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I was planning to write about John Steenhuisen, heir apparent to the Democratic Alliance throne. We have a lot in common – something I realised with mounting alarm when I made the mistake of googling his name.
If it weren’t for the disparity in age, we might have been childhood friends, getting drunk together for the first time, kissing our first girls … although I’m sure even back then he would have started kissing my girl the moment I left the room.
Both born in Durban, we even attended the same school. The badge sported a knight’s helmet with the motto Quisque sibi verus, which means “Bend over and take it like a man”.
By the time little Johnny matriculated, the sado-fascists who beat a joyless state-sponsored education into me had been replaced with proper humans and the intellect of the average pupil was considerably higher. It couldn’t possibly have been lower.
Steenhuisen was married to his first wife for ten years, as was I. Married to my own wife, not his. Both our wives gave us the boot – him for an affair and me because I had outlived my usefulness. We both have daughters, which, some say, is a kind of divine punishment.
Our paths diverged fairly substantially after school. At the age of 22, Steenhuisen was elected to the then Durban City Council. At the age of 22, I was arrested for a bankie of Durban Poison. His parents were very proud. Mine, less so.
While he carved out a lucrative career in politics, I bludgeoned my way into penury, also known as journalism. We both took a stab at getting a tertiary education and decided it wasn’t for us. In my case, the decision wasn’t entirely my own.
Steenhuisen slowly but surely worked his way up the party ladder. Where I worked, there were only snakes. While he was serving on joint standing committees, I was going to house parties with many joints and nobody standing.
He is now the de facto leader of the Official Opposition and I am living in a caravan park. Ho ho. Let me tell you about that. It’s got to be more interesting than rabbiting on about comrade Steenhuisen and his merry band of white colour-blind mice.
I have moved 16 times since I arrived in Cape Town from Durban 20 years ago. Not because I enjoy it. There would have to be something terribly wrong with me to want to pack up and move every few months. My father, on the other hand, has been in the same house for 55 years.
There’s definitely something wrong with him. I don’t even know what kind of animal would stay in its burrow for that long. Maybe an elephant, but only because once he managed to get in he wouldn’t be able to get out.
To be able to afford a house in Cape Town, I would have to sell both kidneys, my liver and possibly my spleen.
Let’s be honest, who would even want them? It would have to be someone in an even worse condition than me and that class of person wouldn’t be able to afford my organs.
My heart seems fairly resilient, in spite of two failed marriages, so that might get me a cosy studio in Woodstock or Observatory, but then I’d be dead and I’m not sure the trade-off is worth it.
The life of a renter is not an easy one. Perpetually haunted by the specter of homelessness, the renter is relentlessly harassed by landlords, sheriffs, unstable women and children falsely claiming to have been sired by the renter himself.
My latest move was prompted by a landlord insisting that his octogenarian father-in-law needed the place. It seemed plausible enough, although you have to wonder about the caliber of anyone capable of consigning an infirm relative to a shack in the milkwoods with no heating, stove, bath or proper bedroom. I lived there for three years and gathered, from what people said, that I seemed happy enough.
Moving into a caravan park is not for the fainthearted. For a start, you can’t be one of those shiny-eyed ninnies brimming with self-esteem and an unshakeable belief in your abilities. The shock would probably kill you.
I blame Hollywood for creating the impression that everyone who lives in a trailer park is either barefoot and pregnant or a moonshine-guzzling redneck. Twenty million Americans live in mobile homes.
They can’t all be trailer trash. Well, I suppose they can. But I bet they feel a lot better about themselves having that toxic pumpkin in the White House.
The Trump family are white trash with money and that ain’t fake news, folks.
Having said that, let me just clarify that I’m not living in a trailer. It’s an A-frame chalet firmly rooted to the ground in the middle of a tiny residential area set apart from the campsite. I’ve never lived in a place like this.
There are no walls or fences between the cabins, cottages and converted containers. Better still, there are no barking dogs.
There is plenty of wildlife, including a mongoose that looks like he hit the electric fence one time too many and a tortoise with the name Bob painted on his shell.
I’ve tried waving at the neighbours but they look away.
Some of them don’t seem quite right. Like they’re on the run or something. They’re probably looking at me and thinking the same. Don’t wave, Fred. He’ll be over here with a video camera forcing us to do unspeakable things with animals.
I haven’t had hot water for a few days but the new landlord says he’s working on it. In the meantime, I shower at Ablution Block 1. There is never anyone else in there.
It’s a bit unsettling but it would be way more unsettling if a stranger walked in and started showering in the stall next to me. I don’t know if I could deal with that.
The best thing about my new home is that nobody will ever be able to find me. Not that anyone is looking. But the situation could change at any moment.
For now, it’s just me, the electric mongoose and Bob the tortoise.
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