Gathering the troops for family meetings used to be hard. You’d no sooner get one to the table than they had disappeared when you got back with the other. Not anymore: For instant family gatherings, with everyone – including Cecilia – crowded round the router with a WTF look on their faces, just switch off the wifi.
Early mornings are not young people’s best. It’s not just Christmas when ‘all through the house; Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;’ I get up in the morning and all is dead quiet. To use another Free State Reed-ism ‘not a leaf stirred, not a dog stirred’ (geddit?*).
They lie low as I pad up and down the passage. Even if I stick my lips at the door crack and ask ‘You Awake?’ not a peep.
Until I walk past with shoes on. Then it’s instantly ‘Where’re you going?’
. . not a dog’s turd. This Reed-ism is best orally, not so good in print.
So we have no electricity and its getting dark and the kids are all over me, outraged!
Dad! There’s no electricity!
Yes, I say, I can see that.
Why!? they ask.
Uh, mumble mumble, payment mumble, I mumble.
Soon I have to confess: I paid late and we got cut off. Now there’s a re-connection fee I have to pay and a delay. I’m thinking fridge, freezer, supper tonight but they have far more urgent and greater disasters and catastrophes in mind:
“THERE’S NO WIFI!!” they scream in unison.
Now they’re ganging up on me. “In unison” and “Jess & Tom” are not usually linked phrases.
Well, I’m walking to the shops, I say, thinking charcoal, firelighter, matches, candles. Do you need anything? Their voices go up two octaves as they shout as one:
Lasted four days. It was cool. Very instructive. Gas cooker and candles. Cleared out the fridge and deep freeze. AND – they survived!
(I had paid on the due date but had ignored this little instruction “Rx is due immediately, the rest can be paid on the due date”).
Pleez pleez Dad! I haven’t seen her for AGES! (yeah, like one week). OK, I’ll fetch her Friday on the way home from work. I enjoy that back route anyway. Instead of taking the N2 national highway then onto the N3 national highway at Spaghetti Junction and home, this route takes me through Yellowwood Park with its dark avenues of huge old yellowwood trees planted around 1885 by Dering Stainbank the sugar baron (don’t take my history at face value, but it’s something like that).
On past the Stainbank nature reserve, over the one-way bridge across the Umhlatuzana River, through the narrow tunnel under the railway line, through the cement factory that Mike Doyle used to run. Up into Bellair past the driveway lined by an avenue of huge palm trees that dwarf the house, past the impressive Albert Luthuli hospital, across the Mkombaan River and into Chesterville at the big shisanyama and beer hall. Andile is waiting outside her home, she hops in and we drive past the Pavilion shopping centre and into Westville and home.
The two girls whoop and give each other a big hello and a hug. Then Andile promptly disappears into the bedroom and Jess into the lounge and they don’t see or speak to each other till suppertime! Of course they may have been busily engaged with each other and a dozen friends on their social media, for all I know. Wifi, after all.
While I was pitching camp Jess came running to me with a horrified look on her face. She must have seen a snake or a leopard, I’m sure.
“DAD!!” she says breathlessly, horrified, stricken.
“DAD!! There’s no wifi here!!”
Her idea of hell.
Embarrassing note: I am good at giving advice. If you ask me – actually you don’t even need to ask – I will tell you what the MOST IMPORTANT thing is to take camping.
The FIRST thing you pack when you go camping is a deck chair.
I know this cos Greg Bennett told me back in 1983 on my first Duzi Canoe Marathon. He said “Pete, you can forget everything else but take a deck chair. The most important comfort item you can take is your deck chair,” he said.
I have since pontificated on this very often.
So on this trip to Mkhuze: I forgot the ducking feckchairs.