It’s hard to keep a promise

Don’t you ever have the urge to splash out to do something which is anti-social, selfish and positively sinful? I have in mind something we all used to indulge in almost daily without a second thought of the waste, or the possible long- and short-
term consequences on the lives of thousands of other Capetonians.

I’m talking about taking a hot bath before going to bed. And I mean a proper, old-fashioned, pre-drought bath. Quite the opposite of the guilty one you occasionally allow yourself today where the water barely reaches your knees and you can’t lie back in the tub letting the precious liquid flow over your shoulders while taking care not to let your book get wet.

I blush when I think how often I would read until the water cooled and then shamelessly topped up with more hot water until it was up to my neck. Then I could finish the chapter in comfort.

Those were the days, my water-conscious friends, those halcyon, water-rich days which our mayor, Patricia de Lille, has warned us may never return.

Bathing today is reserved for a special occasion or an emergency when you simply have to do something about the colour of your feet which a mini-shower does not improve.

Along with the guilt comes the post-dated pain, usually the following morning, when you fetch a plastic bucket from the garden and a small pot from the kitchen and methodically empty scoop by scoop the bath to give the water to your thirsty plants.

It’s then you’re glad you had a mini-bath – which is still about 30-40 litres – and not one of those decadent 80 litre wallows which were still possible, and frequently taken, only a year ago.

A tale of secrets and scandals

Julian Fellowes, or to give the 66-year-old creator of Downton Abbey his correct title, Baron Fellowes of West Stafford, published a new novel last year, Belgravia, a tale of secrets and scandals set in 1840s London which would also make an excellent movie or TV series.

However, before the book appeared in the UK as a complete volume it was published digitally in serial form. The first chapter Dancing into Battle was free. Thereafter all those hooked on the dramatic events, which started at a society ball hosted in Brussels on Thursday June 15, 1815 – three days before the Battle of Waterloo – had to subscribe for the 11-week series. This cost $13.99 (including both text and audio versions of each episode) or $1.99 an episode.

Fellowes described listening to his book as “a cross between a novel and a computer game”, and he was delighted at the idea of “being the first to try it out”.

His detractors pointed out that Charles Dickens was actually the first to produce a weekly serialisation of his books, although “without 21st century computerised bells and whistles”.

The literary success of Dickens began in 1836 with the serial publication of The Pickwick Papers, after which most of his novels appeared in monthly or weekly instalments. The chapters were avidly snapped up by those who could read and afford the 4 pence (or whatever it was back then) and this encouraged others to learn to read.

Dickens disguised himself to eavesdrop on his readers and often modified his plot and character development based on such feedback.

Library in full swing, no Chloe

Tokai library is again operating in full swing but without one of its key personalities – Chloe, the elderly, much-loved library cat. She was in poor health, very thin, refusing food, and in view of her age – between 17 and 20 – she was put down on March 23.

The cat started off with a 
family living close to the library and eventually she made the bookish atmosphere her home. She enjoyed lying on the warm newspapers, which people were waiting to read or peering into the gold fish bowl to catch a bite for lunch. The caring staff looked after her, one respon-
sible for de-fleaing her while the chief librarian undertook to make a special journey to the library over long weekends to feed 
Chloe.

For many years the cat’s food and vet bills were paid first by one kindly “borrower” and then another one chipped in. Of her nine lives, Chloe spent about eight in the library and probably had a better life than many a cat in a suburban home or flat whose owners are away all day.

Guide to learn about our heritage

In a quiz you wouldn’t catch out many people who did not know that our national animal and flower were a springbok and the King Protea – the giant one (Protea cynaroides). But how about 
the national fish and national tree? Hmm…that’s trickier. 
They are, respectively, the gal-
joen (corancinus capensis) and the real yellowwood (podocarpus latifolius)

I know this thanks to a handsome, full-colour, newspaper-sized sheet put out free by the provincial government detailing our national symbols as well as facts about the national flag, coat of arms, anthem and all six of our national orders. These are the highest awards that the country, through its president, can bestow on individual South Africans and eminent foreign leaders and personalities.

An interesting point is that from April 2001 radically different national orders were unveiled using designs containing indigenous symbols “which took into consideration previously excluded communities”.

In view of this, I am pretty sure that the English and Afrikaans sheet we picked up free from the library will also be available in African languages as the whole purpose of the guide is to help people learn more about our heritage.

It’s hard to keep a promise

Promises are like crying babies in a theatre. They should be carried out at once.
fionachisholm@iafrica.com