Thursday, 31 May 2012

Housemates together again after almost 3 decades

Me, Terry and Andy in Rondebosch East, 1985
A few months ago I told some tales about part of my misspent youth, sharing a house with Terry and Andy in Rondebosch East back in 1985/6. It's been fantastic reconnecting with Terry, and this week he sprung a wonderful surprise on me when I visited him in his Bat Cave in Cape Town.

He told me that he'd invited a third person - an old friend of his - to join us for a prawn-dinner blowout at the Seaforth in Simons Town, and put his considerable sales skills to good use in persuading me that it was a good idea - I wasn't keen on meeting someone new. So I really was blown away when our old housemate, Andy, turned up.

Terry, me and Andy, Simons Town, 2012
It was another excellent reunion, and the 'all you can eat' prawn supper reminded us all of regularly doing the very same thing together at East 19 restaurant in Mowbray (which closed down a long time ago). We also went to the Polana for drinks afterwards, and spent some hysterical hours remembering stuff we (well, mostly they) got up to 27 years ago.

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Sunday, 27 May 2012

Two more lies told to children

Johann and I were talking about our childhoods the other day, and he related two stories his mother used to tell him that made my hair stand on end and my arse drop off I laughed so much.

The first was the tale of the giant frog that lived under the bathtub. Johann’s mom told him that if he stayed in the bath so long that his skin started wrinkling, he’d turn into a jelly-like substance and, when the water was let out, the frog that lived under the bathtub would suck up this Johann-jelly. As a result, Johann has vivid memories of playing happily in the bath as a little boy, but repeatedly checking the skin on his fingers, and the minute a wrinkle appeared, screaming in genuine terror, ‘Maaaaa! I have to get out! Now!!’

The other – which, although still pretty twisted, perhaps makes a titchy-tad more sense – was the tale of the giant rat that lived in the kitchen cupboard. In order to stop her children unpacking the lower shelves of her kitchen cupboards (and all kids do love to do this), she told them that if they poked their nose in there, the giant rat that lived there would pop out and bite it clean off.

Really, it’s a bloody miracle we've turned out as normally as we have.

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Smashing pumpkins

I’ve so enjoyed my new garden during the past year. It’s been amazing watching how things have grown and changed, and although all the hedges have yet to fill in, the beds have grown gorgeously and the lippia lawns are green and lush.

Last spring was a real joy, when many of the indigenous plants flowered, and every morning was a pantomime of birds and bugs. ‘The ruin’, which was once the maids’ quarters, and now houses garden tools in what was once the ‘bedroom’ (and truly the mind boggles, because it’s barely big enough to turn around in) and chickens in what was the bucket-loo, really came into its own, its enveloping creeper changing seemingly overnight from bare sticks into a plushly verdant cover.

It was while the ruin was hidden by this luxurious pelt of leaves that sculptor Loni Drager created the most amazing set of five wooden squashes to sit atop the roof. (For those unfamiliar with South African rural Karoo scenes, it’s common for pumpkins, which are very heavy for their size, to be used to hold down the sheets of corrugated iron that in many places serve as shelter; and this doubles as storage, as pumpkin skins are incredibly thick and hard, and the squash can be left up on the roof until it’s required for the table.)

When we put the wooden squashes (of various kinds, including pumpkins and butternuts) up on the roof, they were largely hidden from sight by the leaves. But over the last few weeks, the creeper has turned fabulous shades of red and gold, and then shed its leaves, and Loni’s beautiful sculptures are now clearly visible.

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Thursday, 24 May 2012

More sartorial missteps and the joy of knitting

I worked in the city this week, standing up under bright lights in front of a conference-room full of people, sharing the fruits of my long experience as a writer. It’s a pity that the fruits of my long experience as an appalling dresser accompanied me to Cape Town too.

I discovered, on undressing for bed last night, that I’d been wearing my shirt inside-out all day. And it’s not a shirt you can wear inside-out and get away with it – it’s got obvious seams and bits of thread and spare buttons and labels and things. I imagined the delegates thinking, ‘Well, maybe she can write, but she sure can’t dress herself.’

This happened partly because I got dressed in the dark, but also because I seldom put much thought into what I wear, as long as it’s clean and doesn’t have too many holes in it. I suppose it doesn’t help that I’m a huge fan of bright colours and patterns.

Once, many years ago, when I was a teenager and only just embarking on a long career as an appalling dresser, I was waiting in line at a fastfood joint when a gang of older boys (probably university students) suddenly materialised around me and enthusiastically invited me to a Bad Taste Party. I thanked them and declined politely. When I got home and told my sister what had happened, she gently led me to a full-length mirror and asked me to have a close look at what I was wearing. I can’t (of course) recall the exact garments, but I do remember realising that the joke was on me. (As my daughter often points out, I live in an irony-free zone.)

Another time, when I was travelling overseas, somebody in a pub asked me if I was a struggling art student. When I said no, he asked, ‘Why are you dressed like that, then?’

A more recent sartorial misstep resulted in a bergie in Malmesbury declining to beg from me on the grounds that I quite evidently couldn’t afford to give him anything.

And now I’m moving into even more sartorially fabulous territory: I’ve taken up knitting again for the first time in over 20 years and I’m enjoying it immensely. It’s actually an incredibly boring and repetitive pastime but by the same token really hard to think of anything to do that’s more Zen.

When I last knitted, it was during the years I caught the train from Lansdowne to the city for work, and I gainfully employed myself during the 20-minute journey by knitting obsessively. I mainly made jerseys and tanks for my then-husband who, fortuitously, was colour-blind. He loved them, and it’s fair to say that they did turn heads.

My late sainted mother was an inveterate knitter, and made many darling jerseys for her large band of grandchildren. They adored them, of course, but they would almost inevitably unravel after a couple of washes, and I always wondered how she managed to drop so many stitches.

Now I know. She knitted while she watched TV at night. While this may be perceived as an exercise in multitasking, it clearly wasn’t a successful one. And, since beginning knitting myself at night in front of the TV, I’ve discovered that it’s actually a lose-lose situation: not only do you drop stitches like Zuma drops his pants, you quickly lose the plot of the programme you’re supposedly watching. Which, for me, isn’t actually a problem at all, thanks to DStv’s habit of endlessly repeating everything it ever flights – I know I’ll finally work out what’s going on in CSI:Miami after I’ve seen it four times.

I’ve just finished knitting the world’s most hideous gilet, a garishly multicoloured gem that I know is going to invite caustic comment for years to come. And I’ve started on another one, which I’m making out of a curiously fluffy wool, the texture of which makes it difficult to see the individual stitches. But I’m knitting it while I watch TV at night, so that doesn’t matter.

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Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The amazing disappearing potatoes

I’ve been passionate about cooking for so long that I often forget that there was a time when I didn’t know how to boil an egg*.

I was making baked potatoes last night and it reminded me of the first time I tried this very simple culinary undertaking. It was in the 1980s and I was living in Woodstock in Cape Town. I was pregnant with my first child and experiencing all the mental aberrations of that state, including a brain utterly incapable of retaining even the simplest bit of information for more than a few seconds.

Feeling unusually domestic, I decided to whip myself up something for dinner rather than grabbing my customary salome** from the corner café. There were potatoes in the house, so I cranked the oven up to 180 degrees and chucked a couple in. Then I retired to the sofa with a book to wait for them to be ready.

About half an hour later, I heard what I took to be gunshots. This wasn’t an unusual sound for Woodstock in the ’80s, so I just hauled myself off the sofa and went around checking that all the doors and windows were locked, then returned to my book.

Another half hour later, I went to retrieve my potatoes from the oven, fully expecting to be able to tuck into a lovely hot meal. So I was a little surprised to find the oven empty.

I say ‘a little’ surprised because during my pregnancy I’d already done several amazingly stupid things, including throwing dirty clothes in the bin and carefully putting rubbish in the laundry basket, so I concluded that I’d only thought I’d put the potatoes into the oven but hadn’t actually done so.

So I resigned myself to another hour’s wait before I could eat, and chucked another couple of potatoes in.

This time, when the double salvo sounded, something about the timing – about half an hour after I’d put the potatoes in the oven – made me wonder if they were gunshots after all. That, and the fact that the noise seemed to be coming from the kitchen. I went and looked, and discovered that both the first and the second batch of potatoes had simply exploded in the oven, disintegrating so thoroughly that there was literally nothing left of them (if you don’t count the fine layer of half-cooked potato that coated the oven’s interior).

That’s how I learnt that, when you bake potatoes, you have to prick the skin before you put them in the oven.

* And I still can’t make a drinkable cup of tea or successfully cook any rice other than basmati.

** For non-South Africans who don’t know what a salome is, it’s a fabulously butter-rich, textured flatbread called a roti filled with a veggie or meat curry and rolled up into a lip-smacking feast. You can shop-buy rotis to make them, but it’s very easy to home-make them – as my friend Pieter and I recently discovered, when all I was required to contribute to a curry meal was the rotis, and I didn’t realise that the entire bloody country (including all the big grocery stores) actually does close down on Good Friday. So we were required to home-make them at short notice, and they were a thousand times more delicious than the prepackaged ones.

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Monday, 21 May 2012

The morning after the supermoon

I’m late with this post (sorry, been busy) – it’s about the supermoon at the beginning of May. Its rise coincided here in the Riebeek Valley with our annual Olive Festival. I was cooking up a storm inside (where it was cozy and warm, thanks to our first fire of the season – like clockwork, we got our first substantial rain on the weekend of the Olive Festival), but I did set up the telescope outside for people to go out and have a look at the moon. I was a little surprised at the lack of interest but discovered the next day why this was.

My telescope is a Towa 30X-90X60mm Zoom, and using it you can see the hills and valleys on the moon – it’s really spectacular. It’s a refracting telescope, which means it’s got two lenses: an objective lens, which produces an upside-down image; and an eye lens, which both puts the image the right way up and magnifies it. And a nimble-fingered little visitor a few weeks ago carefully unscrewed the eye lens and dropped it on the floor, and it rolled away under a table (where I finally found it after a worried search). Obviously, without the eye lens, the image is way too small to appreciate – hence the lack of interest in the supermoon through the telescope.

A supermoon, which occurs when the moon is nearest to the earth and looks much bigger and brighter than usual, rises about once a year. Astronomers call it a perigee-syzygy moon (fabulous name, don’t you think?). The picture at the top was taken by Kenny Nagel of the May supermoon rising above Cape Town.

I missed the photo-op on the Friday night, but I took this picture the next morning, over the roof of my house, of the moon setting over the Kasteelberg at 7.30 in the morning, in very bright sunlight.

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Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Another reunion! Seriously!

‘Hi, I’m coming to Cape Town tomorrow…’

So planning isn’t Alex’s strong point, but then she does have 3-year-old twins, so it’s not like she’s got time to turn around (as my late sainted mother used to say).

Still, it was cause for gigantic excitement, because Alex is another very close schoolfriend I haven’t seen since matric – 30 years ago. (It’s been quite a year for reunions.)

We had very little time to sit down and catch up – and, in fact, Alex didn’t sit down at all, because that’s what having two tots does for you: keeps you on your toes. A few hours isn’t nearly enough to trawl back over shared memories, never mind fill in the gaps since, but we managed to do a précis version, and I asked Alex why it is that I don’t have one single photograph of her (because I’ve always been an enthusiastic happy-snapper). ‘Don’t you remember?’ she said. ‘I hated having my photograph taken.’

As regular salma readers will know, I love ‘thens’ and ‘nows’ (especially with such yawning chasms of time in between), so I was sad. Then I remembered that the school photographer was something that Alex couldn’t avoid – and there’s a very specific reason why. Among Alex’s many astonishment achievements when we were young (she really was a genius), she managed to take the honours at the end of matric for being the pupil who hadn’t missed one single schoolday throughout her entire high-school career. For someone like me, who bunked at the drop of an exercise book, that was an achievement way above and beyond the straight As Alex got on her report.

So here they are: now (top pic) and then (bottom two). Alex and I were in the same class in high school only in 1978 in Form 1 (now Grade 8), and we managed to get into the same photographer’s frame the following year, when we had to pose for a shot of the junior choir.

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Tuesday, 1 May 2012

21 things you should know by age 50

Even when I wasn’t as old as I am now (I’m 47), I was suspicious of ‘anti-ageing’ cosmetics, because it’s so obviously a self-defeating aim to keep trying to look younger. If you spend R1 000 on 10 grams of veal placenta to smooth away your wrinkles when you’re 30, it seems logical that you’re going to have to fork out R2 000 for 20 grams of it when you’re 40 to achieve the same results. And when you’re 50? 60?

Then I had an epiphany: when you’re over 50, nobody cares what you look like. Once the bloom has worn off your rose-like self, all you’re left with is the accumulated wisdom of your many years.

In this spirit, I offer 21 things you should know by the time you’re 50.

1. You can’t make people do what they don’t want to. You can try for a while (if you’ve got kids, say, or you’re in a difficult relationship) but in the end, people will do what they want to do, regardless of what you want them to do.

2. You’ve got to pay your taxes. Even if, in South Africa, SARS feels like the middle-man and you sometimes wonder why you don’t just put your money directly into the pocket of a corrupt government official, you should contribute towards state schools and hospitals if you can afford to.

3. Relationships aren’t static. Your best friend will turn on you, your husband will cheat on you, your nasty neighbour will rush to your aid when your geyser explodes, someone you swore you’d never talk to again will make a welcome return in your life. Never say never.

4. Life really isn’t fair. If it were, all the fat in the bottoms of the first-world obese would be sucked out and injected into the bodies of the starving millions in the undeveloped world.

5. Being educated doesn’t make you smart. I love the fact that our civilisation puts such a premium on education that people in the western world are forced to go to school for a third of their lives. But it hasn’t stopped rape, murder, theft, greed, cruelty and plain old ignorance.

6. You’ve got to love what you do for a living. If you don’t, you’re going to spend a lot of your life being miserable.

7. Family isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Even if in the movies, everyone kisses and makes up in the end, this isn’t what happens in real life. Most families are dysfunctional; if yours is dysfunctional without ruining your life, you’re winning.

8. Having a room of your own is vital. You need somewhere safe to go to make sense of the madness. And if you’ve got a house to call your own, you’re luckier than most.

9. Do your best, and to hell with the Joneses. Who made the Joneses the king of the neighbourhood anyway?

10. Don’t bow to social pressure. You’re gay? A single mom? Dress funny? Like ABBA? Drive a kak car? Have blonde eyelashes or a big nose? Can’t spell? Have never had sex in an aeroplane toilet? Don’t like Oprah? Wouldn’t know art if it smacked you in the face? Have kankles? Work for the government? Can’t tell a joke to save your life? Well, join most of the rest of the world. Hey, we’re the spice of life!

11. The natural world is heart-stoppingly beautiful. It’s too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day trivia of a life hectically lived. Stop and smell the flowers. Watch a sunset or a moonrise. Listen to the birds. Climb a hill. Eat an orange straight from the tree. And do it as often as you can. We’re animals too, remember.

12. To err is indeed human – admit to mistakes and move on. Nobody likes to be wrong but nobody’s perfect. We all fuck up from time to time – it’s how we learn. Don’t beat yourself up. But don’t do it again, ok?

13. To forgive might be divine, but forgetting is just stupid. The point of making mistakes is to learn from them (see point #12). So forgetting the lesson is self-defeating. The balancing-act is to remember the wrongs done to you without letting them eat you alive – harder said than done, but practice makes perfect (or so they tell me).

14. We are ‘they’. The ‘they’ who should be synchronising the traffic lights and generally making the world a better place for all? That’s us. So best we get our acts together.

15. You’re never going to be as thin as you were when you were 20. Or 30 or 40. Aside from anything else, being that thin in later life flies directly in the face of our biology. Get used to your cellulite, your spare tyre or your double chin – it’s going to be with you for a long time.

16. Don’t let things other people say about you unsettle you. There’s not a person on the planet without issues; and there are very few of them who won’t, consciously or otherwise, project those issues onto you. Remember that it’s their stuff, not yours.

17. Ask for help if you need it. And if you can’t bring yourself to ask a friend or family member, ask a stranger – there are plenty of organisations out there who won’t look at you funny when you tell them you aren’t coping.

18. Anything that takes you temporarily out of your own reality is a good thing. Life is hard, so whatever your mind-altering drug of choice – cooking, dancing, marathon-running, painting, dagga, wine, standing in a circle at full moon with a moose steak on your forehead – go ahead and indulge it. The key word is ‘temporarily’.

19. It’s never too late… actually, sometimes it is. If you haven’t summited the seven peaks by the time you’re 50, you’re probably not going to. Let go of unrealisable dreams and replace them with ones that really are achievable. Even if you haven’t done everything you put on your ‘things to do by the time I’m 30’ list, there are plenty of things left you can do between now and when you die.

20. If you can’t do it, tell yourself you can anyway. Self-delusion is sometimes the only way to go.

21. Don’t waste time being scared of dying. Why dread the inevitable?

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Angry neighbours and hound hell

I lived in the cheek-by-jowl suburb of Observatory in Cape Town for seven years, and from that experience realised that I don’t like having neighbours. From the students over the road who partied hard and loud into the small hours seven days a week, to the woman next door who left rude notes on the windscreens of friends’ cars if they parked on ‘her’ pavement, my neighbours weren’t people with whom I’d ever want to form lifelong bonds.

So I decamped to the (then) thinly populated village of Riebeek Kasteel, and for several years lived blissfully across the road from the town cemetery – better neighbours I simply couldn’t have asked for.

At around the same time as I bought a house a little further into the centre of the village, there was a sudden property boom, and it wasn’t long before the large plots around my home had been carved up into smaller ones, and I was once again surrounded by neighbours – and the niggles that came with living with them.

Aside from one lengthy incident involving a neighbour’s questionable decision to import a pair of rabbits into his garden, and allow them free-range freedom (with catastrophic results for both the rabbits and their gazillion babies, which were relentlessly hunted by the neighbourhood cats and birds of prey, and often got run over when caught in the headlights of some hapless driver-by; and the neighbourhood, which, many years on, was still dealing with the multitudinous garden-devouring offspring of the original pair), almost all incidents of ’burb rage were sparked by dogs.

Our road became known as ‘Blafstraat’ (‘Bark Street’), as every one of its eight houses had dogs – except, for several years, mine. The hound population of the house at the top corner ranged from an annoying four to a fury-inducing six – and it was these that raised the alarm if someone walked around that corner into our road, barking hysterically and setting off every other dog all the way down the street. When this happened at night, I would lie in bed biting my duvet in frustration, wondering how the hell their owners could sleep through the din, if I, all the way at the other end of the road, was being kept awake by it.

But the surrounding neighbours at the end of the street waged that war and, finally, won a victory of sorts – the owner agreed to put up an interior fence so that at the very least their dogs wouldn’t be able to race all the way around their house, thereby cutting in half the length of time the frenzied barking went on. And so a kind of peace reigned for a while.

Then the people over the road from me, who already had a Staffordshire terrier, acquired three miniature dachshunds. Crikey, they were cute. And by god, they could yap! They yapped at each other, at their owners, at their owners’ kids and friends and popper-inners; they yapped at passing people and cars and other dogs; they yapped at birds flying by and insects on the ground; they yapped at breezes and sunshine and rain. And, because the garden in which they lived was enclosed by only a chickenwire fence, they yapped at all the cars and people and birds and insects they could see all the way up and down the road.

Not only that, but they were escape artists – so it wasn’t enough that they yapped their little bloody heads off inside their garden, they often got out and ran up and down the road, snapping at passerbys’ ankles, attacking other dogs (I once had to rescue a stray puppy from certain death – miniature dachshunds might look endearing but, make no mistake, they’re little killers; they were initially bred to hunt badgers) and generally causing havoc.

Now, up until then, my over-the-road neighbours and I had lived in a state of détente. Neither of us was a perfect neighbour. I, for instance, occasionally had loud parties that went on into the small hours and sometimes beyond. They, on the other hand, ran an unlicensed crèche from their house, which meant that three mornings a week, twice a day, I was treated to the exhaust fumes and noise of parents dropping off and collecting their little darlings, and also several hours of kids’ playtime (consisting of mainly screaming and crying) in their front garden. They also ran some sort of chemicals business out of their garage, with people coming and going at all hours of the day and night to collect huge drums of I-don’t-know-what.

But the dachshunds changed that status quo. And, just so that you know I’m not Mrs-Nigglypants-Neighbour, I didn’t actually register any complaints at all for about a year. Then several things happened to prompt action. First, there was the near-death-of-the-puppy incident – in trying to rescue it from the dachshunds, I got my jersey snagged on a piece of barbed wire, so all I could do, since I was trapped, was hold the puppy up out of reach of the three hysterical little would-be murderers and scream my lungs out in the hope that their owner would hear. You can imagine my astonishment when only one of their children – a little boy aged about 6 – responded. Why? Because his parents were out at the time, and the only ‘responsible adult’ in the house was a 12-year-old cousin who was too scared to come out.

Second, the dachshunds got out of their garden (again!) and into a neighbouring empty plot, where my chickens were quietly peck-pecking away, and attempted to kill one of them. With the help of another neighbour, we managed to rescue it.

And, finally, there was the incident of the woman walking past with a boerboel (which, in case you don’t know, is a BIG dog), and the three little yappers getting out and going for both her and her dog. I responded to her cries to help and burst out of my front door. By then, the dachshunds knew me as an avenging fury, and ran away when they saw me, but the woman was distraught and her dog was in murder-mode (and, believe me, you don’t want to be around a riled-up boerboel). While I was trying to calm both the woman and her dog, I looked over at the neighbour’s house – and saw both the owners watching what was happening from behind their security gate. They had heard and seen everything, and hadn’t lifted a finger!

It really was the final straw. Later that day, once my temper had cooled to simmering, I went over to have a word with the owners. They were (surprise!) not at home, but the mother-in-law was, and when I explained the situation to her, her response amazed me. She knew about the problem, she said, because they’d received complaints not only from practically all the people in our street, but from several of the home-owners behind them as well. And, she added, I could speak to her daughter-in-law, but she could guarantee that nothing would be done – ‘Her attitude is that they’re her dogs, and that’s that.’ (She said this in Afrikaans; this is an approximate translation.)

She gave me her daughter-in-law’s cellphone number, and I called her. We had a short and unpleasant conversation, during which she told me exactly – practically word for word – what her mother-in-law had said she would.

I’m going to cut what’s becoming a very long story short here: I applied to the municipality for their bylaws concerning dogs, and quickly learned that the owners of the dachshunds were contravening all of them (too many dogs on the property; property not properly fenced; dogs’ barking not controlled; dogs being a nuisance; dogs harassing passers-by; and so on). I wrote a polite letter, which my neighbours on either side co-signed, and added a reminder that we were all dog-lovers in our street, and were prepared to help in any way possible to solve the problem (including but not limited to a neighbourly effort to properly secure and screen their front fence). I stapled it to a printout of the municipal bylaws and delivered it.

Well! Let’s just say that hell hath no fury like a woman whose dogs have been scorned. In a huge argument on my front verandah, she told me that she would have all the dogs put down the very next day – WOULD THAT MAKE ME HAPPY??! Not at all, I said; there were several other ways to handle the problem.

What happened over the next few months was, for me, very telling. The dachshunds’ owners didn’t do a thing to make their front fence more secure or less see-through, but they did make something of an effort to control their dogs, in that, every fourth or fifth time the dachshunds went into a yapping frenzy, someone would scream at them from behind the security gate. But all that this ‘awareness’ of the constant noise did was apparently make them conscious – for the first time in over a year – of the fact that their small dogs had become a sizeable nuisance.

And so, a few months later, the dachshunds suddenly disappeared. I don’t know if they were given away or put down, because, since the shouted confrontation on my front verandah, my over-the-road-neighbours have never spoken to me again. I continue to greet them; they not only ignore me, they actually turn their backs when they see me.

This doesn’t bother me – we were never going to be lifelong friends. What is interesting, however, is something that happened a few days ago. Another neighbour acquired a new dog – a collie/husky cross – who is also an escape artist, and gets out of their garden every morning to wander around in the street. But (and this is a big ‘but’) the collie/husky never barks, and it’s a nervous dog, so when a passer-by approaches, it runs away – in other words, it’s not a nuisance. What does worry me is that it seems to have no road sense, and a couple of times I’ve watched while a passing car has had to swerve at the last minute to avoid it.

For this reason, the other morning, when I saw it in the street, I went outside to let it back into its garden (it seems to find ways out, but can’t find a way back in again). At the very same time, my ex-dachshunds-owning-neighbour (the husband, this time) came shooting out of his house, screaming – and when he saw me, he went into overdrive. In Afrikaans, he shrieked, ‘You all complained about my dogs, but what about this dog??!’ – then, incredibly, he picked up a huge chunk of stone from the roadside and flung it with all his strength at the dog. The dog was terrified and bolted off up the street.

And that, really, is all you need to know about people who should never have dogs, never mind neighbours.

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