Thanks for all the supportive comments and emails. The crooked mechanic turned out to be from Namaqualand where they do go around telling each other how big and tall and strong and brave and truthful they are, presumably to compensate for feelings of regional inferiority. The car is fixed (hopefully) and the Namaqua mechanic is going to teach me how to make a cunning autumnal jam with prickly pears, transparent and glowing like amber. He says he is a world-champion at making prickly-pear jam.
Namaqualand is big sky country, an arid area extending across Namibia and South Africa, from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the small town of Pofadder (Puffadder) in the east and right away to the north of the Great Orange River. If you lived in a small dusty town called Puffadder in the midst of empty plains, you too might need to tell everyone how great and marvellous and world-famous you are. Many Namaqualanders work on decaying and unprofitable diamond and copper mines and have to leave home and travel far to find decent jobs. But they bring the glories of dusty obscure Namaqualand with them. In spring, Namaqualand becomes a wonderland of wild flowers and thousands travel there to look at the veld blooming as far as the eye can see. I have visited Namaqualand in spring several times and it is breathtaking.
But for most of the year it is hot and dry and absolutely nothing is going on there. The Namaqualand mechanic told me several time that this empty desolate landscape is the finest in the world. “Ons lewe lekker. Dit is vir ons heeltemal goed genoeg,” he assured me. We live very well. There is always enough to eat.
Simplicity, essential for a grateful life anywhere.