After a chaotic first few days doing clinical work of a variety I have not experienced for many years – I can’t remember the last time I treated scalp ringworm in an 8 year old, and I haven’t managed porridge burns previously – the weekend has arrived to provide a welcome breather and a moment to reflect and to appreciate the incredible peace and beauty of this place. The rolling green hills to the North and the fall of the land down to the sea to the East are surprisingly reminiscent of the Yorkshire coastline. It is the scattered rondavels and the distant dirt road that remind you of where you are. In the UK it is difficult to get away completely from a background of occasional car sounds or the hum of a faraway motorway and the hush is prone to be broken by distant jet aircraft or small low flying planes and helicopters. If you take that away however what is left in Yorkshire is what I can hear now – the baaing of sheep in the distance, and birdsong. The birdsongs are different of course (if you routinely listen to things like that as I do). The swallows building a nest above my kitchen door are the lesser striped variety and they perch engagingly on the washing line not two feet from the kitchen window each with a beak full of a ball of mud to add to their rapidly assembling home.
Saturday morning includes a walk round the residence compound with a long chat to the security guard, an intelligent and articulate man who left a better job in Jo’burg to return to his family home. He talks to me in English and Xhosa and teaches me a new Xhosa phrase (‘I am telling you!’); one to be brought out perhaps with the next recidivist patient who needs reminding of the importance of taking their HIV medication. It is bright and sunny; time to open windows, air clothes, dry towels and clean the bedroom floor.
Bird watching from the patio in the sun and among a whole slew of new sightings; the bold yellow and black of the village weaver bird, the lipsticked scarlet beak and eyes of the common waxbill and the gorgeous iridescence of the amethyst sunbird are highlights.
Dr Le Roux (Karl) calls past and suggests I might like to join everyone at 5pm for the Springbok/All Black game in the communal room and we chat about rugby.
I decide to make some toast at lunch and can’t get the bread in the toaster to stay down despite changing sockets and all manner of other manipulations. I try the kettle to check which way is ‘on’ for the socket switch and that doesn’t work either. The lack of noise from the fridge is suddenly deafeningly obvious and it dawns on me that the power is off. On cue the clouds begin to gather and it gets cooler. My take- for-granted reliance on computers and phones now suddenly seems less secure. Sally (Dr) Le Roux is walking around and tells me it is a general ‘out’ which is a minor relief in that I have not fused my flat alone. She mentions that this can sometimes go on for days so it’s camping mode time. What of the rugby though?
Karl calls back later – I am sensing a certain degree of rugby fanaticism by now – to tell me that he has arranged to borrow a generator from a local farmer and we drive off down a road which varies from smooth concrete to mud and rubble and which is also the way to the beach. We pull off and drive over a few fields to the home of a delightful local family who lend us a generator. Many kakuhle’s and enkosi’s later we drive back and get the generator set up with seconds to spare before the start of the match. Everyone gathers to watch the large plasma screen. The Le Roux children sit round a low plastic table and eat supper in front of us. The generator cuts out a few times at critical moments but the playback and fast forward buttons mean we see it all. The room is as partisan as any group of Welsh supporters I can remember. It is interesting to see that referee Alain Rolland is just as one sidedly inept against the Boks as he was with the English against France last season. Every refereeing mistake provokes howls of indignant disbelief. Match over, the Boks have been beaten by a professionally clinical New Zealand although the scoreline would have been closer with a real referee.
It is very dark outside with a heavy drizzle. The generator has done its job and we disperse to our various residences by torchlight. Still no power; the chili con carne supper remains uncooked. I was never a great fan of camping and even indoors it has no charms.