Thursday, 31 May 2007

Other people's children: seen and heard

I’ve known the family over the road for seven years, during which time the only son, Drikus, a shy young police officer-in-training, wooed and married a plump, diffident-looking girl from an outlying farm. Which just goes to prove how very deceiving looks can be.

Drikus’s wife, Lizmabet (she was dubbed, I assume, by the venerable Afrikaans tradition of combining the names of all known female relatives), is extremely loud and incredibly confident. Once, when I declined to answer a timid knock at my door (I just didn’t feel like it, and I defy anyone to order me to answer my door or my phone for the sole reason that either has summoned me), this was followed by a thunderous rap that all but shook the rafters. Alarmed, I rushed to the door and threw it open, and there stood Lizmabet, her hand proprietarily on the shoulder of what was clearly a beggar. She said (roughly translated from the Afrikaans), ‘This poor chap knocked on your door but you obviously didn’t hear him, so I came over and knocked for him.’ And that will tell you all you need to know about Lizmabet.

When she moved into the family pile with Drikus a few years ago, Lizmabet wasted no time in making changes. First, she arranged to have a small cottage built in the back garden, into which she shifted Drikus’s parents. Next, she tore down the hideous wire fence around the property (I was delighted) and replaced it with a new, higher, even more hideous wire fence (I was not). The family’s ancient toy pom was despatched (I like to think it was old age that killed it and that Lizmabet has no canine blood on her hands) and replaced with two enormous, bloodthirsty, ever-barking boerbuls.

Lizmabet has also shown a great deal of entrepreneurial spirit – something I admire but which, as you shall soon see, can quite frankly be carried too far. In short order, she converted the family’s garage, which faces onto my house and in fact onto my study, into some sort of workroom, in which a variety of people did a variety of things, none of which I have ever been able to fathom, but all of which have involved a great deal of arrival and departure by an endless stream of people in 4X4s, which park in front of my house and belch great clouds of noxious gases in through my study window.

The reason for Lizmabet’s relocation of Drikus’s parents soon became apparent, for she has also shown a truly remarkable propensity for breeding. She has produced three sons (all carbon copies of Drikus) in three years and is recently looking more rotund than usual, although I strictly follow the maxim of not asking a woman if she’s pregnant unless I see a baby actually emerging from her body.

I must admit right off that I don’t like other people’s children (I hardly like my own much of the time). Like other people’s dogs, they tend to be noisy, ill-mannered, unruly, intrusive and destructive. So having three of them over the road from me, gambolling deliriously on the lawn from morning to night, has been something of a trial. And I use the phrase ‘gambolling deliriously’ as a catch-all for crying, screaming, sobbing, crying, shouting, whingeing, yelling, howling, fighting and crying some more.

So you will understand my shock last week when I took out my garbage one morning and found Lizmabet supervising the erection of a large signboard that read (again, roughly translated from the Afrikaans), ‘Busy Bee Play School’.

‘Well, wow,’ I said, trying to smile in a neighbourly fashion but succeeding only in baring my teeth. ‘A play school, huh? Wow.’

Lizmabet barked her strident, disquieting laugh. ‘Ja, I’ve got so many kids of my own now I didn’t think a few more would make any difference. And I’ll get paid for looking after them.’ (See? Entrepreneurial spirit carried to its insane extreme.)

‘Well… wow,’ I said, and went back into my house with my head spinning.

Since then, every morning at 7.30am – around the time I make my first cup of coffee and sit down to review my day’s work and sort through my emails – a phalanx of 4X4s has rolled up to my study window and disgorged vast cloud of noxious gases and equally vast numbers of noxious toddlers. Then, for the next five hours, teeming hordes of other peoples’ children have gambolled deliriously on the lawn over the road. (I have watched in fascinated horror as a few of them have come within a fang’s breadth of being eaten by the boerbuls, which now live in a permanent state of heightened excitement.)

At some time past noon the exercise is repeated in reverse, and by 1pm all that remains of the morning’s exertions is a pall of carbon emissions hanging over the street and two boerbuls racing madly around the garden barking fit to bust.

And me, sitting in my study, staring at my computer screen on which I haven’t written a single word, and coughing quietly.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

1 comment:

tonypark said...

We encountered a couple OPCs in the Spur near the airport last night. (We're actually very tolerant of other people's kids since we don't have any of our own).

The two-year-old mini Lizmabet's English was limtied to "foive, six, seben, eight!", which was designed to lead her into her dance routine (with beaming showbiz mom looking on).

Cute kid, and cut routine - at least it was for the first 11 repetitions. Started wearing thin after 46. Thank God for Castle and South African red wine.