Dear Aunt Sally,
(H.S.H. the prince Jann of Winshatz-Lundberg-‘Sandburg’-Gluxberg):
This ties off a loose end of our business, I do hope you enjoy it. It is yours. The paper one will come and that’s the only copy I have.
Please excuse some of the capital-nouns, and punctuation and other Capitals. .some conflict between american hawiaaan shirt tourist and something else, something Other, something crazy.
Owe some to your Essop, next time ill slide him a few 200R chips.
Up Company’s Gardens—East with the Mall on the left—there’s a marble statue of Victoria looking wet, crying soot stigmas. This was erected about 1887, while she was still alive. The plinth is behind the terraced gate to Parliament. It’s totally inaccessible. Having been around town and really having done the Cape, I’m still not sure why I came to sit on the bench there, right outside the fence under her nose, to chat to Madiba’s gatekeeper, the stout waxed Afrikaner.
I was about to quit the country. My Jo’burg friends had paid for the trip down now, to investigate an old Comrade who’d been in Robben Island with someone– something. I think her name was Gene; I just thought ‘free trip to the Cape’. So there, one day into a trip down, and two days off from a flight out of (Smuts) Tambo I was on the bench, shouting to a black and white screen Cell-C mobile, hoping to find Madiba.
The approach maybe a little to much to form:
“Madam I have your number from Mr. Sidney Frankel, of the Limpopo-Buffelshoek Trust.”
Frankel was a broker-industrialist. His prize possession was a photo of his twin-engine turbo-prop under escort from two fighters of the SAAF. He ran in an international set: among some at the Harvard Business Extension School for profit, where Sid would stop for a course (seminar) of asylum. “Will you be returning to Harvard this Spring?” he liked ask his friends.
“Well ma’am I come from a family of old Comrades, some received the Order of the Protea, First Class after the Constitution; I’d like to thank Madiba personally.”
Terribly, terribly sorry:
“Madi-buh is ull, nd heh can nut see fisitus et the moment.”
Walking in Killarney, outside the house of the Ambassador in Washington, a writer told me it was all “great bosh, rot, and nonsense”, and “what you must do, is to” (blank) and “what do they think it is you are doing–‘heeah'” — or ‘he-yah’, I don’t know. Altho. by that point we were really talking bout how I could overstay my visa and take a job with the City of Johannesburg, or sell ‘is-kaas’ tags door-to-door, something, having had interview with a changeling-fellow called Steven Sachs with the City, legal son of a judge who had his arm blown off by the Security Services, who looked askance and said “he’s the wrong colour.”
But back on Company’s Mall, under the Madonna-Victoria with inscriptions pro-patria or pro-imperium, a more proper snub by the white Afrikaner, aide-de-camp to Nelson Mandela, gate-woman, to the ‘New South Africa’.
Outside Cape Town is Sandton, and within that there’s something called Century City. I stopped there with Uncle Hilmy. He wasn’t by blood an Uncle. He mosther had been adopted by a great-aunt. Still I came to hum, even called him from Johannesburg where I’d been lingering for a while as a tourist. The kids were grown up, some there was a single room in a new flat in the development Century City. The whole place arranged itself as a model Venice (but with chalk stucco!) with gondolas and pools leading onto a rather ‘swish’ shopping Mall whose mock-Crystal Palace girders really had something. The wife smoked packets of Benson&Hedges lites. I never asked for one. I find I’m smoking one now, maybe for something more than affect; altho. the woman in Kensington Gardens smoked them as well, but Gold. Some man met at a party—the gay ‘MCQP PARTY’—called it all “the capital of kitsch”—sort of a sad projection really… from him.
Hilmy refused to live in a Coloured neighbourhood. That’s what his brother Enver said from his own house in Athlone.
Hilmy’s world centered clearly on his want for place or to come into his “own.” I guess he was part of a new-Ascendancy, but he wanted to be so in an especial, direct, almost vulgar way. He wanted to storm battlements of white in an aggressive mainstream assault. So it centered on the car, the CRV sport or the BMW ‘zed’ 4, and more so on his beachouse in port Alfred –named for one of Victoria’s sons– all white, in view of Richard Branson’s house, with yacht ties and crew meets, and crew shorts on the young freckly boys looking like the creme of England of 1910. Those very white shorts, short, which fall mid- between hip and knee but tailored. You were of course able to see them very well when they lifted the eights up to the coupola’d boat house which even had a turreted viewing stand. And of course for Hilmy it still had a lot to do with the Temptations. Still his Saudi like block-of-a-house, that was an episode of “New South Africa”.
He had a medium-sized accounting firm in a Coloured neighborhood, with Coloured staff.
But there had been a chance to tour Parliament, after all, so I dunno what was my excuse. The place has three capitals, the chief attraction for Cape Town is that squalid tear-bright Victoria-behind-the-wisteria: Parliament meets where it always did. So the Cape is the Legislative capital. Here’s some split to appease tribal but more properly to appease political factions. Franchise government. The Judicial capital is in Bloemfontein in the (Orange) Free State, a heavily Dutch and Zulu area. In Pretoria (Tshwane) the Executive sits, tho. the President maintains a house in Cape Town as well. Groot something or other. The Parliament, brick with marble enhancements, abuts Adderly street at its South end and continues North East all along Company’s Mall, facing Company’s Gardens.
I had to shrug off a vagrant there once, altho. his suit was better than mine. And even his clothes were dusty, but of good cut. Bums sit and lie under the shade, but somehow they don’t muss the verdure; and the Dutch rose garden—near the end of the strip gardens off the National Gallery and the Nelson Hotel—is Holland or Hampton Court symmetrical perfect.
But the invitation to tour Parliament, that was tendered at Oklahoma Spur, in Golden Acre, where steak of lamb has place on the menu alongside burger n’ fries. I ordered the lamb steak, no fries. We sat to our fast food like a supper, with order and precision to the Formica place settings, a head and a foot to the table. The color scheme was of late 80s muted pastel with a strong whiff of purple or dark beige. It never came. Uncle Enver summoned the waitress with full indignation, out with, “why hus the mll nut come? My nephew is here, he hs cm, he is here ell the way from New York!” He spoke from the rostrum of the baize laminate.
Finally I devoured a greasy lamb steak whose clear freshness and quality got somewhat smeared in a slap jack prep., the Cape for ‘surf-and-turf’. Spur is quite a large national franchise, at least 20 years old; I must say I don’t see much of a fast-food tradition developing here. I turned down the tour of Parliament, felt I’d already seen Government in action, here, now, at the fri-joint. And I think then, as I sat to the lamb steak, that he was right, that I really had come “all the way” to have my steak and chips order swatted to table by the Solicitor- General of South Africa.
Why not save the development of a democratic tradition and lasting democratic institutions, the political investigations and all that, for some other time— cheeky boy: why make a Constitutional case?