My neighbour Thinus brought around an antique chair to show me, his latest purchase. It is not a chair in terms of function because you cannot sit on it. There is lacy raffiawork and fretting, ornamental carvings that jut and poke out from the back rest, a narrow seat and spiky arm-rests that would not provide a resting place for arms. It looks like something created by a Freemason trying to replicate Solomon’s temple in chair form. There are cherubs and demons and carved numerals all all the place. It is hideous.
Of course I admired it with complete mendacity. My neighbour is a tenderhearted man with an eye for trash. I would not hurt his feelings for the world. He is going from door to door showing off his antique monstrosity of a chair and everyone in the street is blanching at the sight and lying like a horse thief.
I invited Thinus for supper to thank him for helping me with the leiwater all summer. He blinked at me ( he is incapable of a hite lie) and said: ‘I will come so long as you are not cooking. No offence, but your food does not agree with me. Too much green stuff and I have to chew too hard.’
So Una will make sweet potatoes with butter and pumpkin mash and a lamb bredie. The kind of food that was unfashionable before the end of WWII. And I shall have to admire the gruesome chair all over again.
This morning I went out to a nearby prison to facilitate a literacy class. I had two university researchers with me and we all found the prison appalling, the dirt and stench of urine in the passages, the over-crowding. The warders were very suspicious when I let the prisoners do most of the talking — they felt we were not ‘teaching’ and keeping order. The poor inmates drugged to the eyeballs and begging for sweets and cigarettes. I doubt we will be allowed back. I asked if AA ever came there and a warder said that somebody from AA had visited but then been banned. The authorities claim there is no drugging or drinking which is nonsense. I could smell neat brandy and dagga all over the place.
One of the researchers said to me as we left: ‘You are not middle class at all are you?” He is from the UK where preoccupations with class continue as they have done for centuries. I puzzled over this. No, I suppose I am not, if being middle class means oblivious to the plight of the poor and marginalised. How I wish I could get an AA group in there and let hope in amongst the shadows and locked cells.