Out and About

Fiona Chisholm

How was your festive season? Ours started off as the quietest and least festive I have ever known. The sword of the coronavirus pandemic hanging over our heads and the ban on visiting family from the UK somehow made it a bit frivolous to decorate the house and a Christmas tree. Yet, by the time all the presents had been unwrapped and the sitting room was awash with colourful wrapping paper, you would have thought that 20 of us had sat down to our simple but delicious lunch and not just our small family of five.

Looking back on previous Christmases, I realise the lack of fuss in 2020 was a huge relief. No frantic last-minute shopping for suitable gifts for extra guests invited so they would not be alone. No panic in the kitchen to be sure both the turkey and ham arrived simultaneously at the table hot and suitably decorated. And – best of all – no problem about where to place at the table which aunt which did not speak to which niece! Yes, we Scottish families are good at waging a silent war with relatives and never relenting or moving forward!

But the really positive thing about this subdued festive season was that no family member was killed in a car accident, died of a heart attack, or got badly burnt when a faulty domestic gas cylinder blew up. And because of the curfews imposed, forcing us to be in our own homes on New Year’s Eve, no sister of mine had to be rescued when the hired car (a cheapie, I suspect!) broke down about 50 km from Langebaan.

While the rescue party set off with towing ropes and torches to rescue my sister, I remained at our cottage to make supper while listening to the last night of Springbok Radio, which was due to be shut down forever at midnight of 1985. This once extremely popular station had lost ground to the changed habit of people turning off their radios in the evening to watch the new and growing fad, television, which had finally been introduced in South Africa.

As a keen follower of Springbok Radio – the only station we could hear clearly on our small portable at Langebaan – I was surprised to read recently that the memories of this popular station did not die with its closure.

Since October 2008, the Springbok Radio Preservation Society of South Africa, with the help of the SABC, has been streaming restored and preserved old-time Springbok Radio favourites in a 12-hour service from Mondays to Sundays. And should you happen to miss your favourite song the first time it is played, it is repeated four times on Springbok Radio Revisited.

Perhaps I will tune into it once for old time’s sake….

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The best Christmas present was a copy of the book, 50 People who F ***Ed Up South Africa – The Lost Decade, by Alexander Parker and Tim Richman. Not having read their 2010 best-seller, 50 People who Stuffed Up South Africa, I was bowled over by the frank opinions and humorous observations of the authors enhanced by the brilliant cartoons of Zapiro.

What makes the book bed-time reading is that the articles on the political figures range from seven pages to one, so you can read several chapters before falling asleep. Even Cyril Ramaphosa is included for being “ever so painfully slow” about getting rid of corrupt people.

As I knew Helen Zille as a young reporter on the Rand Daily Mail, I was interested to read the authors describe her as being “one of the very few world-class politicians in South Africa… before she became a social media disaster”. The authors recalled how, in the 1970s, Zille had searched out the truth about the death in detention, in September 1977, of Steve Biko.

“Following a tip-off, she flew to PE, chased witnesses, deduced facts and compiled enough evidence for her editor, Allister Sparks, to publish the story that would reveal to the world that Biko had been murdered by the apartheid state.

“It was classic rational journalism that reported an important objective truth, and Zille was the young epitome of such a journalist.

“Decades later, she found Twitter…”

And, sadly, we know what that did to her reputation…. Alas, she carried on tweeting, with the same unpleasant backlash, until February last year when finally a much wiser Helen quit Twitter for good.

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That nasty incident last month when two women were robbed of their cellphones by armed gunman caused a decrease of users to the Tokai forest in December. Though the shock waves have died down, I am still surprised at how many women I see walking, often alone, clutching their phones.

If they must have their phones, they should keep them out of sight. A stolen phone can give a hungry man a meal.

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This is my last column. I am hanging up my “Out and About” hat. I foresee that government, as well as self-imposed restrictions of movement, to avoid the old or new version of the virus, will continue in 2021. Getting material for a weekly column when I’m housebound will be even harder than last year. So it is time to go, lest I end up being a bore!

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If the divorce rate keeps rising in South Africa, part of the marriage vow will have to be changed from “I do” to “adieu”.

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fionachisholm@iafrica.com