Ke Nako!

15 June 2010: 3 years 9 months on …

Where were you when the Twin Towers were attacked? And when the Springboks won the 1995 World Cup? What were you doing when you heard the news that Lady Di had been killed in Paris?

Most people remember the answers to these questions! In future, Friday 11 June 2010 will be one of those days. Where were you when Bafana Bafana played Mexico in the opening game of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in Johannesburg?

 I remember sitting in casualty at St George’s Hospital in 2004 with Sean who had broken his arm playing rugby. Sepp Blatter opened the envelope with the words SOUTH AFRICA on it.

 Since then, the clocks have been ticking down for six years. And finally, the big day arrived.

We woke up in The Strand, my hometown. I had flown down last Monday for Aunty Peggy’s funeral and Pera and the boys had arrived by car from Port Elizabeth on Thursday afternoon. In the evening, we had a family get-together around the traditional braai.

My late father’s last surviving sister, Aunty Doreen, and her husband, Peter, were there. So was my late mother’s sister, Patricia, known to us as Aunty Patty. The rest of the group consisted of my cousin Jeannie (whose mom, my father’s sister, Aunty Peggy, had passed away last week) and her cousin, Audrey, from her father’s side (Willy Walls). Then there was my wife and I, our two sons, Sean and Phillip, my sister Lynn and her husband Anton, their two daughters Nicolette and Michelle, Nicky’s husband Morne and their daughter Nina, and Michelle’s husband Sebastian and their “Bun in the Oven”! 

So, all in all, four generations together – remembering this and that, laughing about those memories and looking and laughing at all the old photographs that seem to appear on such occasions.

In years to come, I hope that our children will look back on this evening and this time together and look at the digital photographs with just such fond memories, too.

 But, when we woke up on Friday morning, the family feeling was replaced with the football feeling.

Ke Nako – It’s Time! Finally, the day had arrived for Africa, for South Africa and for us.

 After breakfast, we walked from our home at 19 Gordon’s Bay Road, Strand, down to the beach. These were the narrow streets that I had walked for the first eighteen years of my life. They had seemed so much wider then. And the distance to the beach at Melkbaai (Milk Bay) so much further then!

But now, we got there so much quicker – past Tony’s Framers, Sony Kleu’s Bookshop, the Post Office (with its two entrances which in my day were for Europeans Only and Non-Europeans Only!), Miller’s Outfitters, Friedman and Cohen (where I worked as a cashier on Saturday mornings for R2,00). Yes, a few new shops but the old places still there after forty years! John Walls Pharmacy (which belonged to my Uncle Willy Walls – Aunty Peggy’s husband – and his father John before him) is now a take-away pizza place.

The fountain in the traffic circle at the junction of Main Road and Beach Road is still pumping its water upwards into the sky. The Strand Pavilion still has the same name but the old building has been replaced by a new block of timeshare apartments. The old wooden jetty, where, as a youngster, I fished with my grandfather, Charles Stanbridge, still juts out into False Bay. Now they have spent thousands of rands to erect metal fencing all around the pier to prevent anyone from walking on it – the wood is rotten and the structure is dangerous. I can’t understand why they don’t use the thousands spent on the fence to replace the rotten wood instead!

The tide was low and the sea blue and flat. It looked just like thirty five years ago when I had basically left home for good, headed for the USA. It was a beautiful Strand day with the small waves and white froth running up the expansive white sand (hence the name Milk Bay!)

 The tidal paddling pool was still there, surrounded by the same rocks. And across the bay to the southwest, the blue mountains of the Cape Peninsula stretching from Table Mountain in the north all the way down to Cape Point in the south. On the eastern side of False Bay, are the mountains of the Hottentots-Holland range above Gordon’s Bay stretching down to Kogelbaai and Cape Hangklip. The Steenbras Dam filtration plant that supplies water to the Greater Cape Town area still overlooks the large white anchor set out in rocks and the letters GB on either side of the anchor.

Along the beach front, Beach Road still has some of the old beach houses which are only occupied in December during the summer holidays. But now, in between them, they are dwarfed by ultra-modern towering blocks of flats and apartments. Different curves and lines and colours as far as the eye can see – to the east and the west, and stretching up to heaven.

 And all along the pavement, next to the beach, the bright colours of the Rainbow Nation displayed on hundreds of stalls selling flags, t-shirts, scarves, hats and anything your heart desires. It’s all for the World Cup, starting today at Soccer City in Johannesburg.

That’s where we are headed, together with hundreds of other people, all getting into the football feeling. AYOBA!

T-shirts of green and yellow for us, a vuvuzela for Phillip and a cellphone cover in the national flag colours for the car. We now call it the condom and it fits snugly over the Mercedes’s emblem on the bonnet (although, to fit, it has to be upside down) and compliments the mirror socks and the flag already there!

So, all four of us and the car are kitted out as we head off for Stellenbosch at midday. Jessica, my niece, a first-year student there suggested a few places at which to watch the game.

 We chose the Brazen Head and took the last table there in the outside tented courtyard. Everyone was kitted out – complete with vuvuzelas. The large flat screen plasma TV outside and those inside were broadcasting the opening ceremony and the game to us and the world. The world seemed to pack into the restaurant during the opening ceremony and by kick-off time at four, there was no room left in the inn – not ours, not at Soccer City, and I would imagine, not at many inns across South Africa and possibly the World!

Black, White, English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, young, old (Pera commented that we were the oldest there – luckily other older folks joined us later!), businessmen, students, male, female – all sang Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, applauded, shouted, screamed, blew their vuvuzelas and rose like one man when SA scored the first goal of the match.

And, when the game ended at six, despite Mexico having scored a leveling goal, all stood and applauded, and felt proud to be South African on this momentous day in our country’s history!

We headed off for Paarl to have supper and spend the evening with Pera’s cousin, Jonathan Peach, and his wife, Maryse, Aunty Joan (Pera’s mom’s sister-in-law and Jonathan’s mom), and their children, Lara and Justin.

As Sean drove us through the beautiful Cape Winelands, I could not get out of my mind that wonderful thought that today the score had been

 Mexico 1 South Africa Won!