My “Out of The Hat” column, first published in Stanford River Talk, the quite extraordinary little local newspaper that serves (and I mean serves) my village – April, 2013.
I STEP out of the shower I share with large frogs, even bigger spiders, any size and number of exquisitely hand-painted moths and and am immediately enveloped by the heat once more.
Sipping the dark, bitter remnants of last night’s sweet, black tea, I feel the mountain-dew breeze diffusing through the fly-defying mesh of the screen door and on to my chest, prickling my still-damp skin with it’s early autumn cool-creep.
The vista from my front door is the same, as always. In that is is constantly changing. The aimlessly scudding clouds, the groping, gripping mist and the love of the light all conspire to create new mountain edges, resketching a familiar landscape in my mind. Doves clatter inconsiderately through the leaves into the tree, just outside my wonky gate, where they have chicks to feed.
Eureka! That’s a nice name for a girl, isn’t it? And a natural progression, methinks, on all these Storms and Summers gaily trotting around clutching Daddy’s cycle-gloved hand in breakfast places on a Sunday morning. If you have been hanging out under Julius Malema’s bar of soap and not paying the slightest bit of attention, I am dead keen to become a father. And should the old chromos produces a girl child, I shall call her Eureka.
Not because I don’t like the name Jane. Or because I absolutely dig the way “Eureka Hatman” scans… but because, should Eureka get lost while my gaze is disturbingly locked on making sure my bike doesn’t get nicked while having a Full House at some trendy breakfast place on a Sunday morning, and I go into an entertaining panic and shout out her name, all of the other breakfasting cyclist daddies might come running over to see what it is I’ve discovered. I always wanted to be an inventor.
There are, of course, many distinctions to be drawn between people who somehow exist in the city and those who live the life of Reilly in the countryside.
I lived in inner-city London for 13 years. I loved it. Then. I have now lived in Stanford for the past six months. Stanford? It’s OK. Reasonable question. Twenty-three kilometres the other side of Hermanus, Hatpeople. If you’re coming from Cape Town. Which you will be. Unless you live in Vermaklikheid of iets. Which you don’t. So don’t argue with me. Because I’m irritable.
I’m touchy because I’ve been looking after a friend’s house in Cape Town (while she swans about the shifting sands of the Namib with her man) for the past week. It’s noisy. It’s over-populated. It’s discombobulated. It’s nincompoopulated. It’s smelly. Too many cars. Far too many people. Too many airs and disgraces. Not enough air and graciousness. Too many millions of refrigerators humming around my eardrum. It’s kak.
I’ve been thinking about developing a personality. No, not mine. I gave up on that some time ago. Earthworms have got the jump on me. Not my fault I like to wear an anorak, write down the engine numbers of passing trains, have a massive collection of pet rocks and have taped every episode of Noot vir Noot on VHS.
No, I’ve been thinking of developing a character, like sex symbol blogger Seth Rotherham has done so cleverly with TBG (Tall Blonde Guy) over at 2oceansvibe.com. And very charmingly too, if I may say so.
I did have one. A character. A strange, eccentric, reclusive one called The Bushguy. But then I left Umdloti to go on a unicycle marathon, found Stanford and lost him. Not difficult. Last I heard, Bushguy was still living in the thick coastal bush above Umdloti Beach with his dogs and existing on mushrooms.
So what to do. Where to find A Character? As always, one doesn’t have to go far. He’s been on my doorstep. No, not at Hatman Mansions. But on the doorstep of my conscious. And characters don’t come any bigger, colourful, tougher, crazier, more beautiful than “The G-man”.
Are you feeling strong today? Are you up for this? Sure? OK. Let’s take a look at him…
No sooner had he been introduced to Miss South Africa and The G-man takes a call from a fan
OK. Now I can’t speak for you but if I had just been introduced to Miss South Africa Nicole Flint, I wouldn’t take a call from anybody, not Nelson Mandela or even my close friend Gen Morton. Even if I had just bought one of those phenomenal new iPhones that look like a crayfish.
But this is how he rolls, The G-man. The man for every situation. So cool you need to wield an icepick to get near him. A man you’d want alongside you in the trenches in a particularly brutal and unconventionally-fought war.
The G-man is an ADD-addled action hero. He’s seriously feral. A natural-born actor. He’s South Africa’s Bruce Willis, Woody Harrelson and, er, Lou Reed all rolled into one unpredictable, fearless and insanely cool package. And you don’t have to take my word for it.
He lives noisily in a quiet village north of Durban. You might see him barking like a dog at the La Mercy Lagoon. He can convincingly imitate 36 animal sounds. I know. I heard them all during this madcap adventure.
I could go on. But I’ve used up all of my G-man force for the day. So this what I’ll do. Send me a photo of you with The G-man and, every Friday, I’ll choose the craziest one. The winner will receive one of those brand-new, totally insane Special Edition Crayfish iPhones. Yes, just like the one The G-man is using in that pic!
How cool is that? Yes, yes, I know. Please try to remain calm. OK. Here’s a tip on how to find The G-man. He really digs the coffee that Judd “Juddy-poo” Campbell purveys at the absurdly groovy Corner Cafe in Glenwood, Durban. You’ll find him there most days, high on caffeine and getting up to mischief.
Brace yourself, introduce yourself, get in a picture with our boy and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. If it’s the nuttiest one of the week, you win a Crayfish iPhone and I publish the pic on here. Well. Why are you still sitting there, staring at this word. Vamoose, babies!
I was having a day off, listening to Seth\’s stunning 2oceansvibe radiostream and trying really hard not to touch myself at the same time, when this little gem rolled into the collective unconscious of Hatman Mansions on a Saturday morning… oh, this carries a “You Might Fall Off Your Chair And Crush The Cat You’ll Be Laughing So Hard” warning…
Beautiful! I think all SABC TV news reporters should be ordered to get stoned before getting their hands on a mike. I might actually understand what they’re saying.
* Red hat tip to Anne Bussio of Joe’s Restaurant in Stanford for sending this beautiful baby my way.
Before today’s icy morning gave way to the winter sun, I was out feeding our birds. Our birds? Yes, these birds which afford me the privilege of visiting my garden at Hatman Mansions to eat my seed are yours too. I know that you will take good care of them.
A bird that can take care of itself is the Black Harrier. Afrikaners know it as the Witkruispaddavreter (White Cross Frog Eater). There are an abundance of frogs in my garden. One (Black Harrier, not frog) gave me a right treat when it landed on a branch in one of the guava trees this morning. I like to listen to the frogs make a popcorn-popping sound at night. So, I was relieved to note that Mr Harrier was more intent on peering over the low wall into the neighbour’s garden. Pierre and Gaye’s frogs are a lot fatter.
A White Cross Frog Eater Pic: Peter Steyn / www.arkive.org
After all of this excitement, I stumbled down the main road where things were considerably quieter. Monday morning. And The Stanford Galleries Art Cafe is closed for the staff’s annual holiday – so our cappuccino drip has been removed. It’s also like the heartbeat of the village has stopped. It’s sad. Please hurry up with your holidays, Jill, Dixie, Jaco and Co. Enough pain already.
I needed a couple of their fine coffees to help me recover from the weekend. A weekend in which Margot van Heerden and friends, led by the indomitable comedienne Candy Bubb, conducted a very happy coup of Stanford, took over Fruit Tree Cottage and renamed it Playgirl Mansions… and then celebrated wildly into the night at Birkenhead Brewery. Margot’s 40th. Beautiful. The thing about Birkenhead is that I’m addicted to their ale, the Birkenhead Pride. It all got rather untidy. Correction: I got rather untidy. Nice.
Nice and untidy. I'm not sorry. It's just the way I was taught to dance.
I feared the worst when World Cup 2010 Local Organising Committee head honcho Danny Jordaan said that vuvuzelas would only be banned at this World Cup if they were thrown on to the field of play or used in an irresponsible fashion.
There goes our vuvu, I thought. All it takes is one plonker to chuck a vuvu – hopefully well aimed – at Cristiano Ronaldo and the big beef will be confiscating them off us at the gate quicker than you can say “Paaaaaarp”.
But all has been well. Because all South Africans, and most of the foreign visitors who have embraced this friendliest and most peaceable of World Cups, don’t want anything to spoil the world’s most massive party of the year.
But, it agonises me to say, we have found that one plonker. One German idiot who got drunk, got upset at a policeman who was trying to direct traffic around the football crowd and then attacked the cop with a vuvuzela, reportedly “seriously injuring” him.
Schweinhund! Not ideal. Take a young German (you could easily replace that with Englishman, of course), bucketloads of beer and a long, plastic trumpet (ie. vuvuzela) and our entire enjoyment of this, the most flawlessly beautiful of all World Cups, is put at risk.
Dear World Cup visitors, please note... the correct way to enjoy yourselves with our vuvuzela. Thank you.
But wait. Where did this dumbkopf carry out his vuvu violence? It pleases me to say that terrible trumpet travesty took place north of Duisburg in Germany, not anywhere in our well-chilled South Africa with its almost zen-like World Cup “hosts with the mostest” party vibe.
A newsbreak by Bleacher Report reads… “As German fans in Dinslaken, north of Duisburg, made their way home after Die Mannschaft’s victory over Ghana on Wednesday, one pissed-up supporter began taunting a police officer directing traffic around the crowd. The police report reads:
“As he turned to the 20-year-old, the man suddenly began hitting and kicking the officer. Furthermore he began pounding the officer’s head with a vuvuzela.”
Bystander accounts claim it took three people to take the vuvuzela-wielding wildman down, while the police officer has been officially declared unfit for duty due to ’severe [head] injuries’ and, we suspect, the shame of being tamed by a plastic horn.’ ”
Not lekker (nice). But due to the Germanness, nay, North Europeanness of this incident, let us hope that it remains isolated to that region of the planet. Any more of this disgraceful behaviour and I, the most ardently “SA-positive” supporter of this 2010 World Cup, will demand that the perpetrator be brought to my padded cell here at Hatman Mansions and summarily dealt with. I think that I may have thought of another use, which suggests itself as most suitable punishment, for our vuvuzela!
OK. Now get back to blowing up at storm as we continue with this insanely gorgeous World Cup!
After falling out of bed at Hatman Mansions at 5.45am in our sleepy village of Stanford this morning I stood – as is my habit – on The Blogorandah (my verandah), sipping last night’s cold tea, took a lungful of Marlboro and called for that bloody cat which does little else than stare at me.
But, even before Teapot had had a chance to issue forth its first miaow of the day, the haunting sound of a far-off vuvuzela caressed my ears. Yes, I said “caressed”, not “assailed”. For I am truly “SA-positive”, remember?
This lone vuvu wailed from the direction of Die Skema, the place on a hill above Stanford where the coloured Stanfordians mostly live. This vuvu-parper was getting his lungs warmed up for the midday call for South Africans to parp their support for our beautiful World Cup, now merely a matter of a couple of thousand minutes away. Can you feel it? Can your hear it? I could… from one of the creases inside the very distant Overberg!
But nothing prepared me for the outbreak of vuvu fever which resounded around our country today. This was reflected on the social media networks, where the hashtag word “vuvuzela” became a worldwide trending topic on Twitter and Facebook was awash with updates expressing joyous surprise at the level to which World Cup ecstasy was taken.
Let’s take a gander at what that looked like… and then I’ll throw in a video of Cape Town’s Long Street in vuvuzelic eruption for you to enjoy!
Twitter went vuvulistic, sending the word "vuvuzela" into the Top 10 trending topics worldwide! Paaaarp!
Facebook had a "feel-it" day with my fb friends spilling out of their skin to tell the world that South Africa was officially the noisiest country on the planet today!
How was that? Er, no, sorry, there is no known cure for “yellowshirt fever”… so let’s all just die happy! Even Julius Malema, the chastised and somewhat chastened leader of the ANC Youth League, tweeted out his support for Bafana Bafana and urged the country to unite in blowing their vuvuzelas for this World Cup. How do I know this? Well, JuJu and I, er, follow each other on Twitter, don’t we?
There you go... JuJu sings his "Kiss the Vuvuzela" song to the nation. And who, might I ask, would argue with such sound logic?
How cool is that? Amazing how Julius has calmed down since Sepp Blatter, Godfather of the Fifafia, became South Africa’s Public Enemy No 1, hey? Still, Jules, if you’re reading this – and I know you do – give me a shout anytime you want to send out another of your press releases to the good people of South Africa.
But I digress. Here’s that video I promised you. Sent over by my totally rad mates at CapeTownAlive! and filmed with the help of supercool video-sharing website Zoopy…
Nice. Now that’s what I call a country on the verge of giving the planet its craziest, most beautiful, friendliest, most human-spirited World Cup yet. How does that make you feel in your tummy? Warm and fuzzy, hey? Yes. I’m happy. Because, as your only “medically diagnosed SA-positive” blogger, that’s what I am on this earth to do… rub your tummies until they feel so warm and fuzzy. Ayoba!
* I have joined the London Guardian’s World Cup Fans Network for the duration of the World Cup football finals. It is a phenomenal concept, one which uses Twitter to bring the voices (or tweets) of fans of all 32 competing countries together on one forum for the tournament. If you would like to see what I’m saying about Bafana Bafana and the impact on South Africa of the biggest sporting event to ever be staged in our beloved country, follow my tweets by following me on Twitter! If Facebook is more your social media thang, go to my Facebook profile and request to be a friend or simply join the \”Fred Hatman\” group for updates on my latest blogposts… which are not only about the World Cup!
My hands are up. I confess. I’ve had more than a few unkind words to say about Cape Town on this blog.
But that was then. When I was living 40 metres from the golden sands of Umdloti Beach north of Durban and was transfixed by the stunningness of the majestic arch over Moses Mabhida Stadium.
And this is now. I still prefer Durban’s World Cup stadium to Cape Town’s but, given that I have moved Hatman Mansions to a glorious village just two hours out of Cape Town and am trying to make new friends there, it’s time I sucked up to Cape Town a bit. Bloggers are allowed to change their minds, aren’t they? What’s that? Oh.
Moving swiftly on, and in the true South African spirit of ubuntu (togetherness), I have had a strict word with myself and am now happy to endorse Cape Town as a World Cup destination of no little charm.
And the ensuing video suggests that I might not be wrong. For those Korea Dictatorial Republic fans who haven’t ever visited the Mother City, you may now drop your jaws at this…
Not altogether shabby, is it? No. Better than what you’ve got at home, perhaps? Ignore that. Unfair question. So have yourselves a ball in Cape Town, my foreign friends, and thank Peter Greenwall for sending me his cinematic take on what goes on under and around Table Mountain.
And – I’ve got to slip this in – if the stratospheric levels of hedonism get too much for you, hire a car and drive for a couple of hours up the R43 past Hermanus to my home village of Stanford. Here you’ll find a ridiculously friendly welcome at the third best-preserved Victorian village in the Western Cape. And the first best-rehabilitative oasis on the entire planet! I know. I live here and I’m super-chilled. So chilled that I’ve even begun to like Capetonians!
I’m sure all of this has got you gagging to get on that plane out of Pyongyang, hey?
The staff here at Hatman Mansions have brought to my attention a report that British actress and Austin Powers stunner Elizabeth Hurley is on the lookout for a new child to add to her meagre sprog-count of one son (Damian, 8).
I think I can help. In fact, sod that, I know I can help. I want to.
Here is why. Given that Liz is now 44 and her bio-clock is making a tick-tock like an African elephant crashing through a never-ending series of drystone walls, I wish to remove the possibility that the broody babe may casually pick up the latest catalogue of “African Orphans Seeking A Comfy Upbringing In A Filthy Rich Actress’s Country Pile” in her dentist’s waiting-room and go off on a shopping spree.
I am further alarmed by the fact, should OK! magazine be in the business of reporting facts, that her alleged hubby, allegedly one Arun Nayar is allegedly shooting alleged blanks. According to the OK! story, La Hurley told Zest, allegedly another magazine: “We haven’t had any luck so far. Arun would love another one. Damian does not want another one. And I think it would be great if one came along.”
Very worrying. One can only extrapolate from this sensational bit of information that, if he is any kind of man at all, Nayar and our very agreeably constructed former Austin Powers stunner have been rumpy-pumpying around the house 24/7. It’s just as well little Damian has any number of Playstations and X-Boxes to distract him from interrupting and possibly derailing Mum’s efforts to conceive.
Still the couple’s marriage remains as barren as the dustbowl 400km north-east of Kuruman. But all is not lost. I can certainly help. But let us first hit “Refresh” on the anatomical assets of Ms Hurley…
Elizabeth Hurley: not entirely unappealing
Yes, I’m most certainly up for this. I’m willing to – how do I phrase this? – um, stud myself out in order for Damian to have somebody to whom he can hand down last month’s computer games. I think Liz and I (and I’m sure her hubby is a broadminded and evolved kind of oke) can tick all the boxes here.
1. Liz and Arun get the second child they so badly want.
2. I get the first child I so badly want.
3. With me being African and all, they get the African (well, half-African) designer child that is so trendy in the Western world right now. And they don’t even have to stump up the cash to build any schools in Kenya in exchange for that privilege.
4. They can save all that dosh to cough up for an English public school education and all the trimmings which come with privilege over in Old Blighty and I, as a penniless blogger, won’t have to spend anything. Apart from a night with Liz at The Ritz (on Arun’s account).
5. Our sprog, when old enough, can spend his (you don’t think my highly butch chromosomes will allow for anything other than a boy, do you?) school holidays chasing dangerous wildlife around barefoot in the South African bush near Hatman Mansions and thus enjoy a healthy respite from all that time Britons spend indoors cocooned from their horrible weather.
6. Due to my having a South African passport, said sprog can look forward to playing fly-half for a world champion rugby team as opposed to mincing around rather pointlessly in mud and slush for the bunch of wusses the English like to pass off as an international rugby team.
There. I could go on and on but I think that’s enough boxes ticked for Liz to sit bolt upright and see the value in my very decent proposal.
I shall now sit back on my sunkissed verandah and wait for her breathlessly written e-mail to plop into my inbox. Crikey, what a ripper of an idea!