a very old lady…

stopped me in my car. She was on foot. Probably in her eighties, long grey hair scraped back into a bun. A kindly grandmotherly figure, who might knead her own dough and leave home-made brownies in the larder for her children’s children. Introducing herself, I was touched to hear the name of my first pet tortoise (I painted zero-one-eight-nine-four-eight-three-four-three-eight on the shell, and was once called by a gardener two miles from my home) and so it was we settled into conversation.

‘I hope you’re not leaving your car outside,’ said she, ‘They’ll take anything if you give Them a chance.’

‘Oh no, we’ve got a garage. And I have been warned several times now.’

‘They took ours on the 12th June, at gunpoint. Three Blacks it was. And they took my husband’s firearm, his wallet and my bag. They threw me onto the pavement there -‘ she points behind her ‘- and just drove off in to the night.’

‘How awful.’

‘Yes. It was a nice car. And they got my husband’s firearm.’

A pause, and she smiles before continuing. ‘We called the police but they did nothing. They couldn’t find the car, or even the firearm. Nor the wallet. They did nothing. And we know it was the panel-beaters.’

‘Oh?’

‘Well, we’d had the car in for work. It was the night of that day when we’d collected the car that it happened. I rang the black secretary, but she said she didn’t know anything. She did. She did. She was lying. The Blacks always stick together.’

‘Well if she did know something, and had told you, perhaps she would have got herself into bad trouble.’

‘They would have murdered her.’

She pauses again, looking down at me in my seat, smiling in a fresh scones-and-jam way. I can almost smell the baking steaming off her pinafore.

‘It wasn’t like this with the White government. The Blacks don’t know how to govern. It’s a disgrace. It would never have happened with the White government. This country… it’s got so bad because of the Blacks. It was so much better with the Whites in power. You know they bashed the guy’s head in down the road. Held up at gunpoint he was, in the night. They put a plastic bag over his head and then smashed it with a big wooden piece of wood. That’s why he built that wall -‘ she points to a high wall framed on top by five lines of electric fencing ‘- to make sure it didn’t happen again. He nearly died.’

‘Sounds bad – but I keep reminding myself, that there are many more good people here than bad ones, no?’

‘There are nice South Africans, oh yes, very nice ones. But you can never be sure with the Blacks. Don’t trust them. You mustn’t trust them. But you should come by for tea one day. Bring your friend… is he your friend? That man I saw with you? Bring him. Come for tea. We’re just here.’

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