Renewals can be a painful business

Matthew Wild.

We forgetful mortals need to be reminded when it’s time to renew certain things, particularly if they come round at irregular intervals.

Two years ago, I was fined R500 for not timeously renewing my car licence, so this November I checked out the month-end expiry date and when I was about to head off to the traffic department, a reminder notice came in the post. I sent off a cheque (yup, an old-fashioned cheque) and was overjoyed when the licence arrived bang on target on November 30. What service!

Quite the reverse was the renewal of my bank card. The first time a transaction failed I blamed “their machine”. The second time, I checked out the card and was shocked to read that it had expired on November 30. I headed for the bank, waited 25 minutes for a consultant to tell me that the card might have been cancelled as it was available in October.
She would request another and I would be notified by SMS when it would be couriered to my home.

The mention of an SMS jogged my memory about weeks ago finding an inaudible, unintelligible phone message which sounded as though the speaker was on the dark side of the moon during an eclipse. Was that mumbo jumbo about my bank card?
Yes, apparently it was. Soon after returning despondently from the bank, the phone rang, and another back-of-the-moon speaker was gabbling away at the speed of lightning.

“Please”, I said, “speak more s-l-o-w-l-y… and clearly. Are you couriers? Is it about my bank card?”

I have good hearing but was almost weeping with frustration as I was shuttled from one incoherent voice to another (with a musical spell in between). Finally I was told the card would come between 8am and 4pm the next day.

The driver who delivered it as promised was both articulate and courteous, but the phone team really let down the bank and the courier company. I have written a letter to tell them so.

The magic of opera

The first opera I ever saw when we came to South Africa was Mozart’s The Magic Flute. My two older sisters and I sat through so many rehearsals of our father conducting a Little Theatre production of students and staff of the College of Music, that our party trick was to sing in English the roles of the Three Ladies of the Queen of the Night, who dramatically slay a monster threatening to kill Prince Tamino.

This role was sung by a youthful Albie Louw, later to become the well-known jazz pianist, who died in February at the age of 91.

Whereas the first act is fun and funny, I’ve always found the second act with its Masonic symbolism and Egyptian imagery, too long and mostly incomprehensible. So I was relieved to read in the programme notes of director Matthew Wild’s recent scintillating production of Die Zauberflöte at Artscape’s Theatre that at the first performance of the opera in 1791, the jumbled storyline of Emanuel Schikaneder was criticised for not meeting “even minimum expectations”.

Nevertheless Wild pulled out all the stops to make it entertaining, conceiving the piece as the dream of an unlucky-in-love UCT College of Music student bewildered by his study of Mozart’s Flute Concerto and the score of Die Zauberflöte. Collapsing into his bed, he wakes in a vivid dream where bedclothes are transformed into a serpent, bird-men appear from under his bed and helium balloons give rise to flight.

Given this interpretation, the animated response from a full house – including dozens of enthusiastic high school pupils – proved that the music and fun in this production outweighed the negative. It remains the fourth most frequently performed opera in the world. And it might even jump up to being No 3 on the list, if only the second act was cut by a brave director.

Beat from the heat

I was relieved that on Thursday December 7, when the temperature in Cape Town reached a soaring 39 degrees, we were not heading to the City Hall for another orchestral concert. We attended five in a row last month. First the gala fund-raising concert on November 2, followed by four concerts in the Summer Season ending on November 30.

Hopefully by the 2018 Summer Season, the long-awaited, much-needed air-con system for those hot and stuffy nights will be installed and working efficiently in the “Grand Old Edwardian Lady of Cape Town”.

Among the improvements will be new flooring and carpets in upstairs lobbies and hallways, new chairs, new restored woodwork, replaced copper door handles, a slightly lowered stage level for improved sight lines from the first 15 rows, an upgrade of the embarrassing “Green Rooms” for conductors and soloists and a permanent PA system, specially adapted for the rich acoustics of the City Hall.

What about the archaic loos? They too are to be improved. They were refurbished a few years ago but still have old-fashioned chains and missing locks, the latter stolen, either to be sold or installed in the home of someone else. There’s a fortune for anyone who can invent a 100% thief-proof door lock for a public loo.

A holiday from traffic

Hurrah for the school hols. It means a temporary end to the awful tail-to-tail traffic jams on Steenberg Road as parents ferry their kids to and from Reddam School. Driving up the Ou Kaapseweg to access Noordhoek, or the Silvermine Nature Reserve, which is exceptionally pretty right now, will no longer feel like the early-morning crawl to work in Cape Town.


If the divorce rate keeps increasing the vow “I do” will need to be changed to “adieu”.