Tuesday, 4 October 2011


Well, that was special.

Yesterday, the car having been fixed of its oil leak by Warren - which necessitated the timing belt being taken off and put back on, never an easy job - wouldn't start. Warren called in our friend Hennie, who's very good with machines, and between them they had the problem sorted within a few hours.
Apart from the oil leak, which had reappeared during the fixing.
Off to the spares shop we go, in Hennie's car, to purchase a new oil meter. Installed, sorted. Waved goodbye and thanks to Hennie, who has problems of his own to sort out.
By now it was after midday, and we were just getting started on our usual work days. We took the normal route along Leslie to William Nicol, where the car stalled on an uphill and refused to budge.
We reversed free-wheeling back down Leslie, as we were seriously blocking traffic and really annoying some daft types in very expensive cars, who overtook us with roars of their engines.
We backed eventually into the broad car-entrance to a couple of complexes built side-by-side, and called Hennie.
We'd probably flooded the engine, in his opinion. So we took a walk down the road a way to the Douglasdale Shopping Centre, to buy bread and cigarettes and look for a spark plug spanner, which we had neglected to pack into the car.
 Two hours later, the car is still sitting outside the complexes, the spark plugs have all been examined and cleaned, the presumably flooded engine now viable once more. We should have been able to start out again.
Only we couldn't, as by now you'll have guessed. There was spark and we had a quarter tank of fuel, but no running engine.
Back to the shopping centre, where a petrol attendant at one of the garages gave us the number of a mechanic who lived nearby. (No, don't ask me why petrol stations have no mechanics or workshops - that's so yesterday, and unproductive in the Wetiko scheme of things).
When he examined the engine, the local mechanic pronounced our fuel pump inoperative - which explained a lot of things that morning.
By now it was mid afternoon, and a new petrol pump could be purchased at the spares shop - about ten kilometres away. Hennie was involved in his own problems, and we had no recourse but to walk.
The going was rough, particularly considering the recent rains had washed huge amounts of suburban debris onto what we laughingly call our pavements. Actually, pavements don't exist in suburbia more often than not : if you're so lower-class as to be walking, you can bloody well walk in the road much of the time.
The last couple of kilometres of our journey were short-cut by our arrival at a major road, where we opted for a taxi ride, to get to the spares shop before it closed.
Surprisingly, I'd never ridden a 'common' taxi before - most of them are extremely scary, from the outside anyway, and - well - white folks don't often make use of them. Good excuse,huh?
We found a small knot of people standing by the road, ascertained from them that they were also headed in our direction, and caught the appropriate taxi with them. This, if you're not a South African, is more complicated than it sounds. It requires a knowledge that middle-class office workers just don't have, often.
So we arrived at the spares shop before closing, after a really pleasant ride in a clean and quiet taxi, squashed among many other people, who all politely made room for the mlungus aboard their commute.
Petrol pump purchased. And a couple of Cokes, for the walk home.
Arriving home just before seven, the dogs were really glad, although puzzled, to see us arriving on foot. But you know, your non-human animal companions never question how you got there or where you've been - they just make a huge fuss of you when you are there.
Warren calls his manager, who is surprised that he didn't ask one of the mobile supervisors for a tow. Well, I wouldn't have known to ask that, either. So a couple of hours later still, car is towed back home,and we get some sleep.
The walk, though, was an opportunity to see things easily missed as we whizz about in this car culture. A Glossy Starling who sits still long enough for me to enter its birdy mind; several mafioso Sparrows struggling in the dust and refuse; a real, live Quercus Alba where one would least expect to see one. And the humans of course - this is Africa - full of good cheer and greetings....
...This morning, Warren is installing the new petrol pump. We'll see from here.
It's certainly never boring in this life. Frustrating, painful, horrific even. Never boring.

Pic: Quercus Alba - the White Oak