The path of the seven revolutions

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All Mannie Engler knew was when the sound of bombers comes, to dive into the ditch and be afraid. The road from Neutemischl was bad. Three times a day, once in the morning, twice in the afternoon.
They’d not been among the lucky ones evacuated from Danzig by the Kriegsmarine. Theirs was the desperate flight by road west towards the Oder. Insterburg fell, Allenstein, the whole of Ost Posen… That was the word in the line.
Astrid managed the older kids: Mannie and Winnie. They hugged themselves into her skirts, sobbing, up against her thighs. Trembling as the tremors shook the countryside. The flat, gray-skied countryside, with its wretched stands of naked Linden trees.
Oschi travelled at Mutti’s breast, suckling as the death rained from the avenging skies.
He would be the happy child.
Astrid, the eldest, the grown-up one, the doctor. Winnie the absent-minded prodigy, the lawyer, and Mannie, Manfred, the practical one, the mechanic.

Eight hundred miles east of Neutemischl, Max Engler waited, as he’d waited since the extermination of the Sixth Army. In a state of rabid starvation, he waited for his war to end.
From the moment he’d watched Stambannfuhrer Overmans place the barrel of his Mauser in his mouth and fire a shot neatly through the back of his throat, removing the lower part of his skull, Max Engler had waited. At first in the bakery of Stalingrad’s GUM department store, by the pans of kvashnya, next to the body of Overmans. Too terrified to fight, too scared to take his own life.
A zwölfender like him! With unblemished German lineage, painstakingly traced back to the 15th century. Twelve years in the Reichswehr, just so he could wait!
Later he would wait, through the years of the camp. The training, reality testing, deployment, body sovereignty… many years of waiting. Of his 90 000 comrades, 5 000 would return to Germany in 1950.

Me, I caught my first wave at Lookout Beach, Plettenberg Bay in 1978. On one of those polystyrene boards that rash you like hell, ay. A Super Surfer, it was called, from the supermarket in Main Road.
At the mouth of the lagoon, two different swell directions cross paths and combine. The waves comb through each other like fingers interlaced. At the apex of the crosswaves, a seven-year-old on a boogie board can ride for a full minute across the ankle-deep sandbar.
Skill, sea legs, swimming ability, he need have none, so long as he has a father standing by to push him onto the waves, and to pluck him off by the ankle when he splashes to a halt in the warm, deep water of the Keurbooms lagoon.
Manfred Engler was my father.

Betty was the Handley family’s pre-eminent bodysurfer. She rode the back waves at First Beach with the boys. The tomboy of the Handley girls. Betty.
Surfboards would only reach Port St Johns later, in the Sixties. In those days it was all bodysurfing.
You watch the waves first. For half an hour, if necessary, from the hill in front of the Cape Hermes Hotel. Watch where the Umzimvubu is flowing strongest. Is it powering directly out to sea, strong and brown, or has the bar directed the flow south, towards the Cape?
The currents will flow counterclockwise. South along the inshore channel behind the shorebreak, out to sea along the rocks by the point, then north in the deep water next to the headland and finally back in towards the shore where the huge breakers crash down onto the sandbar.
You want to go with the current. Go with the flow. Let the rip take you out to the backline and then north into the impact zone. There you can tread water for a while, choose your wave.
Duck under a couple to get the feel of the surge. Are they dumping or rolling in? Is the tide sucking or pushing? Paddle into a few and look over the lip into the trough. Pull back, just feel the power first, before you commit. You want to feel like you’re in the wave, not on it.
You’ll feel your wave coming by the way it sucks the bottom out ahead of it. The wave you need to catch will catch you first. You’ll be pulled out to sea at first. Then there’ll be a moment where you’re at rest, bobbing in the valley between two peaks.
Then you’ll be in the pocket, the lip pitching above your head. Now is your moment. Don’t hesitate. Just go! Go! Go! Go! It’s yours! Go now!
Execute a strong scissor kick, and as the wave lifts you out of the water, ready to spit you out in the lip and smash all the air out of you, right then, at that exact moment, you start surfing.
Stiffen your body like a board, stretch your arms out in front of you to assume the shape of the wave. Your arms are the nose, the bow of the craft, and your legs are the rudder.
You want to steer diagonally across the face, so you remain in the pocket as the wave peels across the sandbar. The surfer who executes the most radical, controlled manoeuvres, in the most critical section of the biggest and/or best waves shall be deemed the winner.

The Handleys ran the service station at Undercliff, five miles out of town, on the banks of the Umzimvubu. Tommy’s Garage.
Poor, crippled Tommy had found himself a wife, to the chagrin of his sister Harriet. She’d seen herself caring for him all his life, but no.
He’d taken up with Molly, that queer English lady from the vaudeville troupe.
When they came through town in 1933, Tommy had impressed Molly with his earthy humour and lack of pretence. Tommy also did the bioscope on the weekends to supplement his income. Well, him and Frank.
A lot of good Frank was. He made Tommy climb all the way up into the ceiling to set up the projector, with his cripple legs and all, then he still had the gall to take half the money. Purely because he’d driven the reels down from Umtata.
But Tommy’s technical expertise meant that he was the point man for any group of entertainers passing through Port St Johns in the Thirties.
And, lacking pretence, he’d simply introduced himself to Molly De Zouche Marshall, the music teacher who’d left Somerset to experience life in the colonies.
So Molly married Tommy Handley and she helped him run Tommy’s garage. She bore him six children. The first, Peter, would not survive.
But Margaret, Betty, Rick, Rosalind and Johnny soon followed. They were born and raised at Undercliff in Pondoland, on the banks of the Umzimvubu river.
The earnings of a Transkei garage owner were negligible, though, and the opportunities they could offer their brood were necessarily limited.
One Friday night, when Tommy and Molly Handley returned late to their home, Betty had only just blown out her candle. She barely had time to duck under the blankets of her bed on the veranda when her parents came to check on her.
Feigning sleep, she heard Daddy with his jolly voice on. “Well, mother, “ he said, eyeing his middle daughter. “I think this is the best of the lot”,
And so Betty went to university.

Manfred Engler attended the Berlin Polytechnic, where he swiftly gained his mechanical engineering diploma, then boarded a ship for Australia. It was March 1960.
Mannie Angler’s middleweight boxing record was 22 bouts, 16 wins, four draws and two losses. The sit-ups helped on the voyage. In the great storm in the southern ocean, Mannie and three members of the crew were the only ones at dinner.
The Snowy Mountains Scheme needed men, and it drew them from the world at large.
“Take the mule out of Cooma to Berridale. Five miles out of town, you take the Flying Fox to Jindabyne.”
“Manfred? Bullshit, mate. Y’ name’s Fred. Got that?”
In Jindabyne, home to men from17 nations, Fred Engler would fight five more bouts. Four by the rules of the Marquess of Queensbury, and one by the law of the jungle.
Still bearing the scars of that fight, he left the mountains. They said there was work in Botswana. Dams also.

The Xhosa would have to go. No call for it at varsity in Grahamstown. Even less so in Port Elizabeth. Oh, you could listen to them speak it, but you weren’t living with them, amongst them so much.
And they use a harsher Xhosa in PE. In Port St Johns they say, “Hamba wena.” In PE they just say, “Hayi suka wena”. Not go away. Fuck off!
And the Xhosa dancing too. Not really the in thing at the chamber choir social. The pride of the Handleys. This one goes to university.

“I thought you might like it,” she said. An electric guitar. Bright red Fender Strat copy. Metro brand. “It’s still such a shame they wouldn’t’ let you do music at school. They said to rather send your sister, because music was for girls.”
Pop Shop in Westbourne Road was the place. Chord books. C-F-Am-G. We came on the sloop John B. My grandfather and me. Round Nassau town we did roam. We did roam.
Chords need words. Mmm. What to say. What to say. To say what fits, or what you daren’t say? Honesty takes courage. And without skill, what weapon do you have but honesty?

The German guys were the kings of PE in those days. In the summer of 1967 they were staying at 62 Cape Road. Fritz, Fred, Paul and Willie Bendix, the mad genius.
Willie bet Fred he could drink a case of beer in one sitting. Did it. Then hung himself upside down from the shower railing and vomited it all out into the bath. It wasn’t in him more than an hour.
Fritz and Fred lit out for LM. Reached the border just before closing during a rainstorm. Fritz wasn’t sure they could make it. Fred said fuck it, we’ll make it. We’re going to get to those Mozambican girls. We’ll make it.
He pointed the Mercedes at Lourenco Marques, rode every muddy curve of that flooded track and fuckin’ made it.
The kings of PE. Every girl knew them, but… Not the kind you necessarily marry.
Would you let your daughter marry a Nazi?

At 24, she was on the shelf. Qualified, teaching accountancy at Alexander Road. Unmarried. “Let’s get a bottle of wine,” she said. And he thought, that’s what it is. She’s an alcoholic!
He, at Alex Robertson & Sons. Plant hire manager. Keeping the ancient Bedfords and the prehistoric Mercedes running. Skim the top of the Isuzu when the fuckin’ monkeys ride the clutch and overheat it. Crack the engine block.
Daniel, Grahamstown, Brian Wynford, Paul, Mabhuti, Vaughn, Clifford Devenish, Janet Conyers, Fred Moore, Brian’s son Barry, When Jock Robertson headed back to his tobacco farm in Rhodesia, the opportunity was there. Time to take the opportunity. Now! Go now! Don’t hesitate! Now! Now! Now! Go now!

She couldn’t have picked a more Teutonic one. Blonde, square forehead, those deep-set eyes. That thick accent. “I need to puts my shoes”. Like a bloody submarine commander in the Kriegsmarine. Asking for her hand in marriage, for god’s sake.
Seemed decent enough, though. Prospects. Knew his way around an engine. Vital. Not pregnant though. Had a careful look, and mother said no.
A bloody Hun! To think we were fighting the blighters in Africa twenty years ago! Not that they’d have me. Now one comes to take up with your bloody daughter, for Christ’s sake!
She seemed to like him, though. And what are you going to do? Forbid them to marry? Showed proper respect at the very least. ‘Ell, jong. So I say all right. You be bloody careful with that one, I tell him. That’s my daughter. You look after her. Looked me in the eye and promised. You bloody well look after her, jong.
He’s not one of us, but he seems a nice enough sort. Bloody brave of her taking up with one of them. But she wouldn’t be talked out of anything, that Boo.

Say ek. Say it. Ek is ‘n soutie. Say ek is ‘n soutie. Jy moet Afrikaans praat. Don’t come here with your English. Praat Afrikaans. You must tackle. If you don’t want to listen, you must feel. If you watch a black man working, you’ll see he’s not like a white man. He’ll dig for five minutes, then he’ll rest on his shovel. Then he’ll dig out some tobacco and light his pipe. Then he’ll go and lie in the shade and have a rest. The black man is bladdy lazy. You’ll understand that when you grow up. They say the blacks have an extra bone in their legs, that’s why they can run so well. They say they actually think fat ladies are sexy. They actually fuck them. They fuck the maids. You can fuck a maid. You only have to offer her five rand. If you want some dagga you just go into Settlers Park and ask the first kaffir you see. Ask him for an envelope. They say we also smell different. We’ve got a milky smell. Like sour milk. They can smell us the same way we can smell them. The Afrikaners shave their babies’ heads, to prevent baldness. That’s why. You must eat more mielie pap. Tiepiese blerrie Engelsman. Jy’s ‘n moffie, jy. Jy willie tekkel nie. I saw this maid in St Georges Park and I gave her five rand to show me her poes. Jy gaan my nie betaal nie. I wasn’t going to pay her anyway. When you’re watching pornos you mustn’t get the feeling too early. You finish before everyone else and then you have to sit there like a doos watching everyone else wanking. They caught Mundy wanking in the hostel toilets. One day you won’t be able to play with Marcia because she’ll be having her period. Indians are banned from the Free State because they tend to breed rather rapidly. Chinese girls have sideways cunts. Van fucked Anisha at Lisa Knight’s open party. I was awake that time you thought I was asleep, I heard her give you a jerkjob. I heard you come. I just want to feel what it’s like. George graunched her every day for 143 days. You kicked sand on my board. Do it again. I dare you. I fuckin’ kill you. Do you go to open parties? Do you know if I’m supposed to go to tonight’s open party. I’m Andre Nel. Bru, I don’t know who you are. You want to go for a walk on the beach? Just down here, we can sit and talk lekker. Of course I’ve done it before. I just, it just keeps coming out. I’ve done it. I love you. We can be boyfriend and girlfriend. I had a whole bottle of Esprit and a whole pencil to myself. Don’t tell anyone. No of course not. Fuck that Nicole Marais’s nice. She’s a proper lady. Glen Bloem moered Mr Katzevelos in the corridor after music. You going down after school? Go down on your fifty during long break and check if there’s waves. Fence is better than Pipe coz it’s got more power and it barrels. I can get a tent from my scout troop. We stay at the Seals caravan park. The Scab doesn’t give a fuck. He left and went to Lawson. Senekal was wanking in the back of science. My dad’s got this one porno with a Chinese chick and she’s got a normal poes like the other one. I got called up for Phalaborwa. The ou’s RSM of the whole regiment. Gibbs was in the abortion squad. You gotta go to varsity if you don’t wanna go. Or else you gotta fuck off overseas. They come to your house and arrest you. Got caught wanking by the maid, coz I don’t get laid, coz I don’t get paid, coz I don’t have it made, coz my daddy was a self-made man, not another one a dem damn third or fourth gen men of means. You know what I mean?

12 Glendale Avenue, Fernglen, 22 Alsace Road, Lorraine. 321873. Hagen Engler speaking. 8 Hunter Avenue. Hello, Engler residence. Number 4, The Knysna, First Avenue, Walmer. 522689? Hello? Hello?
Ma se poes.

Okay my boy. I’ll say goodbye now. You know you can just call me if you need anything. Just must go to the cheese and wine, okay? But you mustn’t drink too much. Introduce yourself to the other guys. You’ve got a lovely smile, I’m sure the girls will love you. I’m gonna give you five hundred rand, okay? You must go to all your lectures, hey? When I was here I didn’t miss a single lecture in four years. You don’t need to study if you go to all your lectures. You must phone me every weekend, okay? I’ll give you a special lot of coins so you’ve always got a twenty-cent piece to phone me. Okay, my boy? You must just phone if you need anything. You must join the surfing club. And go to the orientation lectures. Just see how you like law. But I’m sure you’ll like journalism. Okay my boy. Give me a kiss? Okay Hargie. I love you very much. And dad loves you too. Okay, my boy?

The beach drive at Millers. Daku Road. Perseverance. Burgersdorp. The fire station. Newton Park. Harrow road. Soweto On Sea. Bloody bastards burnt down the machine! Uitenhage. Deal Party. Providentia. The tennis court. The driveway in Despatch. Walker Drive. You must be firm with them. Level. It must be level. You hold the tackie upright. Mark the stakes. Alfred is the best operator. Use the JCB. The 1314 blew a fuckin’ gasket. Paul you go out there an see what the fuck’s going on there. Jesus Christ. These bladdy monkeys!

Your worship, we submit that on the night of October 3, the defendant attended “happy hour” at the Settlers’ Inn Motel. The defendant was on antibiotics for bronchitis at the time, and he’d missed supper, which reduced his tolerance for alcohol. On the night in question, it was arranged that a friend was to drive the defendant’s car back to Botha House. Unfortunately the friend left without making alternative arrangements. When the bar closed at 2am, Mr Engler was left with no alternative, but to attempt to drive home. Beaufort Street is an extremely dangerous road to walk by night. The Botanical Gardens have been the scene of several attacks and robberies lately. The defendant has already offered to pay for all damages to the car. No one was injured, your worship. He immediately handed himself over to Campus Security. About five kays, your worship. The accused has no criminal record. He has shown good academic progress. Journalism. Yes sir. Thursday night, sir. He has undertaken to stop drinking, sir.

They would dress us alike sometimes. Like when dad came back from watching the Knoetze-Tate fight at Mmabatho Sun. He brought us both white T-shirts with the hotel logo on them, so we looked like twins. And there were the light-blue tracksuits that we went overseas in in 1977. Me and Bridgie-Pidge. She: honey-blonde, blue eyes. Me: white-blonde, Chinese eyes. Mom said, “Just tell them, ‘Have you ever seen a chinaman with blonde hair?’” Brigitte Renate Engler. Hagen Rolf Engler. She, always bigger than me, taller. She: late sleeper. Me: up early. She: Eagle Eye. Me: Remember Head. I was supposed to chaperone her to school on her first day, but I left her where she crashed in the gravel on Bordeaux Avenue. I completed primary school at the suburban co-ed primary school we’d both grown up at. But we were moving up in the world. We moved back into town. Into the area for Grey and Collegiate, the single-sex college schools that the old-money parents sent their kids to.
A refugee and a petrol-station attendant. Their kids would go to Grey and Collegiate. We moved to Park Drive. A cold, stern, Thirties split-level overlooking the Baakens Valley. I went like a lamb. Into the very coven of elitism, the very crucible of colonial privilege.
She would not. Brigitte took one look at the Collegiate girls, dug in her heels and refused. Her school uniform was returned soon enough to get a full refund. She would attend Trinity High School, the underfunded, multiracial Catholic private school in Central.
I saw the future from a distance. In Barry Wynford, Mandisa Goqo, Peter Chantson, Michael Assumption and David Dyantji. While I became a dutiful Grey Boy. A carrier of values.
The Afrikaans kids I’d been at primary school with were in fact Dutchmen, I learnt. We must fuck them up when we play Framesby.
Bladdy clutchplates. But you speak good Roman. You must take Afrikaans Eerste Taal. Earn another A for the school.
My first black friend was Primrose, daughter of our maid, when I was three. My next one was Lindani Donyeli, seventeen years later.
“Oh, the south-east gales will blow, o’er the waves that smile below, and our flag shall answer to the breeze. So hurrah with a will, for the school that crowns the hill, with its front to the southern seas. Its front to the southern seas!”

Orange has a weird style. Richy R is the king of the Fence. Superwiggles surfs bad and he always will. You want to surf in the zone of optimum arousal. Philip Playdon made the finals of the Fence Masters. Only lost to Dave Malherbe. Phil Weddel’s the new Fence King. Wildman’s the barrelmaster. Did you check my layback? The judges didn’t’ check my layback. Brandon van Eck says he can do aerials, but I’ve never seen him do one. His dad was kicked off the bus for being coloured. They thought I was a little coloured boy. Colleen wouldn’t pomp him because a touch of the tar brush. Grant Myrdal won the Country Feeling Surf Classic. I made EP reserve. They found Harry Burbage’s dagga pipe at SA champs. Leofwin Erasmus made the finals of the seniors. Kurt Buchner surfed fifteen-foot Bruces. Donkey sommer pomped his chick in the car park at Beachview. Left the used frik lying there. We checked it when we got out. The ous go to the TK every year and smoke zol. Even the ous who don’t normally smoke. Most of the ghoefballs are in Wildside. The paraat ous are in Club Fence and Club Pipe is like a mixture. It was Smiler, Jorg, The Scab, Gav, George, and me. Then later The Rabbit, Rob, Wildie, Neil, Rich, Ace, Nick… Me and Neil went to Oz. Me and SmiIes, Rabbit and Gav went to Mauritius. With Scab, Lee and Smiles to Mozambique. From Oz, I went to Fiji. Then made it to Hawaii. Made the hajj. Every surfer, at least once in his life, if he is able.

Warren Dean turned pro. Sean Dale died. I kissed Ian’s chick. Rat Lonesfield or other Rot Rat? Nick Pike manages Lifestyle. You can surf the mouth on the low tide. How did Quinton Jones hook up with Jane Simpson? You check there’s coloured ous that surf too? You know those okes with the dreads? Shane and them. They surf Kitchens. Steven Jeggels. Cass Collier. They say he could be pro, but he doesn’t surf compos cos it’s all white. Some political shit.

Why did they burn down Cheeky Watson’s house?

Hagen, you’ve gotta be firm with them. Otherwise they just take advantage of you. It’s just one drama after another. You give him money now, you’ll be giving him money for the rest of your life. That’s the thing with the blacks. Mom he’s got nothing, he lives in a shack. Yes but does he want to work? Your father’s like that, always a whole lot of chancers asking for money. I don’t know why he gives to them. They always swear blind they’ll pay him back with interest. Ag, ma it’s not like that, I know he’s not going to pay me back. It’s for umsebenzi, it’s for rent, it’s for the court case, it’s for baby clothes, it’s for food, it’s for a plumbing course, it’s for school fees, it’s for transport, it’s for the funeral, it’s for the fine, it’s for the last time, it’s for ganja, it’s for booze, it’s for the last fuckin’ time, it’s for baby clothes, it’s for a policy, it’s for a the next module, it’s for accommodation, it’s for a Christmas, it’s for thirteen years now, it’s for Harare Village, N section, Khayelitsha, Silvertown, Grahamstown, it’s for the bus, for a business, for a surety, for the last fuckin’ time, for release the body, for umsebenzi, it’s a missed call, you’ve gotta be firm with them, for the last time your father’s exactly like that.

I want a girlfriend. I want her to be blonde with blue eyes like her from TJ Hooker, but tomboyish, unpretentious. She’ll be like one of the boys, we’ll get fucked together. A mellow chick. She’ll have vision and insight like Camille Paglia, she’ll be ambitious like Madonna, she’ll be statuesque like Nicole Marais at the school fashion show that time. But alluring like Bev Wood at the beach when she wouldn’t say howzit, like Olivia Newton John topless but wearing jeans, like Cliffie’s chick Liezl, like that girl with the eyes I saw in Kaif the one afternoon. She looked at me long. But have you seen that girl she’s in my journ tut. That’s her that’s her that’s her. No the other one. Ja, she’s coloured. I don’t care, I think she’s awesome.

“Molo bhuti, unjani?”
“Oh! Sharp! Sifun’ ukutheng’ intsangu. Ouvet indawoni?”
“Why you come here today?”
“We are looking for ganja, bhuti. Hayikhon’ idjadja.”
“What are ou doing here? This is our place. You must leave now. It’s dangerous tonight. The people are angry. It’s not a good place for white people.”
“Oh, okay. You don’t have a kaartjies? Two-rand kaartjies?”
“Hayi bhuti, man! It’s the funeral of Chris Hani. You mustn’t be here in the township today. The people are going to burn you. You must go. Go back to the white people’s place. It’s not a day to buy intsangu.”

Contrary Mary with the glasses on. Eyes so clear but where’s their focus gone? Their grass was always greener on the other side of the Transkei, where the Maluti mountains meet the plains of the Natal midlands. They talk a diff’rent language but they still understand, the words that mean freedom.
Molo bhuti, kunjani wena ndifun’ ukutheng’ intsangu. Ndifun’ ukuchaya eganja mnandi, hey. Ndibekabeka.
Heyta swaer, het jy ‘n entjie vir my? Ek was al orals in Schauder today, maar ek… Ek kan nerens ‘n kaartjie kry. En ‘n sondag aand met my vrou en my hond. Is nooit die selle sonder ‘n mooi groot stonk.
It’s a language of liberation. Language of liberation. Language of liberation, honey. Just some words that mean freedom.

Marching? For what? Political prisoners? To the High court? No. No. We going to Port Alfred. There’s waves today. Long live SA Communist Party long live. Viva African National Congress, viva. When the revolution starts I’ll be surfing. The ous won’t get me, I’ll be surfing out the back at the East Pier. When they march on the suburbs and burn the whites in the streets I’ll be getting tubed at the Fence. When they necklace the collaborators I’ll be doing off-the-tops at Supers. When they drag the oppressors from their cars and slaughter them like cattle in the streets, I’ll be cutting back at The Point. When they come to move into our houses I’ll be out. I won’t be at home. I’ll be on a surf trip to the Kei. I’ll be surfing surfing six-foot Ntlonyana with Magwennie, Harold and Pitjie. I’ll be fuckin’ outta there. Doing it in the tube. When the revolution comes I’ll be a million miles away.

“You are so sheltered. I remember doing a story where I found the guy hanging in his bedroom. Hanging from the rafters. I took a picture and then cut him down. You’ve never seen a dead body. You’ve never seen a person burnt to death? Hayi, hayi, hayi. You must come with me to the township. You are doing too much telephone work. You must come cover this next march. Just book out a camera and come. Maybe there you will see a dead body. “

She comes quietly, squirming a little. A tiny squeak and a shiver. One brief uncontrollable fit of pleasure, then she pushes me away. Only the one. Now she’ll do me. I’ll come quietly too, for fear of the people in the next room. They’ll hear. They’ll know. She’ll use her practised hand and her soft and juicy mouth. She’ll make me come the way she does. I’ll feel her breasts against my thighs and think of Miss PE 1993. Her milky skin will not be blemished. She’ll remain pristine and quiet.

The Four Winds Folk Club showcases PE musical talent every Sunday evening from 8pm at the Maritime Club, corner Annerley Terrace and Cuyler Street, Central. This week featuring Dave Goldblum, The Painkillers, Rundown, Shooting Corine, Me and Anton at Dorrie’s braai. The Vabond. Dorien du Toit. The Missing Link. Effigy. The Streaks. The Zap Dragons. New Dawn. Freon Easy. Village Seed. Strange Little Man. Jedi Rollers. The Sixth Man. Corporate War. Gavin Weeks. The Long-Haired Freaky People. Dave & Gerard. Andy Hauser. The Shrinking Railroad. Bed On Bricks. The Finkelstiens. Evolver. The Benjamin Gate. Eminent Child. Lemin. The Noon t’ Noon festival, Friday nights at HERE, the jam room in the Fischer Building, every night this week till the gig at the Brass Monkey, Richard leaving the band, K-Zol, Mellow C The Muffdriver, Master J, Inspector Ras, Buli G, MacDazz, Mao and Thingimajiggi, The Man Who Needs No Introduction, Friday night guesting with Strange Little Man, just a couple of rhymes on the mic and a black girl I’m sure she said her name was… What was her name? Seductive eyes, like a cow’s eyes. And a narrow nose, they don’t often have narrow noses and nice firm boobs you want them big but firm and not too much ass, they can be a bit big in the ass. She had those eyes that pop out a bit, but these hectic seductive eyelids. Hope my rhymes were good that night. Can’t remember.

It’s a convention of journalism to run a spellcheck every time you finish with a document. So do that. And be aware of the rhythm of the piece. Punctuation will help you do that. Prose is like music. Punctuation is the beat and the words are the melody. Be aware of word count. (5176) Know where you’re going before you start. Say what it’s about at the beginning. Get in, make a funny and get out. Don’t lose the plot. If it’s about buying a hamburger at the Grahamstown festival, keep it about that. Read constantly. Write. Speak it out loud. Rhythm. Meaning. Purpose.

Where are we at, us hip cats?/It’s all international, I guess that’s a fact, but what do we bring to all that?/Does the international worldwide bit have much at all of us in it? It/does do, would do, should do, do-do-do./But we can rack a whack of African concept attack to go with all that./I hear you, I hear you, no tsotsis coming near you. Got a god that makes it clear, you/ sign up to spiritual contracts made many miles from here. Are you aware?/Are you aware? More Aids babies go down than Osama can shake a hijack plane at, Jack./But we know which of all of those poor late lamented we can really be expected to have a plan to have protected by this time next year./
You can go solo or you can go blow-by-blow, but there’s no low blows on Blow-By-Blow with Bert Blewett. So/get down to it, put your body through it. Know you wanna do it./Punch through those perspectives, screw the invectives, zactly what I’m saying, nah’msayin?/Nothing can be taken with you, can’t even take the issues,/ah-tishoo, ah-tishoo, the world’s going brown, but you can’t find town, you need a car to get around, to get ahead to get to Maun, to get the girl with the curl that you dig, that you check around town./But then again. Where’s town?/It’s hard to get to. Can you?/
So skei for skollies, skort for scammers/Sorry, ek’s jammer can be a bummer for the karma like a half-rhyme at the best of times, but/times change and chop-chop, china, so/check out the chops ‘n changes/Nahm’sayin’?/Check out the chops ‘n changes.

No, I’m cool. Going out with this hot black girl. Her name’s Nomfundo. She’s a black babe. No-M-foon-do. Ja. Black babe. No, it’s No-M-foon-do. Doh, not doo. Xhosa. From PE. No, not really. How did we meet? At the Bassline. Bongo Maffin or something. Perhaps it was Freshly. Ja, well, we sort of knew each other from before. We met once in PE, after a gig, or something. We were dancing. To The Way Kungakhona, maybe. I’m a better dancer than her. That back-to-back way, where you can feel her ass move against yours and imagine what it would be like if your cock was inside her while she did that. Then you turn around and work her with your crotch against her ass. Get down a little. Smile. It’s all good.

“Jully stadsmense gaan in julle beddens geslag word, want jully naai meid.”


“She’s a lovely girl.”


“Just be careful. Be safe.”


“Sies, man.”


“No, I’m not pushing in line. We’re actually together.”


“Indoda wakho?”

“Baby? Baby?”

My name is Hagen Engler. My family comes from Port St Johns in Transkei. eMzimvubu. My father’s family comes from Germany. Ewe. eJahmani. I am working in Johannesburg. But I grow up here in eBhayi. Nyani, eBhayi. I went to school at Grey High School. Yes, you know it. Grey Boy. My parents still live here, in Walmer. In First Avenue, near the airport. I am the boyfriend of your cousin-sister Nomfundo. Sis’ NoPine. Tyoksi. Ewe, bhuti. I’ve brought you this. Klipdrift. No thanks. I don’t drink. No, I stopped drinking. I nominate Loyiso.

We ask that this gathering be blessed. (Camagu) and that you protect the new car of Nomfundo (Camagu) that we have anointed with umqombothi. (Camagu) We ask that she be protected in this car. (Camagu) And we thank you for helping her to find a job so she can buy this car. (Camagu) And we thank you for this food. (Camagu) We ask that you protect us (Camagu)

No. Everyone is equally guilty. The killers and the ones who did nothing. All the white people must share the guilt. The ones who killed The Cradock Four and the ones who voted PFP. All the same…
No. All the same. All of you did it. The ones who braaied by the Fish river while the bodies of Sipho Hashe, Champion Galela, and Qaqawuli Godolozi were burnt, they’re the same as you. They did it in your name.
We were at war, and they were your soldiers. They went to war against us so you could go to your whites-only schools, go surfing, and have a buffet lunch at the country club.
You beat Steven Bantu Biko to a bloody pulp, then drove him to Pretoria in the back of an open bakkie so he could freeze to death.
You tortured Sizwe Kondile in the holding cells of the Port Elizabeth Security Branch, threw him out of a window, then poisoned him, shot him and burnt his body.
You stabbed Griffiths Mxenge to death. You shot Chris Hani in the street. You tortured and hanged Neil Aggett. You murdered Dulcie September.
You killed us.
Admit it.

Contents of desk: 26 March, 2009
• Sixteen-document from a prison inmate outlining, among other things, his plan to tattoo FHM magazine logo onto five parts of his face, including his eyelids. Also the same logo on his back, made out of cocks and pussies. Comes with death threat and three-track hip-hop CD (not great)
• 1 Box Orient Express Thai Red Curry Rice with Bamboo Shoot
• 1 steel Kilimanjaro water canteen
• 1 pair Rastaman scissors
• 1 Magic Eight Ball
• 3 deodorants. One roll-on, two spray
• 1 iPhone
• 1 badge (small) advertising the band Yesterday’s Pupil
• 1 pair plastic ice tongs
• 1 charger for gadget unknown
• 1 hi-res Iris image of model Katherine Reiter. (Half Austrian, half Swazi.)
• 1 file of correspondence from nudist, film, music and fotoverhaal star Beau Brummel. Claims Lee-Ann Liebenberg is “half-Indian”. Describes self as “A fearless entrepreneur who brought sincere ‘naturism’ to South Africa. See it all on Africa’s Naked Tribe, the DVD I sent to President Nelson Mandela in 1996.”

Writer for television, print and digital, corporate and editorial. Editor and writer of books. Musical performance, spoken word as Inspector Ras. Guitar/vocals for The Near Misses, (Worst Band In JoburgTM). The last whitey at umsebenzi. Latest book 415 Action-Packed Neighbourhood Marketing Tips with Basil O'Hagan, out now. @hagenengler

(2) Comments

  1. Its 3.30am in Pretoria. I just read this in one go. I meant to skim it but I just couldn't – it really pulled me in. Your writing style is like that kasi come on, when a guy twists a chick's arm behind her back, haha. I enjoyed this post so much. Now my coffee is cold. Thanks for great read. Will keep a look out for your books.

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